Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Hermitage Restoration, One Stone at a Time

One of the most well-known landmarks in the Dundas Valley is the Hermitage. This ruin dates back to before 1855 and has a very interesting history.  According to the historical plaque at the ruins, stones used in construction were quarried from local sites, the red bricks from the Dundas Valley and the limestone sills from the Credit River Valley. The Hermitage had several owners before it was acquired by George Gordon Leith in 1855. 

After George’s death in 1901 his daughter Alma Dick-Lauder bought the estate from the rest of the family and lived there until 1934 when a fire broke out during a party and burned the house down. Even after this fire Alma continued to live on the site, building a modest home within the ruins where she lived until her death in 1942.

A popular destination for hikers visiting the valley, the site had fallen into disrepair over recent years and eventually required structural bracing to the walls and fencing off of the area due to safety concerns. There was even talk of taking down the walls and reducing them to the height of about a metre. It would have been sad to see this structure removed but with the risk of further deterioration, something had to happen.

Fortunately, the Hamilton Conservation Authority along with local government and private donors came up with an ambitious plan to preserve the 160 year old structure.

You should see it now! Reinforced with internal steel supports, the walls are going back up. To keep it as authentic as possible, every single stone was numbered and catalogued to ensure that when rebuilt, it would resemble the original structure as closely as possible.

Fenced off during the construction process, the progress is interesting to see. The stone work around the former main entrance door and windows is beautiful and reconstruction work is continuing up to the second floor. The project is slated for completion in the summer of 2016. If in the area, check it out.

The Hermitage can be found while hiking from the Dundas Valley Trail Centre and is located on the Main Loop. That loop is about 3.5 km and is moderately easy to walk.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dundas Eco-Park Update

Have you been by the Dundas Eco-park gateway area lately? This new park which follows the northern shore of the Desjardins Canal is still in its development stage but is coming along nicely.

Those of you who have been watching with interest will recall that this parks sits on the former site of the Ben Veldhuis Greenhouse complex. This large operation once hosted around 20 greenhouses producing more than 3 million cacti a year. This landmark gave Dundas the “Cactus Capital of Canada” moniker and is still remembered annually during Dundas’ always popular Cactus Festival.
The greenhouses are now long gone with the exception of an original two story chimney which is home to a protected at-risk species of chimney swifts. This chimney has become a focal point of the park and has recently been enhanced with an art installation inspired by the former greenhouses. These were provided by the Rotary Clubs of Dundas with a plan to add information panels and benches in the spring of 2016.

Last year, trails were built and hundreds of trees planted. Pilings were also installed in the water to support a future structure. It’s great to see these steps being completed and plantings getting established. With each passing year, this area will become even more inviting.

Additional work is still to come which will include a walkway over the edge of the old canal as well as interpretive displays. Even now, you can see these elements all starting to come together and the overall result so far is excellent.
The Dundas Eco Park Campaign is the Hamilton component of the ambitious Cootes to Escarpment Eco Park campaign, which ultimately will include lands from the waters edge to the Niagara escarpment and will include over 3000 acres in total, a protected and diverse greenspace to be enjoyed for generations.

Guaranteed to become another “must visit” destination in Dundas, we will continue to monitor this exciting project and look forward to seeing it progress.