An Insider's Guide to Waterloo Region

Interesting places on and off the beaten track

Sheave Tower, Blair Ontario

Sheave Tower, Blair, Ontario

Blair’s Sheave Tower in spring, summer, fall and winter

Photo by Ruth Kinzie

A while ago I watched an interview with Ron Brown, the author of a book called Top 100 Unusual Things to see in Ontario. It was intriguing to think there were so many places to visit off the regular tourist track in this province. Always interested in learning more about my area, I purchased the book. I have seen a few of the featured places including the Pioneer Tower which stands on a high bluff along the Grand River near Doon. But I had never heard of the other local landmark  located a short distance downstream in Blair. The first summer evening I went looking for it, I was unsuccessful as trees along Old Mill Road hid it from view. Here is a description of the Sheave Tower from a local artist’s web site.

Built by Allan Bowman in 1876, the Sheave Tower, 31 feet tall, was considered to be the oldest hydro-generating system in Ontario. The board-and-batten structure with pointed gothic windows is located in a stand of cedar, bass and maple trees on Old Mill Road outside the Village of Blair, Ontario. The late Nick Hill, an heritage architect, described the Sheave Tower as “absolutely magical . . . a jewel in the midst of a beautiful wetland.” Water from Blair Creek ran through the sluice and turned a vertical turbine shaped like a corkscrew. A series of shafts and gears spun a giant pulley mounted high outside the tower by the steep-pitched roof. A long cable was looped from the tower’s pulley to another pulley 70 metres away at the Blair Mill. The Sheave Tower produced an additional 15 horsepower for the Blair Mill, which once ground corn for Schneider’s pea meal bacon. Heritage Cambridge restored the Sheave Tower in 1999 as a passive display without moving mechanical parts, and returned the medieval-looking tower to its original oxblood colour. Marriage proposals have been made within its walls! Fishermen, artists and photographers continue to be drawn to it.

The old mill across the road is still in operation to this day, and Blair Creek rushes by the restored but silent sheave tower on its way to the nearby Grand River.

Cost: Free

Nearby Attractions: Village of Blair, rare, Langdon Hall, Walter Bean Trail

Directions: Old Mill Rd, Blair just west of Meadowcreek Lane (map)

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Written by Ruth

June 30, 2009 at 7:24 pm

2 Responses

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  1. The original Sheaves Tower was used to generate power to the Mill across the road on Mill Road which was about 5 stoires high, being a textile mill. The operator of the belt-type generating system forgot to turm it off on one occasion which caused a major fire in the mill and that is why the mill os reduced to two stories.
    A photo of the tower taken in 1922 is now in the Archives at Cambridge Cioty Hall.
    Watercolour renditions of the Tower are available at the Artist’s Studio at 1635 Blair Road, in Blair Village..

    David Bowie

    November 5, 2009 at 9:39 pm

  2. [...] last stops on our road trip were searching for Pioneer Tower in south Kitchener, Ontario, and Sheave Tower in Blair, Ontario. Unfortunately we did not have exact locations, and were unable to locate [...]


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