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