A picture-perfect historic sitePosted Jul 26, 2012 By EMC News
If you've ever wondered what a good loaf of bread tasted like a couple of hundred years ago, there's an opportunity to find out. No time machine required.
The Old Stone Mill National Historic Site in Delta, which is recognized as one of the finest buildings of it's kind, has undergone a lot of changes in the past few years.
In 2010, the mill celebrated it's 200th anniversary. Canada Post featured the mill on a stamp.
"That was a very exciting year," said Museum Manager, Natalie Wood. "We also installed operational milling equipment."
The mill now grinds heritage Red Fife wheat, and you can buy the flour at the mill. Red Fife, Canada's oldest wheat, was introduced by David Fife at his farm near Peterborough in the 1840's. Chris Wooding, a local organic wheat farmer, provides the grain to the mill. The millstones used to grind the wheat are more than 200 years old.
"On Saturdays at 1 p.m., the grain is loaded into the mill," said Wood.
After it's ground and bagged, you can buy flour and bake with the same ingredient, processed in the same manner, as settlers did during the War of 1812. Flour is usually available throughout the week. The list of ingredients is simple: wheat flour. You won't find other substances like amylase, xylanase, mononitrate, l-cysteine hydrochloride and azodicarbonamide, which are present in commercial flour.
A local bread making expert, Louise Richards, takes some of the flour and bakes bread. But that's usually only available at the mill on Saturday mornings.
"It sells out pretty fast," said Wood.
Do not forget your camera. Delta's Old Stone Mill is postcard pretty. According to Paul George of the mill's board of directors, it's the only surviving pre-1812 stone grist mill in Canada. The first mill on the site was built in 1796, but it burned down.
Settler Abel Stevens arrived in Delta at the turn of the 18th century looking for a mill head.
"At the time it was hoped that the Rideau Canal would go through Delta, but that never happened," said George.
By 1810, Stevens had his mill built, and it was powered by the waterwheel. In 1860, the water turbine was added.
"It's an interesting characteristic of the mill that it operated on two technologies," said George.
You'll see both mechanisms during your visit.
The building continued to operate as a mill until 1949. After that, the building was used as an agricultural feed shop and an electrical contracting company.
In 1963, the last owner of the mill, Hastings Steele, deeded the mill for the sum of one dollar to trustees who became the original founders of The Delta Mill Society. In 1973, the mill was recognized as a National Historic Site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
I first visited the mill on a scorching hot day. I walked in intending to wander around but my feet stalled. What I first noticed weren't all the wonderful displays (of which there are many), it was the soothing smell of wood that the heat of summer brings out. I felt like a six year old exploring my grandmother's attic. Two hundred year old wood.
Then I listened to the water flowing through and stood there looking at the amazing architecture. The lines and shadows were like a sculpture of the past.
"It was built to accommodate an automatic milling system," said George. "In essence, a grist mill was the first type of factory. Everything was automated."
George explained that Delta's mill is a place to learn about how early mechanisms and waterwheels worked on different floors with pulleys and wheels.
"It's the earliest industrial building of its kind in this area," he said. "It involved simple mechanisms, but they'd never been used before."
"It's a remarkable site," said Wood. "Now that we are milling again, you can see how things were done 200 years ago. It's not just a factory. There's a match between the milling aspect of the building and its museum role. People can get a full impression of that time in history."
She added that the mill is important to the present village.
"Being in a small community, everyone does seem to care about this landmark that we have. It's a wonderful community."
On Saturday, July 28, an ice cream social will be held at the mill after the Delta Fair Parade.
On Saturday, August 4, from 5:30 - 9:00 p.m., they are hosting a fundraiser called Beer At The Mill. Looks like fun. You can experience beer tasting and a three-course gourmet dinner featuring local, seasonal foods. The reception and beer tasting will be held inside the mill. The Gananoque Brewing Company is providing the beverages, which will include Red Fife Beer. The gourmet dinner will be held at Delta's Old Town Hall, with entertainment by Michael George. Tickets for this are limited. Contact the mill for reservations.
Directions: Take Highway 15 north from Kingston. Turn right onto Highway 33 toward Lyndhurst. After you pass through Lyndhurst, you'll come to County Road 42. Turn left and follow it into Delta. You'll see the mill on your left at 4 Court Street.
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Victoria Day through Labour Day weekend. There will be Thanksgiving celebrations on October 6. This includes tours of the mill, a silent auction and a bake sale.
Admission is by donation.
For more information: www.deltamill.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, 613-928-2584.
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