The Wasteland that Nearly Became Carleton Place


Some day go stand in the Royal Bank parking lot and look around. Look to your left and your right, and then down the street. There isn’t much there. I don’t think the full effect hit me until someone spoke about it on the Smoke on the Water Walking Tour. You have to close your eyes and imagine a fire that began on the corner of Albert and Bridge where the pet food building is and burned all the way down to Franklin and Judson Street. Not only that hot spots were found all over town I wrote about it fully in the story “When the Streets of Carleton Place Ran Thick With the Blood of Terror.” Pretty melodramatic for a title?” Not really, feast your eyes on the pictures below.


The house of Mrs. James Gillies stood right where the Carleton Place Library park now exists. It hadn’t been built for a very long time and by the loks of the picture above– it was a pretty grand house. Once upon a time on the north easterly corner of that park sat the lovely Gillies residence which was later completely destroyed by the fire of 1910. Seems the only piece of anything that might be considered left standing in the block bound by Beckwith, Albert, Judson and Franklin after the fire was a piece of latticework in the rear of Mrs. Gillies house.


Instead of rebuilding Mrs. Gillies donated the vacnat land to the town of Carleton Place. I can’t even imagine wanting to rebuild on that very spot. At the start of the Victorian period most houses were lit by candles and oil lamps. Interior fittings included chandeliers (suspended from the ceiling) and sconces (fixed to the wall). However these were mainly used on special occasions, and most ordinary events after sunset took place using portable light sources such as candlesticks, candelabra (bracketed candlesticks) and oil lamps, and by the light of the fire. By the end of the period gas lighting was common in urban homes and electricity was being introduced in many.

By Queen Victoria’s death in January 1901, electric lighting was still in its infancy. Gas lighting was common in the cities and larger towns, supplemented by candles and oil lamps, but in smaller towns and villages and in the countryside lighting remained almost exclusively by candles and oil lamps. On  September 28th, 1885. W. A Braedon of Carleton Place had already started a memo book about the day his electric lights went on. Homeowners were charged by the number of bulbs and the number of hours the bulb was turned on. In 1905 Carleton Place street lighting was improved under a ten year contract, with introduction of a year-round all night service and erection of 150 street lights to supplement the arc lamp system.

The fire was in 1910. They never found out what caused the fire that caused so much damage. Was it gas? Was it candles? I guess we will never know, but the memories of what could have been architecturally still looms on those very streets.

Photos from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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