Tag Archives: kitten mill

The Disappearing Older Buildings — The Kitten Mill — Speech– Lanark Heritage Preservation Society

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The Disappearing Older Buildings — The Kitten Mill — Speech– Lanark Heritage Preservation Society

Michael Rikley-Lancaster, executive director/curator, the Mississippi Mills Textile Museum-Lanark Heritage Preservation Society

THE LANARK HERITAGE PRESERVATION SOCIETY

A community-based preservation initiative

Thank you for inviting me last night- speaking about heritage is my passion…. this was my speech

In 1936 in an Ottawa Citizen column called Ramblin Reflections wrote that the historic old landmarks that reminded succeeding generations of what once was in our communities are disappearing and  will soon be numbered among the forgotten things. 

The razing of the century-old home of the once picturesque Laird o’ McNab in Renfrew county a few days ago shocked a goodly number of people into a realization that these treasure places of historic lore are crumbling back to mingle with the earth, whence they came. 

That old stone structure on the north shore of White Lake should have or could have been retained and maintained by civic, county or government agencies had not most people been content to sit idly twiddling their thumbs while others with a keener appreciation of the worth of these things wrote, spoke and kept the topic alive. 

The fast disintegrating fur trading post at L’Orignal, the famous old windmill on the St. Lawrence, the ivy-covered “auld kirk” atop the hill at Pakenham, the “Red House” at Perth, these and a goodly number more in this district are places venerated by the toil and sacrifice of those who laid well the foundation stones of the communities and it does seem a little like desecration to permit their walls where once was heard the vibrant voices of the idealistic community effort pass Into a state of complete neglect, dry rot and oblivion.

 Pretty soon there will not be one of those places of piquant historical charm to remind generations who come after what they owe to those that came before them. 

That was written in April of 1936.

Susan Berlin, Watsons Corners Lanark Heritage Preservation Society

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: JUNE 29TH, 2022 – THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE LANARK HERITAGE PRESERVATION SOCIETY

To quote a million people or so in 2022 they feel the same way as in 1936. It’s a shame how little value is placed on local ageing buildings and how they only become prominent when the bulldozer is at the door.

This past year and a half I have witnessed  four demolitions by  neglect and I am sure that next year could see another one.. What is demolition by neglect? That’s when the owner becomes negligent in upholding his duty to maintain the property. I know how expensive it is to maintain an older home, but demolition by neglect may also be used by some property owners or developers  who either don’t care about the building’s condition or wish to raze a protected historic structure but can’t get permission to do so. 

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is always the same – the private ownership of the property. Now, you can usually get permission to tear down any historic landmark simply by sitting on it and watching it fall to pieces. It happens in every town and city, and is an all too common occurrence that historic preservationists seem to be helpless to fight now.

The Kitten Mill  property was first developed by Clyde Woolen mills in the 1850’s. It housed the Bank of Ottawa from 1899 to 1947. It was Dave Markle of Glenayr Knit who bought it then and turned it into the renowned Glenayr Kitten mill which produced woollen knits and in the 70s and 80s. It was a huge tourist attraction for the village of Lanark.

My life began in Cowansville, Quebec, an Eastern Townships mill town similar to most places in rural Lanark County. The last time I personally saw or spoke with any of my old friends was years ago, but we still remember Bruck Mills and Albany Felt.  Bruck Mills was the first silk mill in Canada, and it employed a lot of folks in my town. Bruck Mills also founded an Arts Centre that was very much appreciated by the local community and it was important. But just like everywhere else, the mills closed. When you lose a building, you not only lose a physical building but you lose the memories. An old building is like a show. You smell the soul of a building. And the building should also tell  you how to redo it.

In 2017 I had the chance to meet the heart and soul of the Kitten Mill at their reunion. I’ve never gone to a reunion before; not even high school, because honestly I’m always afraid that there’s going to be some incident similar to the film Carrie that I won’t be able to deal with.

I was honoured to be part of that former Glenayr Knitting mill employees reunion. Some at the reunion on August 7th at the Lanark & District Museum still had their original tools of the trade (scissors etc) from their former jobs whether it was knitting, dyeing fabric or sewing.

Was the reunion a sense of nostalgia, or just reminders of what had transpired years ago? No matter how wonderful and interesting the lives of the former employees from Tatlock, Watson’s Corners, McDonald’s Corners and even Carleton Place have been, there was just something endearing about this work reunion of the staff that most went home with a pay cheque of just 45 cents an hour.

John Foliot, Lanark–Lanark Heritage Preservation Society

In 1953 the mill was the backbone of Lanark, and some still called it the Clyde Woollen Mill. David Markle made lots of improvements in the old grist mill, with new machinery initially making men’s woollen socks, blankets, and motor rugs. In 1945 the Markle brothers bought the large two storey stone building on the main street by the Clyde River and used it as a store. The Kitten Factory  at one time had a payroll of over $200,000 that turned over three times in local businesses before it left the village in the year 2000.

In 2017 Feryn Donaldson was still Miss Kitten of Glenayr Knitting that day with her original 60s sash. She was voted in by her fellow employees and got an outfit to wear for special events as long as it was back by 5.

When asked if she became the “belle of the ball” of Lanark Village after she won her crown she laughed and said she was already married with two children at that point.

These women still remembered the muffins brought by some to work, perms that were given in the washrooms, and the fact that a few actually met their future spouses at that plant.  As one woman said:

” I moved to Lanark in 1947 and most of the people that worked in the mill became my friends. I lived here, my family lived here, and when the time comes I will die here.”

For most of the 20th century, Lanark and its Glenayr Kitten Mill was a hub for textile production in Ontario. Since its closure in 1997, the mill has sat abandoned. The Kitten Mill had an impressively no-nonsense integrity: no frills; no fuss; just good, sturdy value at a fair price. Just like the people and just like the sturdy no frills no fuss building that once proudly stood there in one piece.

So what do we do? There is no doubt it is difficult when it is on private lands. But, the most popular way to get rid of an older building now is Demolition by  Neglect: which I call a Loophole in Preservation. It’s what happens when a building  is neglected so badly that it falls down on its own, or becomes a public menace that has to be removed. 

Currently in Ontario, the only buildings requiring notice of a demolition application are on properties listed or designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. For heritage property, if a property is listed the owner must give the municipality 60 days notice of an application to demolish, in order to give the municipality time to consider and process a designation. 

If a property is designated, either individually or as part of a Heritage Conservation District, an application to demolish is decided by the municipal council. If the demolition application is refused, the owner has the right of appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). Of course, many or most historic structures are neither listed nor designated.

Other than the above exceptions, demolition permits are pretty much granted on the spot.  It’s not like people wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll tear down my building tomorrow.” Such projects are planned well in advance. And it would be nice if the notice requirements included posting a notice at the property to alert the broader community.

If a town or city suspects that a building is subjected to demolition by neglect, then in addition to not allowing a demo permit, they also should ensure that a permit for new infill construction on that property will not be allowed. They would only be issued a permit for the repair and restoration of the building and perhaps that repair permit would be free of charge. 

Why not provide property tax incentives for improvements made to historic properties? Or allow small grants to homeowners wishing to do the right thing? A bylaw to adopt the Heritage Grant policy was passed by Carleton Place council on May 31. This the first time the municipality has had such a policy. It means if someone is spending $10,000 on improving their heritage property, they could be eligible for a $5,000 grant from the town to help offset the cost. What are we saying when we put a huge tower over a building of historic significance?

For those trying to conserve heritage property, it’s a game of whack-a-mole — no sooner have we jumped up and down to say stop, this one is important, then another crisis appears.We have to stop enabling bad behaviour  before the buildings of our past disappear in front of us.

Across the province most heritage advocates are volunteers, charged with finding and advocating for the province’s heritage. We are up against a well-financed building and development industry who may not agree and who have the ear of government. But I keep talking and fighting– you keep talking and fighting–  because this is our history. It is the only one that we have.

Just remember old places have soul. Just like the folks that worked at the Kitten Factory here in Lanark Village. Wherever a beautiful soul has been in people, in buildings— there is a trail of beautiful memories.

When I was 17- The Kitten- Glenayr Knitting Mills Reunion

How Much is that Kitten Sweater in the Window?

Stories from the Old Kitten Mill

Dim All The Lights — The Troubled Times of the Abner Nichols Home on Bridge Street

Stewart House Clippings and Memories

The House on the 511 — Thanks to Lanark Village Community Group

Putting Together Pieces About Historical Homes– John Moore’s House –Napoleon Street

The Carleton Place House That Disappeared

Documenting Houses –Before and After 41 Julian

More History on the Murphy Morphy McEwen House — Karen Prytula

More Kitten Mill Memories -As the Needle Surges

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More Kitten Mill Memories -As the Needle Surges
Julia James
January 26, 2021  · 
Where the 3 roads meet in Lanark looked like a busy spot in the horse and buggy days. On the left, when I first went to Lanark was, I think, Campbells Rest., not sure what was there when this photo was taken, beside it is what was or became the Kitten Mill, on that same side you can see the second storey of Young’s Furniture Store and the bridge over the Clyde River. The first place on the right side was where the Lanark Era was printed and that building is still there, up at the top of the hill you can see the Clock Tower on the Town Hall
Lanark & District Museum photo

CLIPPED FROM
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
29 Dec 1992, Tue  •  Page 15
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The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
29 Jun 1996, Sat  •  Page 52
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The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Thu, Mar 11, 1982 · Page 33
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The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
13 Jun 1991, Thu  •  Page 52


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The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
09 Mar 1956, Fri  •  Page 46

Frances Somerville
April 25, 2014  · 

Went shopping and was given a reusable bag from
the old kitten mill in Lanark
memories of years gone by

CLIPPED FROM
The Expositor
Brantford, Ontario, Canada
16 Jun 1959, Tue  •  Page 1

The Glenayr Kitten Mill (A Reminiscence)

 ~ M.C. MORAN

Memories of the Kitten Mills.. Please note that the video was done by John Foliot from the Lanark Heritage Preservation Society.

When I was 17- The Kitten- Glenayr Knitting Mills Reunion

How Much is that Kitten Sweater in the Window?

Stories from the Old Kitten Mill

Down by the Old Kitten Mill

Linda’s Mail Bag– Do You Have any Info on my Blanket?

You’re from the Village of Lanark You Say?

When I was 17- The Kitten- Glenayr Knitting Mills Reunion

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When I was 17- The Kitten- Glenayr Knitting Mills Reunion

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I’ve never gone to a reunion before; not even high school, because honestly I’m always afraid that there’s going to be some ‘Carrie’-like incident that I won’t be able to deal with.

My life began in Cowansville, Quebec, a mill town similar to most places in rural Lanark County. The last time I personally saw or spoke with any of my old friends was years ago, although I retain a relationship with some of them in my Cowansville High School group on Facebook.

I was honoured to be part of the former Glenayr Knitting mill employees reunion on Monday. There were a few who had not seen each other since the plant closed down in 2000 I’m sure. Most of the employees were women as it was pretty well the only job available in the area in those days. Some at the reunion on August 7th at the Lanark & District Museum still had their original tools of the trade (scissors etc) from their former jobs whether it was knitting, dyeing fabric or sewing.

 

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Photo by Linda Seccaspina at the Lanark & District Museum

 

Was the reunion a sense of nostalgia or just reminders of what had transpired years ago? No matter how wonderful and interesting the lives of the former employees from Tatlock, Watson’s Corners, McDonald’s Corners and even Carleton Place have been, there was just something endearing about this work reunion of the staff that most went home with a pay cheque of 45 cents an hour.

In 1953 the mill was the backbone of Lanark, and some still called it the Clyde Woolen Mill. David Markle made lots of improvements in the old grist mill, with new machinery initially making men’s woolen socks, blankets, and motor rugs. In 1945 the Markle brothers bought the large two storey stone building on the main street by the Clyde River and used it as a store. The Kitten Factory  at one time had a payroll of over $200,000 that turned over three times in local businesses before it left the village in the year 2000.

 

 

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Photo by Linda Seccaspina at the Lanark & District Museum

 

I am sure some of them talked late into the day on Monday where they  laughed, cried, and reveled in nostalgia. I was surprised at the intensity of their bonding; perhaps it was the acute awareness of how much everything had changed. At the soul level they were still the same people they always were, and seeing them all together reminded me of how important it is to stay connected.

 

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Lanark Era Photo–Gena Gibson

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Photo by Linda Seccaspina at the Lanark & District Museum

 

Feryn Donaldson was still Miss Kitten of Glenayr Knitting on Monday with her original 60s sash. She was voted in by her fellow employees and got an outfit to wear for special events as long as it was back by 5. When asked if she became the “belle of the ball” of Lanark Village after she won her crown she laughed and said she was already married with two children at that point.

I doubt if there’s anyone among us that can’t remember that first day of work, and sometimes we reflect on the people we were crazy about, and some we weren’t so crazy about. These women still remembered the muffins brought by some to work, perms that were given in the washrooms, and the fact that a few actually met their future spouses at that plant.  As one woman said:

” I moved to Lanark in 1947 and most of the people that worked in the mill became my friends. I lived here, my family lived here, and when the time comes I will die here.”

Catching up with the past and seeing your  former friends and co-workers reminds us that your life story is not over. The final chapter has not been written and we are still writing new endings to our lives. That very thing happened at the Glenayr Knitting Mill Reunion on George Street in the Village of Lanark– as a forever friend is really someone who knows all your best stories and lived them with you. In the end you always go back to the people that were there in the beginning.

 

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for small town girls
And soft summer nights
We’d hide from the lights
On the village green
When I was seventeen

 

 

historicalnotes

 

Jo Camelon— Of the 11 siblings of the Camelon family. I believe 9 worked at some time in the different departments of kitten mill. Thank you for sharing

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Photos by Linda Seccaspina at the Lanark & District Museum

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How Much is that Kitten Sweater in the Window?

Stories from the Old Kitten Mill

Down by the Old Kitten Mill

Linda’s Mail Bag– Do You Have any Info on my Blanket?

You’re from the Village of Lanark You Say?

 

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CLIPPED FROM
The Weekly British Whig
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
29 Mar 1920, Mon  •  Page 6

Stories from the Old Kitten Mill

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From Up the Line–Steve Evans

Hazel Mitchell was born in Dalhousie across from the Dalhousie Township Hall and moved to Lanark December 5, 1926. She worked at the Kitten Mills for over 30 years and was the longest that lived on the Main Street of Lanark.

For most of the 20th century, Lanark and its Glenayr Kitten Mill was a hub for textile production in Ontario. Since its closure in 1997, the mill has sat abandoned and it was the mill that made the village of Lanark a pretty bustling place. And then the mill closed down and now there’s nothing there. Lanark sadly  still hasn’t recovered from the mill closure.

 

 

 

historicalnotes

E. MITCHELL

 
Obituary
 

MITCHELL, E. Hazel Peacefully at Lanark Lodge, Perth on Tuesday August 3rd, 2004 Hazel (Scott) Mitchell in her 98th year. Hazel was born January 3rd, 1907, she was predeceased by her husbands Albert Mitchell and by previous marriage, Edward Labelle; she was the cherished mother of Fern (Boyd) Roberts, Eric (Dianne) Labelle and Everett Labelle; step-mother of Frank (Doris) Mitchell, Arnold (Shirley) Mitchell, Elizabeth (late Des) Vaughan, Agnes Emon, Merina (Jim) Elliott, Florence (Tom) Healy; she will be sadly missed by many grandchildren and great grandchildren. Hazel was predeceased by sisters Mabel Swerbrick and Frances Munro and brothers Harold and Orville Scott. Friends may pay their respects at the Young Funeral Home, Lanark Thursday August 5th from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Funeral service will be held in St. Andrew’s United Church, Lanark Friday at 11:00 a.m. Interment, Greenwood Cemetery, Middleville. In remembrance, contributions are suggested to the Alzheimers Society of Lanark County, the Lanark Lodge Memorial Fund or the First Baptist Church, Lanark.

 

Published in The Ottawa Citizen on Aug. 5, 2004

 

 

The Glenayr Kitten Mill (A Reminiscence)

From Ottawa Valley Irish

 

(The year before I was married, which was thirteen years ago, I lived in Scotland.)

One day, about fourteen years ago now, while perusing the wares at a knitwear outlet in Edinburgh, I felt a curious and unexpected wave of nostalgia. This place in Edinburgh, Scotland was so strikingly similar to a place my mother used to take us to in Ontario, Canada (now, what was the name of that place that Mum used to take us to? … it was in Lanark, and there was something Scottish about it … and something to do with a kitten … ), so uncannily reminiscent of the Glenayr Kitten Mill of my childhood. The piles of jumpers (but we called them ‘sweaters,’ of course) all laid out on wooden tables; the firm but friendly salesladies; the general air of solid but unpretentious quality … all of a sudden, I was back in Lanark (Lanark Co., Ontario, Canada, that is).

I have to admit, I bought a cardigan that day, just on the strength of that memory.

The Glenayr Kitten Mill outlet in Lanark (Lanark Co., Ontario, that is) was the kind of place that we (my sisters and I, that is, though certainly not our mother) loved to hate. So fusty and old-fashioned, and please, mum, don’t make us wear those sweaters! that’s not what the popular girls are wearing, and the mothers of the popular girls only shop at the Bay. But our pleas fell on deaf ears: our mother has always known a bargain when and where she finds it, and bargains are what she found at the Glenayr Kitten Mill.

As I now recall it, the Kitten Mill had an impressively no-nonsense integrity: no frills; no fuss; just good, sturdy value at a fair price. But it wasn’t until years later, while looking at jumpers at a knitwear outlet in Edinburgh, that I began to appreciate the Kitten Mill for what it had been: a little piece of the Scotland-to-Canada knitwear tradition that had already, alas, all but died out when our mother took us to the Glenayr for new sweaters.

(And it wasn’t until I lived in Scotland for a year that I began to truly appreciate the fundamentally Scottish character of so much of “English” Canada, or of “English” Ontario, at any rate. I recall going to the Waterstone’s on Princes St. in Edinburgh to look for an Alice Munro book [which I found, btw] because there was this story that I just hadto reread: I had heard something earlier that day that had so uncannily reminded me of this Munro story, and something had finally just clicked about Scotland and Canada…)

 

 

 

 

relatedreading

Down by the Old Kitten Mill

Linda’s Mail Bag– Do You Have any Info on my Blanket?

You’re from the Village of Lanark You Say?

 

 

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You’re from the Village of Lanark You Say?

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Photo sent to me by historian Jaan Volk–the Union Publishing Co.’s 1886-7 Farmers and Business Directory that covers Lanark County

 

Lanark Village was basically settled by people from Scotland in 1820. Most of these settlers came over in a sailing vessel called Leshmahagow and it numbered 178 men, women and children.

John Hall opened the first store in the village and he was followed by James Muir and our good ole Boyd Caldwell. Remember that previously to 1850 Alexander and Boyd Caldwell had been mostly engaged in the square timber business. They cut that timber in the townships of Dalhousie, Lanark, Lavant and Darling and that timber floated down the Clyde, Mississippi and Ottawa Rivers to Quebec where it was sold to shipbuilders from the old country.

In the earlier part of Lanark Village history a foundry was in operation for a number of years. James Dobbie started that foundry and then it was purchased by A. G Dobbie and finally by Thomas Watt and son. Did you know that at one time a large numbers of stoves were manufactured in the Village of Lanark and sold all through the Valley?

Well all good things come to an end, and the square timber commenced to getting scarce. W.C. Caldwell built a sawmill in the village which gave employment to a number of men in the summer and winter months, taking out logs and floating down the river in the Spring. In 1867 Caldwell and Watchorn started a woolen mill which really became the first industry in the village to employ a considerable amount of people. Well push came to shove, and Caldwell and Watchorn had their differences and their partnership went up in flames and Caldwell took over the business. The mill continued on, operating steadily until it was destroyed by fire, and this terrible catastrophe put a real damper on the growth of the village for a number of years.

 

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Photo from www.perthremembered.com
A. COHEN’S POPULAR CASH STORE, LANARK VILLAGE. This building was opposite the Post Office in the late 1800’s. They advertised: “The Seven Wonders of the World are Known to All. The Eighth and Greatest is the Immense Bargains in Ready-Made Clothing etc at Cohen’s. THE GREAT CHEAPSIDE of LANARK”.

 

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Photo from www.perthremembered.com

 

Did you know that it wasn’t until the late 40s that things began to brighten up again? In 1946 Oswald Rathwell built a sawmill in the village on the site of the old Caldwell sawmill which had been torn down. At one time it employed over 20 men. Markle Brothers of Toronto bought the grist mill and the small woolen mill from Gerald Munroe in 1948. They removed all the machinery from the grist mill, made a whole heck of improvements, and installed machinery suitable to make men’s socks, blankets, blanket cloth and motor rugs. But, Markle wasn’t content with that and made even a further purchase of the large stone building that sat on the banks of the Clyde River. That building had once been the general store and also occupied by the Bank of Nova Scotia. All of this soon became known as part of the Mothership known as the Kitten Mills.

 
BOOK – The Lanark Society Settlers: Ships’ Lists of the Glasgow Emigration Society 1821
By Gerald J. Neville
Originally published by BIFHSGO, Ottawa, 1995
This edition by Global Heritage Press, Milton, 2012

Check out Lanark & District Museum Facebook page

Check out The Lanark Era’s page also

Check out the Lanark County Genealogical Society’s page also

RELATED READING

Down by the Old Kitten Mill

Does Anyone Remember Cohen’s in Lanark Village?

The Lanark Laundromat Blast — Unsolved Mysteries of Lanark County

Lanark Mormons and Mormon Tree?

Sticky and Sweet in Lanark County