Aug 20 - Nov 1, 2009
an exhibition about our most precious resource ...
Meet the Artists at our reception Saturday August 22 from 3-5pm
David Beddoe • Natasha Blazevic • Darlene Burningham
Marianne Faguy • Shanna Steals • Freda Pemberton Smith
Gallery Hours: 12 - 5, Thursday to Sunday
Jessica Sarrazin, Arbor Gallery Curator
The idea for the water exhibition came when I learned Vankleek Hill used to have a pond/small lake where our community centre now stands. Apparently early industry polluted the body of water that used to be on top of our hill, it became marshy, full of silt and it was drained. Recently, there's been a successful fundraising project to build a splash pad in the park next to the arena. So we now have recreational water facilities - an ice rink and a splash pad - but I wonder what would be like if we'd just been able to keep the original body of water... For the artists' participation in the show, I asked them to take any angle they wish: historical, political or even just an interesting formal look at water.
Michelle Landriault of the Vankleek Hill Historical Society (www.vankleek.ca) provided the following information and a fascinating story from W.D McLaurin, a man recounting his experiences on the Vankleek Hill pond as a young boy... Many thanks to Michelle and to the Musée Vankleek Hill Museum for the following... (And btw, the newly-opened Museum is well worth the visit if you haven't yet been to Vankleek Hill's newest cultural attraction!)
A Brief History of the Mill Street Pond
There was a pond at the location of the ball field which is why it is still quite a damp place to be. From 1883 to about 1920 it was a fairly active sawmill owned by various people. It is most often remembered as the Vankleek Hill Manufacturing Company and likely took up the area of the community centre and parking lot, plus area for piling logs and planks etc. After 1920, it was more or less used as storage for lumber, or unused. In 1950 it was transferred to the town to be used as a recreational area. There were discussions about draining the pond as early as the 1890s because of health concerns – still waters. There is a postcard image of the last vestiges of the Manufacturing Company.
But even before the Manufacturing Company, about ca 1840 water from the pond was directed to a grist mill located on the north side of Mill Street – which is why Mill Street is Mill Street. Also, the short street that runs parallel to the ball field is Loch Street – Gaelic for lake or pond.
It is fair to say that a growing population affected the attitude toward the pond. It was ground fed – no running water to keep it fresh and moving. It was first used to power a mill and later to float logs. There was increasing concern about health as the pond levels were not constant. In keeping with the times, it was not cared for or nurtured. Eventually, as it became more shallow, it was filled in. Below is a lovely report of the pond that was published in The Review [Vankleek Hill and area's local newspaper] – date unknown. I discovered this in a scrapbook and we published it in RedBrick April 2007.
The Stone in the Mill Pond Early letter to The Review, from undated scrapbook
Editor Review: Yes, the stone, or rock I might call it, the one that stood in the centre of the pond, is there no more, destroyed last Fall, what about it? Only a stone, blown up to make room for something else, it may mean nothing to you, but it does to me, for I miss it every time I walk down Mill Street. It may mean the same to my schoolmates, but they are silent about it. There are only a few of us left anyway. But I remember when the pond was to us boys a "Lake, " yes, a lake, for I have seen it roll up to the road, beautiful waves on a windy day, the sparkle of the sun light playing upon it, made it appear as if the great stone were a Scotch pebble set in a brooch of diamonds and pearls. Then, our swimming place at the foot of the old lime kiln, where the water was clean for about one hundred feet, is now all covered with weeds. On the pond I had my raft, where I spent many happy hours. Peter VanKleek made a boat and gave me a ride in it, which I enjoyed very much. I never forgot Peter for his kindness to a boy. But the stone, what was there about it, that if I went near it, it filled me with awe. I kept away from it, somehow I felt as if it were very deep there, and if I fell in, they would never find me, and I did not want to die and go to Heaven, Vankleek Hill was heaven enough for me, but I did row up to it one day, and touched it. A party of us made a raft of four logs, and when we got near the rock two of the logs broke away, and into the water went the boys, my brother Peter among them. Dexter Flynn lifted the boys back onto the two logs I was sitting on, then Dexter waded ashore. Peter and I went home, Peter to dry his clothes; for punishment we were sent to bed at four o’clock and us hearing the boys playing out on the street, however it did not prevent me from being on my beloved raft the next day. Then when winter came, and the pond frozen over, what a gathering place the great stone made for the skaters to rest themselves upon. The girls in the afternoon, the boys in the evening, the delightful sociability of it all, that clusters about that stone. By and by, like our grove which was our play ground and park, the pond also like the grove, only a memory, who cares, or do you care? Well, let me tell you about another stone, when you pass away, loving relatives will place a stone at the head of your grave, plant flowers and visits will be made every afternoon, by and by the flowers will wither and die, the stone will commence to lean over, a little more next year, a few years more, it lies flat on its face. What about it, nobody thinks enough of you to straighten it up. Who cares. W.D. McLaurin