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From the Church Hill
Fenelon Falls From the Church Hill: The Earliest Known Photo of the Village. How much the village has changed and yet how much has stayed the same….
Gone are the days when the village was filled with stumps, and automobiles have replaced the horse and carriage, but the array of lots and streets remains much the same. Cornerstone Home Furniture (centre-right) sits in the place of George Crandell’s Hotel. The Great Fire of Fenelon Falls ignited at this site in 1884, destroying much of the west side of Colborne Street, which was subsequently replaced with the brick blocks that survive today.
The building across from Crandell’s is Deyman’s furniture and undertaking, the ancestor of Jardine Funeral Home. Note the board ladders nailed to roofs for fighting fire, and the Presbyterian Church, which now is (ironically) the Liquor Store.
Looking South from the Grist Mill
Situated on the north side of Fenelon Falls, the stone grist mill was a landmark and a wonderful vantage for taking photographs in all directions. Many historic photos of the village were taken from this site. Later on it was repurposed as the Botany Spinners and Rosedale Furniture, before burning in 1970.
The original image is colourized as a postcard. The artist likely never saw the original vista, so some things are not their actual colour. Heritage House (top left in original photo, built as the office for R.C. Smith’s Red Mill, now RWH construction) never was red brick, rather it is the same stone building seen in the contemporary photograph.
In the original photograph, the flume for the Lindsay power plant is on the far shore (at the start of the twentieth century, Fenelon Falls powered two hydro electric generating stations, one for the town of Lindsay, the other for home village). The log slide is closer to the centre of the river. Centre right, near the top of the original photograph is the stone school, now the Spry Masonic Lodge.
Maryboro Lodge, formerly a popular tourist lodge, is now a public museum, and remains a popular community gathering place.
Maryboro's Tennis Court
When the Abbott Sisters hosted guests at Maryboro Lodge, they had a tennis court on the lake side of the building. It is now a picnic area in the oak grove.
37 Oak Street
37 Oak Street has long been one of the most striking homes on the street, originally built for F.J. Kerr. Oak Street had been the private park of town proprietor James Wallis, so it was not developed until the late nineteenth century, when prominent families built fine new homes. This created a beautiful neighbourhood that the City of Kawartha Lakes designated as a heritage district in 2017.
Many of the houses on Oak Street date from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, making the streetscape quite recognizable. The road has been widened and paved, today there are concrete sidewalks, some trees have matured, while others have been cut down, and there is now museum in the park by Cameron Lake—but in many ways, the view looking down Oak Street is not that different than it was over a century ago.
The Victoria Railway has become a popular recreational corridor. Visitors can view Cameron Lake and the Fenelon River from the colourful butterfly benches, where the building for the swing bridge operator once stood.
Fenelon Falls’ Train Station has become the Station Gallery, a gift shop featuring the work of local artists.
Bridge over the Falls
The bridge and Heritage House are still recognizable from a photograph circa 1960, while the roof of the former Lindsay Power Plant has been lowered to create a restaurant.
Lindsay Power Plant
For many years, Fenelon Falls had a power plant on either side of the falls. The one on the north shore supplied the village’s own needs (and was popularly called the Fenelon Power Plant), while the one on the opposite bank produced power for Lindsay (hence, the Lindsay Power Plant). ...
Derelict Lindsay Power Plant
... In 1972, the buildings north of the falls were demolished, making way for more parkland on Fenelon’s Island. The old power plant on the south shore stood derelict, and the upper parts of it were demolished in 1973. Henry and Gertrud Sternberg built the Fallsview Restaurant on the old stone foundation. Today, it continues to operate as the Locker at the Falls.
From the Northeast
Fenelon Falls from the Air, circa 1963
This original aerial image shows both the Lindsay and Fenelon Falls power plants on either side of the Falls. The Alpine Inn stands on the cliffs overlooking the gorge. On the island, the lock gates are being hung for the season beside the newly completed park and lock station. Allen Wood Products, manufacturer of the Tinkertoy, is visible on the shore of Cameron Lake. Lenses from that period often brought distant objects forward into view. In the background, Jackett's and Ormell's pits are visible. The hills they were excavating were much larger than they are today. Foster Kelly's Plumbing Showroom can be seen on Francis Street, east of Colborne. Many buildings on the main street still stand, though Canadian Tire - now Subway was then 3 stories tall. Immanuel Baptist Church is still situated at the bottom right.
The Sundial Motel, once a popular restaurant offering Broasted Chicken, remains a motel, though it is now an Ultramar Gas Station as well.
In 1944 Fenelon Falls residents would swim on the side of the canal, in the same channel where boats would pass. Today it is parking for the public boat launch.
Stanton's Becomes Sider's
In 1957 J.H. Stanton’s photographic studio was rebuilt as Sider’s Jewellery and an IGA grocery store.
Sider's Becomes Stokes on Trent
After the IGA constructed a new store further north on Colborne Street, Siders operated both halves of the building, and were succeeded by Stokes on Trent. Today the building is the sales office for the new Fenelon Lakes Club condominium and the Lil’ Wee Quilt Shop. The Fenelon Falls Rotary Club often showcases their Classic Car Raffle vehicle on site.
Originally the livery stable for the McArthur House Hotel, in the mid twentieth century this stone building facing the locks was home to John Demerling’s machine shop and Dick Bulmer’s Blacksmith Shop. After a generation as the Livery Stable gift shop, it has been transformed into the Fenelon Brewery.
Livery Stable Burns
On November 30, 1990, the Livery Stable, Coconuts Restaurant, Switzerland Upholstery and the Salvation Army Thrift Shop Burned. The building was restored after the fire, then substantially altered two decades later, to reopen as the Fenelon Falls Brewing Company in August 2019.
Watching Boats pass through the locks remains popular today, as it was when the locks were reconstructed in the early 1960s.
Manita in the Canal
Launched in 1900, the Manita covered the northwestern section of the Trent Valley Navigation Company’s transportation network (Coboconk-Fenelon Falls-Sturgeon Point-Lindsay). Steamboat travel became a defining image of the Victoria era, but the Manita and the era of paddle wheelers proved short-lived with the advent of private motor launches that dominate the waterway today.
Most of the shops facing the canal have changed since the 1970s.
Dam and Island
Viewed from the Bridge over the Falls, the Fenelon Dam is no longer surrounded by Flett’s Cabins and the Fenelon Creamery. The Trent Severn Waterway cleared the island in the 1960s to make way for the park.
Fenelon Falls' Cenotaph was originally dedicated on the Island, beside Lyon's Motors in 1934. A large crowd attended the unveiling as practically everyone had either served in the Great War, or was close to someone else who had. The stone structure was 12 feet tall, weighed 10 tons and cost $1400.35. Today, the lock station is close to the former site of the Lyon's Motors, while the Cenotaph once stood near the Parks Canada sign.
... And Moved to the Market Square
In 1957, the Cenotaph was moved to the Market Square, shortly before Parks Canada transformed the island into greenspace.
Where the Parks Canada signs now informs motorists of the National Historic Site as they cross the bridges, Fenelon Falls' Cenotaph once remembered the fallen soldiers from the World Wars.
Though the sawdust pile is gone, the mill at Handley Lumber is still managed by Chris Handley, great-grandson of its builder Joe. Chris’ father Ken still operates the mill.
The McArthur House, shown here with owner John Aldous and his famous race horse Little Hector, became the local Canadian Tire…
Canadian Tire Becomes Subway
Before Canadian Tire was in turn reincarnated as Subway.
Log Drive in the Locks
Generations have passed since the last drive passed down the Trent Watershed, as the log booms of centuries past have given way to pleasure craft. The old cranks still stand by the lock, but today they there are purely ornamentation. At the time this photograph was taken, Fenelon Falls had a two-stage lock, but it has since been reconstructed with a single chamber further upstream—so there is no gate today where the old wooden doors once hung. The new fixed concrete bridge has replaced the old swing, and stands a little further downstream. The old lock walls have been cut away to facilitate the stairs passing under the bridge. Cliffside Villa now overlooks the gorge, while the tip of the island has gone from being barren of trees to being so densely wooded that the Fenelon River is no longer visible. Through all the changes over the years, the cliffside cedars are still there, how old might they be?
Rebuilding the Lock
In 1963 W.G. Jackett & Sons excavated to create a locks, leaving a giant stone pillar where the upper lock gate now sits.
Before the reconstruction, Fenelon Falls needed a two-stage lock to overcome the 23 foot drop from Cameron to Sturgeon Lake.
Where the swing bridge once opened to allow boats to pass through the Upper Fenelon Lock, since its 1963 reconstruction boats now pass under the bridge at the level of Sturgeon Lake. Lyon’s Garage is in the background of the original photograph.
Swing Bridge and Colborne Street
With the new single stage lock, a swing bridge (shown circa 1930) was no longer needed. The fixed concrete bridge continues to allow motorized traffic to pass uninterrupted.
Norm Kelly on the Swing Bridge
Many people took an interest as W.G. Jackett and Sons excavated the lock pit to build a new single stage lock, in place of the two lifts that then existed. Once this new lock was opened in 1963, the swing bridge was no longer needed and could be replaced by a fixed concrete span. The Chamber of Commerce and Botany Spinners, which appear in the background, were subsequently demolished as Parks Canada converted the Fenelon Island into greenspace.
Digging the Lock Pit
For two winters, W.G. Jackett and Sons excavated the Fenelon Lock Pit to facilitate the installation of the new lock. Trucking material out of a ramp at the head of the canal, they carved out the channel to allow the installation of a single lock chamber, which opened in 1963.
Foot of the Island
The Village of Fenelon Falls Municipal Building and Fire Tower once stood on the Island, which the Trent Severn has cleared to create a public park.
Looking South on Colborne Street
For generations, the old stone grist mill was a Fenelon Falls landmark, located on the north shore of the waterfall that gave the village its name. As motorists crossed the bridge over the canal, they would turn past the mill to access the bridge over the falls. In the nineteenth century, the site was used to grind grain, but by the 1930s fewer families were using small local grist mills to process their farm produce. Emanuele and Aino Restivo transformed the property into the Fenelon Falls Garment Company in 1935. Thirteen years later, Jack Barrett and Rev. Gosnell rechristened it as the Botany Spinners. In 1968, Rosedale Furniture began manufacturing on site, only to have the old mill burn on April 28, 1970. The remains were demolished, making way for more greenspace on Fenelon Falls’ Island.
Colborne Street West Side
Many buildings from 1940 remain on the west side of Colborne Street, including the banks on the corner… the CIBC was originally built as the post office.
Colborne Street East Side
Across the Street, the southern most stores have seen several reconfigurations, from 1900 to 1960…
Colborne Street East Side Reincarnated
And 1960 to the present.
Fenelon Falls IGA
Up to the 1950s, most local general stores were operated independently, and several different retailers sold groceries and dry goods in the village. IGA was among the first grocery chains to serve the region, opening franchises in Fenelon Falls, Minden and Bobcaygeon. In 1957, Fenelon Falls’ IGA opened at 10 Colborne Street, beside Sider’s Jewellery (later Stokes on Trent, now the Lil Wee Quilt Shop—the former IGA is the Fenelon Lakes Club Sales Office). This new business model was quite successful and before long the IGA had outgrown the premises. Ten years later, John Sobko opened a new store where McCallum’s Merchant Tailor had operated for decades—just north of the original store on Colborne Street. In 1983, the store again expanded to the north, demolishing the block that had once housed the public library and Murchison, Sangster & Folkes Insurance. ...
IGA from Behind
... In 2002, Mark and Lisa Knoester rebranded the IGA store as Sobeys, and moved to a much larger premises on Lindsay Street, just south of the Falls. The IGA building became a Bargain Shop and later Red Apple.
North Ward Public School
Originally built in 1869, seven years later two rooms were added to accommodate increasing attendance. In 1912, the South Ward School merged, and this structure was renamed Fenelon Falls Public School. This building served as a school until 1953, when the new public school was built down the road. Since then it has been used as the Fenelon Falls Gazette office, a laundromat, the Pop Shoppe, Matthew's & Associates office and Art & Peggy Long's (McColl Turner) office. Today it is an apartment building.
Though it has been worn down by decades of waves, the breakwater still guides boats into the Fenelon Canal.
Canal's North Side
Prior to its reconstruction in the early 1960s, the Fenelon Canal had a small operators building on the north side.
It’s hard not to be struck by how much less water is going over the falls than in the early 1980s, now that the power plant (on the far shore) is generating electricity. Except for a brief lull in the late twentieth century, Fenelon Falls has been harnessed as a power source for much of the past two centuries, from the days when it powered Fenelon Falls’ saw and grist mills to the first conversion to electricity at the end of the nineteenth century. For many years, there was a power plant on both sides of the falls.
Many of the buildings in the background look very different, though they are the same structures. The old McArthur House, then a Canadian Tire is now Subway, but has blue metal covering its upper brick façade. The former Stokes on Trent looks quite different without the shutters, and prominent white sign.
Falls from the Island
Today as in the mid-twentieth century, Fenelon Falls remains one of the most photographed sites in the village.
Fenelon Island in Winter
Fenelon Island has changed greatly since the 1960s. Gone are the old stone grist mill, Fenelon Falls power station, fire tower and municipal buildings. The island is now largely greenspace, with a new generating station, constructed in 1997, tucked under the bridge. A concrete pier has also been added extending the tip of the island to the east. In the mid twentieth century, the Fenelon River froze over, except for a patch around the falls, today it is open water. In the background, the old McArthur House Hotel (Canadian Tire, now Subway) has been reduced from three stories to two.
Dine at the Falls
The popular patio of the Falls View Restaurant lives on as the Locker.
Installing a Storm Sewer
In 1966, G.C. Romano Construction Company was hired to install a storm sewer running south down Lindsay Street and draining into the river, just below the falls. The old Lindsay power station on the right has been reincarnated as the Falls View Restaurant, now the Locker at the Falls. On the opposite side of the falls, the island has been substantially changed. Gone are the Fenelon power station, fire tower and municipal buildings, as Parks Canada has transformed the island into greenspace. With the buildings on the island removed, the Lil Wee Quilt Shop (formerly Siders, then Stokes on Trent) is now visible from the south shore. In the distance, the Anglican Church on the hill burned in 1967. Instead of this landmark, the water tower is now visible across town, standing tall above the maturing forest on the church hill.
Bank of Montreal
The Bank of Montreal is one of the oldest businesses on Colborne Street.
Carload and Reid's
The former Carload Food Market (c 1960) has stood vacant for several years recently, while the Reid’s Variety Store remained the as J’n B’s before becoming Jim Newton’s electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling.
Colborne Street looking South
Many of the old brick buildings on Fenelon Falls’ main street are still standing, though many of their facades have been either painted or clad in metal over the years. At the far (south) end of the street, the third storey of the former McArthur House (now Subway) had to be taken down. The old grist mill (Rosedale Furniture) burned in 1970, becoming yet another landmark to be consumed by flames. The Post Office has been reincarnated as CIBC. Fenelon Falls no longer has angle parking, but now has stoplights. The recent reconstruction of the main street has recreated a place for banners to hang, not far from where the tourist information banner hung when the original photograph was taken.
The Baptist Church continues to be a guiding light for local believers.
St. James Anglican Church
The original Anglican Church opened on May 6, 1838, and the village’s first resident minister, Rev. Thomas Fidler arrived the next year, but tragically drowned when he was swept over the falls. Prominently located on the church hill, the log building burned in 1850, and was replaced two years later by a larger frame building, which served to the end of the century. The cornerstone of the third church was laid in 1902 at the foot of the hill on Bond Street. This original photograph was taken shortly after it opened. Today, the church hall stands on the west side of the brick church.
Pollard the Mover hauls the drive shed from Fenelon Falls United Church to the funeral home, circa 1968. That’s Henry Purdy Riding on Top, while Frank Johnston and Dr. Bill Graham walk up the sidewalk beside it. Behind the shed in the original picture, the belfry still stands on the former Fenelon Falls Public School. By the time the picture was taken, about 15 years had passed since the new (now demolished) public school had opened. Just imagine what would happen today if you were caught standing on top of a shed, driving up the main street!
Alpine Inn to Cliffside Villa
Situated on the site of the former Alpine Inn, Cliffside Villa provides low cost housing, while the tip of the Fenelon Island remains a popular public park, though no longer one where cars can drive down to water’s edge. The Fenelon Falls power plant and municipal buildings have been superseded with a more compact plant that is closer to the falls and greenspace.
Bird's Eye View of Gorge
The Fenelon Gorge, carved by the meltwaters from Glacial Great Lake Algonquin near the end of the last ice age, has long been a local landmark. Since time immemorial, the cliffs have been home to spindly cedar trees, while the built landscape nearby has changed substantially over the years. The agricultural landscape that surrounded the Fenelon Gorge in 1900 has largely regenerated as forest, interspersed with urban development. Today, Cliffside Villa stands prominently above the Fenelon River.
Public School Becomes Sugarbush Villa
In 2000 the Fenelon Falls Public School was demolished, making way for Sugarbush Villa Adult Lifestyle Community.
From the South
Since the 1960s, Canadian Tire and Home Hardware have moved to the south end of Lindsay Street, while there is no longer a farm equipment dealership in town.
Ice Cream by the Locks
Visitors can still enjoy ice cream from Slices in Scoops, as at the Fenelon Dairy in 1957
Fenelon Falls Secondary School
Fenelon Falls Secondary School has expanded towards Lindsay Street to create a new office.
In the early twentieth century, regattas were a popular attraction at local locks, attracting thousands of visitors.
Lyon’s Garage, a Dodge-Desoto Dealership was demolished when as the Trent-Severn Waterway transformed the island into greenspace in the 1960s.
At the start of the twentieth century, Fenelon Falls had a transfer bus, that took visitors from the wharves (located on the north side, just above and below the canal) to Jeremiah Twomey’s Mansion House. Today, the Mansion House is now the Cow and Sow, and buses are now motorized, but they lack the well ventilated carriage and equine aroma. Plus, it is no longer necessary to shovel up any mess afterwards!
The Sand Hill
The Sand Hill between Louisa and Dodd Streets has long been a local landmark. Visible across Cameron Lake, years ago local youth enjoyed sliding down its sandy slopes in summer and to this day families toboggan there in winter. Up to the 1980s, W.G. Jackett and Sons extracted aggregates from the site, but since then it has naturalized.
Napanee Paper Company
In 1884 the Napanee Mills Paper Company built a 150 x 50-foot mill on the shore of Cameron Lake, that was complete with a 90-foot tall smokestack, that soon became a local landmark. Managed by William Burgoyne, the mill produced half a rail car load of pulp per day, that was shipped to Newburgh, Ontario, where it was transformed into #2 and #3 white and coloured printing paper. When it first opened, the mill operated on the soda process. The wood was first cut up into small chips, then fed into a boiler containing lime and soda dissolved in hot water. The soda ash was imported from Liverpool, England, while the lime was made on site. After boiling at high pressure for about eight hours, it was passed into a revolving tank to separate the cellulose fibres and rinsed with water. Wastewater was then dumped back in the lake. The pulp was rolled into bales for shipment. With the soda process, only non-resinous woods could be used. Poplar and basswood were preferable because of their long fibres. Different species of wood produced paper that tended to colour differently as it aged—poplar was the best for retaining a white colour, while basswood tended to take on a reddish tinge. Many stacks of cordwood were burned to fuel the pulp mill, and the company sold the ashes to a Napanee man, who exported them to Florida as fertilizer.
After adding a 40 x 60-foot engine room in 1887, the mill converted to the sulphite process for the 1890 season and added a saw and shingle mill the following summer. By using sulphate of soda, resinous woods like pine could be processed too. However, it produced a stench which became a public issue. At times the company struggled to keep itself supplied with the chemicals needed to process the wood, and became insolvent in 1893. Four years later, the Standard Chemical Company of Toronto purchased the plant. Since then, the former mill site has been transformed into Garnet Graham Park.
Tourist Camp now Beach Park
In the first half of the twentieth century, the south half of Garnet Graham Park (beside Maryboro Lodge) was the community’s tourist camp. Visitors would drive right up on the lawns and pitch their tent . The railway has become a parking lot, the original rail bridge is still in place, and Maryboro Lodge then a tourist lodge is now the community museum.
Garnet Graham and Miss Fenelon Falls
Garnet Graham and Wendy pose with his plywood photo set, 1987 and Garnet's daughter Elizabeth (Graham) Korn, with a reproduction at KidsFest 2022
In the 1980s, it seemed that Garnet Graham found a way to touch the lives of practically everyone in town, with his yip sticks, countless other tricks, and by supporting just about every charitable cause in town.
Garnet was always looking for a way to make Fenelon Falls a better place, and one of his many creative ideas was to create a photo set in the beach park that today bears his name. He commissioned local sign painter John Lyon to do the artwork. Though the original Miss Fenelon Falls is starting to show its age, John created a second Miss Fenelon Falls, which makes an appearance at many museum events, including KidsFest.
Garnet Graham Demonstrates his Yip Sticks
Garnet Graham with his Yip Sticks in front of the Fenelon Lock in 1987 and Maryboro Lodge Museum volunteer Liz Pead demonstrating a Yip Stick in memory of Garnet, at closing night at the Grove Theatre, September 17, 2022.
Not only did Garnet Graham's Yip Sticks support countless community organizations, for a generation they were the most popular souvenir of the village. It was hard not to love Mr. Yip and his sidekick Bobby Beau—a magical dog that could add and climb trees! In 1986, Reeve Barclay Taylor decided to rename Fenelon Falls’ Beach Park in recognition of Garnet’s lifelong efforts to improve his community.
Looking Over the Train Station
This original photograph was likely taken from Francis Sandford's furniture factory, which burned in 1906. Looking North up Lindsay Street, the train station is obscured by the building in the foreground, while a freight shed is visible on the opposite (west) side of the road. The stone public school stands at the upper left, while the two-storey Brooks Hotel is visible in the distance (later site of George Wilson's car dealership). Further up the street is the Stone Grist mill, while the Anglican Church stands on the hill at the far side of town (near right on the horizon). The Littleton House, located just north of the rail line on the west side of Lindsay Street, and is still in the family.
From an Aeroplane, 1919
Much has changed since the Fenelon Falls' first aerial photograph was taken. The McArthur Hotel (Subway) is now a story shorter, the island has become greenspace, and the surrounding landscape has significantly regrown with trees.
Fenelon River from Cameron Lake
The swing bridge completed in 1893 still marks the entrance to Fenelon Falls from Cameron Lake, shown here in a 1960s postcard and in 2021.
Fenelon Falls Then & Now
The public face of Fenelon Falls was radically altered starting in 1961. The municipal buildings, power plant, grist mill and Lyon's Garage that had been the public face of the community for generations cleared to make way for a park alongside the Trent-Severn Waterway. The Original photo was taken in 1947.