Downtown Almonte

It is conceivably an amplification to speak of downtown Almonte. There is only one central business street in Almonte and that is Mill Street on which was historically conjoined the post office, Peterson’s Ice Cream Co and two of the town’s woollen mills (one at the top of the hill by the Old Town Hall, the other at the bottom of the hill opposite Doc Metcalfe’s hydro station) with limited retail and service shops between the two mills. Yet our recent discovery of the Mill St Apartments has encouraged the more ambitious denomination thanks to its cunning utility within the realm of our current private affairs.  Just this afternoon upon returning home I responded to an enquiry from another resident about “where you are” by reporting “we’re in the middle of the fray”. Pointedly Rob Prior’s new “fully furnished luxury suites ready for your extended getaway” answers our temporary residential needs ideally.

Mill St Apartments

The further fortuity of this alliance is that its central location – literally overlooking the Mississippi River which presently separates our current and new accommodations – captures our own midway focus as we changeover our residential digs from Jamieson Street to Johanna Street on the other side of town. But the metaphor surpasses the territorial. It is also temporal. Allow me to explain.  Our movers arrive on October 28th to pack everything into boxes and prepare the furnishings for removal. The movers do not however reappear until October 31st to load the boxes and furnishings onto a truck. And it is not until November 2nd that our belongings are moved into the new apartment.

As as result we have five days – October 28, 29, 30, 31 and November 1 – during which to erase time while awaiting the unfolding of our not so summary transition. We will nonetheless get the keys to the new place on November 1st which will afford us the first opportunity we’ve had to inspect the newly constructed apartment and building. During the 5-day positioning in “downtown Almonte” I intend to profit by investigating the many new businesses and galleries which beautifully complement Almonte’s traditional commercial core.

Nor is it without its private import that the Mill St Apartments are located at 28 Mill Street in the former Public Utilities Commission of the Corporation of the Town of Almonte for which I had the honour for many years to act as counsel. In addition upon the subsequent conversion of the PUC to an independent corporation (of which the Town of Mississippi Mills is the sole shareholder) I was further privileged to act as one of the original members of the board of directors.

In 1886 a joint stock company was formed in Almonte to introduce electric lighting to the Town. There were 20 privately owned streetlights in the initial grid. The people of the Town were very impressed by these lights, and in 1888, they prepared a petition to have the streets of Almonte lit. The motion to light the streets was defeated by council that year. In 1889, after pressure from the Townspeople, the motion passed. At Last the Town was partially lit with public electric street lighting in September of 1889.

In 1890 Dr. A.A. Metcalfe and his brothers, James and Robert, built the first hydroelectric generating plant in Almonte. For the next ten years they operated as the Almonte Electric Light Company and sold the power that they generated.

In August of 1899 an Electric Light Committee was formed to determine whether or not Municipally owned electric lighting was a good idea. After much debate on whether to build a new plant or to purchase the plant owned by the Metcalfe brothers, the Town decided to buy out the Almonte Electric Light Company and it’s plant on October 30, 1901.

The significance of the central nesting on Mill Street is further enhanced by noting that the hotel suites are but a skip to 34 Mill Street inhabited by Mississippi Lodge No. 147 A.F. & A.M., G.R.C. (In Ontario) of which I am a past master and former corporate president. Further up the street at 78 Mill Street is the quondam office of Raymond A. Jamieson QC where I began my own legal career in Almonte.

Permit me if you will a final allusion to the Almonte Community Co-ordinators whose headquarters are in the former Royal Bank building at the top of Mill Street at the corner of Bridge Street.  That exotic sounding organization is best known as the Hub which began as a thrift store. The names of the women behind that organization (Fern Martin, Nellie Hempell, Janet Duncan) ring clearly to this day. As an initiate to the town I was charged to handle many of the original incorporation documents.