The Esplanade

Many people who live in Almonte – and who have done so for some considerable time – don’t know we have an island in the centre of town. It’s called Coleman’s Island and is surrounded on every side by a tributary of the Mississippi River.  What even fewer know about is the esplanade on Coleman’s Island.

An esplanade or promenade is a long, open, level area, usually next to a river or large body of water, where people may walk. The historical definition of esplanade was a large, open, level area outside fortress or city walls to provide clear fields of fire for the fortress’s guns. In modern usage, the space allows the area to be paved as a pedestrian walk; esplanades are often on sea fronts and allow walking whatever the state of the tide, without having to walk on the beach.

The celebrity of the Island and its inhabitants was once its home grown baseball team which competed forcefully against its mainland colleagues. People like Harry Walker and JC Smithson. Currently the Island is better known as the location of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum which adjoins the reconditioned red stone woollen mill now housing about 67 upscale condominiums overlooking the water falls which once propelled the mill.

If I recall correctly my introduction to Coleman’s Island derived from a client’s purchase of property on Carleton Street (parallel to the North Channel of the Mississippi River).  The property backed onto the river from the street. My initial investigation of the transaction drew me to Plan 6262 which is a complied general plan of the Town of Almonte made in about 1893.  It was called a compiled plan because it consolidated earlier town surveys and showed them on one large “map” a parchment about the 3′ X 4′. I once hung an original copy of Plan 6262 in my law office at 77 Little Bridge Street.  The plan was inherited  from my predecessor Raymond A. Jamieson, QC.  I understand it previously hung in the Old Town Hall at a time when Mr. Jamieson was the town clerk. It naturally afforded incalculable assistance in the practice of local real estate conveyancing.

Although parts of the plan had predictably faded, a scrutiny of it disclosed a dedicated strip of public land called “The Esplanade”. I have now forgotten all the particulars surrounding the esplanade but I am quite certain the Land Registry Office shows the public easement in its records. I further recall that the public land was indeed a standard promenade which skirted the North Channel from Wellington Street to a point approximately coincident with the end of Carleton Street before leaping onto what is now the Coleman’s Island Trail across a bridge onto the mainland adjoining Union Street North. It is part of life’s serendipity that the toll house from the Island to the mainland is metaphorically the home at the end of Carleton Street owned by Mr. Justice James Knatchbull Hugessen whose late wife Mary was a Rosamond of the woollen family fame.

Another unadvertised detail of Coleman’s Island is its springboard into the Mississippi River for swimming.  A longtime resident of Coleman’s Island has shared with me that she and her Golden Retriever Lila occasionally trudge from their nearby doorstep to the cool pool of the river water adjacent the Esplanade. This is as yet a little known resort for those wishing to fulfill a Norman Rockwell small-town dream of summertime relaxation.