Water floods through the historic mill in Killaloe
A mill nearly as old as Canada must be sold if it is to survive, its owner says, since the spring flood has just washed through it, and through her hopes of creating a bed and breakfast.
The mill on Brennan’s Creek in Old Killaloe, two hours west of Ottawa, has been there since 1870. Owner Anette Clough says it’s part country home, part storehouse of history.
“It has a pile of stuff in there: Manual wooden planes, sickles, big wagon wheels, things that fit around a horse’s neck.” There is equipment for sending flour down a chute into bags, and flour sifters, all pushed to one side of the building.
The other side is renovated: a three-bedroom home on the top two levels, and a smaller apartment with a separate entrance.
She and her soon-to-be ex-husband bought it about four years ago. The couple eventually split; she moved out two years ago and her husband left last fall. The mill has been unoccupied since then.
“I would love, love, love to keep the place. It’s an incredible building. I would really love to turn it into a bed and breakfast,” she said Monday.
Previous owners blasted out bedrock and put in a 50-kilowatt turbine that generates electricity for sale to the provincial grid. At least it did until a flood three years ago. Clough figures the turbine itself is still fine, but the turbine room may need electrical repairs.
“We almost had it ready to turn on. We had all the electricals checked and cleaned, and then we got flooded three years ago. And that is because we didn’t have enough stop logs pulled out of the dam,” she said.
With the couple splitting up, she can’t afford to invest more money in repairs that are needed in one foundation wall, or in putting the turbine system back into shape.
It’s a lovely setting, with a pond behind the dam, walking trails and a foot bridge to the far side of the creek.
“I haven’t put it on the market yet because I haven’t been wanting to sell it because I really love it. But looking at what happened this year … ”
Last week, the rising run-off water spilled past the dam and through the first floor of the mill, in one door and out another.
Clough said a structural engineer looked at the mill since then, recommending repairs to one foundation wall and an overall review of the building when water level falls.
I would love, love, love to keep the place. It’s an incredible building
Stop logs work like plugs in a drain, meaning they can be dropped into position in a dam or lifted out to control how much water can flow through. They are intended to be lifted out in fall, so that the spring flood has an opening where it can rush right through. But the logs are heavy, and Clough and her husband couldn’t remove them all last fall, so the dam was partially blocked. Then spring came.
The result is familiar to anyone who has tried to flush a blocked toilet: Water backs up and overflows. It’s now receding.
The Killaloe Post, an online magazine that’s largely the work of local photographer Lynn Flokstra, recently traced the history of the mill, which was built by an Irish immigrant in 1849 and rebuilt after a major fire in 1870.
The historic mill in Killaloe on Wednesday, April 12, 2017
“At its peak the mill was powered by one wood- and one water-powered engine and was in operation 24 hours a day grinding the wheat harvest for local farmers,” the Post notes. “When flour was no longer profitable they ground grain for livestock feed. With the rise of national commercial mills local grain milling became a thing of the past.”
The mill had a second life sawing and planing lumber from the 1940s until 1968.
If no one maintains the building, Clough says, “it could get worse, and then the town and the area lose something that has been there forever and is really amazing.”