PLANT Architect Inc.
CHANNELLED BURIED MOVED LOST: WHERE DID MILL CREEK GO?
The intersection of Mill Creek and the Grand River is the reason that Galt was founded at this spot in 1816, but this watery intersection, and Mill Creek all the way to Main Street has been buried, moved and forgotten. Where did the creek go? How could such an important piece of natural infrastructure disappear visually and culturally? How long does it take to forget? This installation takes the visitor on a journey to look for the lost creek starting from the point it is buried at Main and Wellington, as it journeys to the Grand. The ten-point walk is paired with a website www.millcreekgalt.ca which has archived historic maps and photographs of the creek and its ponds. Walking the phantom Mill Creek dovetails with PLANT’s interior exhibit that is about ‘walking’ as a way of understanding, revealing and forming site.
MILL CREEK HISTORY
Galt (Shade’s Mills) was founded by William Dickson in 1816. He had acquired the 90,000 acres along the Grand that would be North and South Dumfries for the purposes of establishing a town and together with Absalom Shade chose the point where Mill Creek flows into the Grand River. “They noted that at this site both the Grand River and Mill Creek could be harnessed to provide the power needed for the mills that were the first requirement of any new settlement. Thus it was the river and its tributary that determined the site of Galt.”1 Mill Creek became the backbone of the local economy with mills, distilleries and factories drawing power along its length, concentrating industry into the 1830s “Manchester of Canada”. The creek and its swollen ponds were immediately and continuously rerouted, channelled, split, and reshaped for industrial use by individual factory owners along its banks including the Galt Knitting Company which provided the original arched outlet for the creek into the Grand River. When the railway was introduced in the late 1850s, it followed alongside the creek with individual rail spurs feeding these same buildings. This newly reinforced creek/rail corridor now provided power and the means of distribution – a powerful spine. By 1910 the great mill ponds north and south of Main Street had been channelled, and by the 1960s it was half buried as the importance of a creek/rail spine had been supplanted by a municipal power system and road transport. In the 1990s, the entire creek south of Main was buried and the original arched outlet in the Galt Knitting Building was blocked off. A massive concrete culvert disgorges water into the Grand River 275 metres south, almost at Bruce Street. Though the water is no longer visible south of Main, and conspicuously flows out far away from its original route, current maps from the Grand River Conservation Authority, the Cambridge travel bureau and even Google maps persistently indicate a visible creek along the centre line of the old route.
1 Jim Quantrell “A Part of our Past, Essays on Cambridge’s History: Cambridge Rivers”, City of Cambridge Archives 2000.
PLANT Architect Inc. (Toronto) is an interdisciplinary studio of architects and landscape architects formed in 1995 by Chris Pommer, Lisa Rapoport, and Mary Tremain. PLANT embraces and synthesizes the increasing complexity of the world and the ambiguity of where landscape, built form, and design intersect. The recipient of numerous architecture and landscape architecture awards, PLANT’s recent projects include: winning schemes for the Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization, the Dublin Veterans’ Project, and Stratford’s Market Square. Landscape: Foote’s Pond Wood (Morristown, NJ); Sweet Farm Parc (Québec); and a large master plan study for the New Jersey Meadowlands.