A ‘mag­i­cal’ land­mark

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - News

BY TARA MAC­DON­ALD

Staff The rain didn’t wash out the fes­tiv­i­ties on Sun­day as the Mart­in­town Grist Mill held its last sum­mer event of the sea­son.

From early July un­til Septem­ber, the Mart­in­town Grist Mill comes alive with a farm­ers’ mar­ket on the grounds with tents for ven­dors and pic­nic ta­bles for guests to so­cial­ize or en­joy a bite to eat. The site has been trans­formed into a thriv­ing hub for lo­cal artists, au­thors and en­ter­tain­ers to gather, show­case their work and con­nect with the com­mu­nity. Visi­tors are also wel­come to me­an­der through the build­ing learn­ing about its his­tory and im­por­tance to the re­gion.

Lo­cated along the banks of the Raisin River, the land­mark is a rare ex­am­ple of a mid-19th cen­tury grist mill. This be­ing one of the last of its kind still stand­ing in Stor­mont, Dun­das and Glen­garry, the old grist mill played a ma­jor role es­tab­lish­ing Mart­in­town and help­ing to de­velop the agri­cul­ture sec­tor in the area.

After years of sit­ting va­cant and left to de­cay un­der the pres­sures of time and en­vi­ron­ment, the his­toric

“My wife Sil­via was one of the ones that worked like heck to save the mill,” said com­mit­tee mem­ber Don­ald Thom­son. “She died in 2015, but I know she’s be pretty happy if she could see the mill as it is to­day.”

The group, now known as the Mart­in­town Mill Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety Corp., has spent decades and count­less vol­un­teer hours restor­ing the site and breath­ing new life into the once thriv­ing vil­lage.

“It’s not just about the mill,” ex­plained So­ci­ety mem­ber Brian Ar­berry, “it’s about the com­mu­nity. The vil­lage grew around the mill. We’re try­ing to bring that back.”

“It’s a mag­i­cal site for artists,” said So­ci­ety Pres­i­dent John Smith as he pointed out the colour­ful work on dis­play by artist by Laura Stevens who spent last sum­mer as artist-in-res­i­dent and re­turned for the clos­ing event with her de­light­ful three-month-old baby. “I like the am­biance, pre­serv­ing the cul­ture, his­tory, and help­ing to make the build­ing avail­able to lo­cal artists and the com­mu­nity,” she says. New this year, the So­ci­ety also in­vited var­i­ous au­thors from the area to set up their own booths and to present read­ings from their works.

Draw­ing for­mer res­i­dents, friends, fam­ily and visi­tors from across Stor­mont, Dun­das and Glen­garry the site is quickly be­com­ing a pop­u­lar tourism draw for the re­gion. While some come to ex­plore the ar­chi­tec­ture of the site and in­ter-work­ings of early tur­bine-style tech­nol­ogy, oth­ers seek to ex­pe­ri­ence ru­ral vil­lage life and con­nect with the com­mu­nity. Still oth­ers are at­tracted by one-of-a-kind art, lo­cally-grown fruit and veg­eta­bles, freshly baked tarts and other desserts. No mat­ter the draw, it seemed ev­ery­one was ea­ger to fill their bel­lies with Somkid Delorme’s de­li­ciously pop­u­lar Thai spring rolls, avail­able in veg­e­tar­ian, shrimp or pork. “This is my third time this sum­mer,” said Williamstown res­i­dent Joanne MacDon­nell. “It feels so wel­com­ing and I like the food, the crafts peo­ple and the his­tory. The peo­ple here do a lot for such a small com­mu­nity.”

“Oh my God, I love com­ing here,” agreed Somkid Delorme of Somkid Thai Food. “Peo­ple are very friendly and help each other.”

The Mill’s next open-doors event will take place Oc­to­ber 31 when the site hosts the spook-tac­u­lar Haunted Mill event.

Brian Ar­berry and Jo Sweet have helped main­tain the Mart­in­town Mill as a tra­di­tional hub in the vil­lage. “It’s not just about the mill,” says Mr. Ar­berry, “it’s about the com­mu­nity. The vil­lage grew around the mill. We’re try­ing to bring that back.” Draw­ing for­mer res­i­dents, friends, fam­ily and visi­tors from across SDG, the site is a pop­u­lar tourism draw.

TARA MAC­DON­ALD PHO­TOS

HOT ROLLS: Somkid Delorme of Somkid Thai Food serv­ing Ethan Mil­berry and Michaela Buhr, both from Berwick.

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