Kitchener-Waterloo

Fire destroys historic mill north of Rockwood, Ont.

Ontario Provincial Police and the Ontario Fire Marshal are investigating after a historic mill located in the small town of Everton, Ont. burned to the ground in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Hortop's Mill was built in 1821, and purchased by the Grand River Conservation Authority in 1966

Before it burned to the ground, the mill had been a three-storey, wooden structure with a stone foundation, painted rust-red. (Abandoned But Not Forgotten)

Ontario Provincial Police and the Ontario Fire Marshal are investigating after a historic mill located in the small town of Everton, Ont. burned to the ground in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Volunteer firefighters with the Guelph-Eramosa Fire Department received an emergency call at 3:15 a.m. that a barn-like structure was in flames on Wellington Road 49, in a rural area north of Rockwood, Ont.

The building is a total loss," Crosbie said. "It's just a bunch of large beams that are burning right now.- Robert Crosbie

"There was a very large, significant glow in the sky that could be seen from quite a distance," said Platoon Chief Robert Crosbie.

"When I arrived on the scene, we had a fully involved, three-storey barn structure, burned right down to the beams."

He said it was a defensive fire from the start, which meant firefighters fought the flames from the outside, rather than attempting to enter the building.

With the help of three neighbouring fire departments, Crosbie and his firefighters were able to get the fire under control in about three hours. At 1:40 p.m. Thursday, fire crews were still on the scene, putting out hot spots.

"The building is a total loss," Crosbie said. "It's just a bunch of large beams that are burning right now."

The Grand River Conservation Authority purchased the building in 1966, along with 14.5 acres of land. (Abandoned But Not Forgotten)

Piece of Ontario history

Before it burned to the ground, the mill had been a three-storey, wooden structure with a stone foundation, that had fallen into disrepair in recent years.

It was purchased, along with 14.5 acres of land, in 1966 by the Grand River Conservation Authority. The land was set aside for recreation, while the vacant mill was fenced off.

"The mill is called the Hortop's Mill," said Lisa Stocco, manager of communications with the GRCA. "It was constructed, as far as we're aware, in 1821, as a saw and a grist mill, and then later on was operated by a man named William Hortop, who then was producing soft flour."

The wooden structure of the mill is shown here, in this photo of the inside of the building. (Abandoned But Not Forgotten)

Although the mill was vacant, she said the GRCA carefully monitored the building by sending staff there once a week, to check for vandalism. 

The conservation authority does own other vacant buildings, but Stocco was not able to say whether the fire at Hortop's Mill would result in changes to the way those properties would be monitored in the future.

Ongoing investigation

The fire at the mill is being investigated by both the Ontario Fire Marshal and Wellington County OPP.

"Over the last few months we have had a number of fires that have been at vacant properties in the south part of the county and we are investigating them," said OPP Const. Bob Bortolato, adding that the investigation of the mill fire is part of that broader investigation.

"This is at the early stages of the investigation, so we're going to look at the scene and the evidence and see what we have and see if there's any link with the other fires that we have."

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