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Monday, February 3, 2014

Exploring the History of Queenston Quarry and Cement Works

Last month I chronicled my adventures hiking along the lower branch of the Bruce Trail, running along the current Queenston Quarry, and touched on some of its more recent, Cold War era history (check it out here). This weekend I returned to the area, following the top branch (until I plowed through the brush and forgot about trails altogether), and explored some of its older, 19th century history.

While I've always known that there were ruins from the late 1800s of the old settlement houses, general store, and equipment sheds somewhere in the area, I've never before had the chance to come across anything more than the foundations below. They're interesting, and no doubt historically significant, but square holes in the ground are a far cry from what I've been looking for.

 

Fortunately, armed with some GPS coordinates (courtesy of Ontario Abandoned Places), I was able to better target my search. That's not to say navigating the terrain was any easier, although I do understand now why I've never found the more significant ruins before. As it turns out, they're deep in the bush, far from the Bruce Trail, and almost completely obscured by thick trees and heavy brush. Even now, in the dead of winter, I had to be almost on top of them to find them.



With things in full bloom, and no tracks to follow in the snow, I don't see how anyone could hope to just stumble upon the in the Spring or Summer. I did find one trail leading up the escarpment that would bring a hiker at least into the immediate vicinity, but it would be suicide on anything but a hot, dry day. The photo below doesn't begin to do it justice. That spot where it looks as if the trail simply dips under the log? Yeah, that's where the trail drops almost completely straight down, for a good hundred feet or so, before continuing on in a sort of insane bobsled run.


As for the ruins themselves, seen up close, they're quite impressive - exactly what I'd been hoping for. Maybe it's way they were constructed, or maybe it's the hidden/inaccessible nature of the location, but they are in remarkably good condition, despite 120 or so years of weathering the elements.

Here's building #1, a large, open structure with a large doorway and several square windows.


 


And here's building #2, a larger structure, divided into what seems 4 equal rooms, with square windows in a line, and even some evidence of basement foundations.





There's not much remaining of building #2, but the layout of the foundation does give a sense of scale.


Having found the ruins of the old settlement houses, I followed the trail a bit further looking for a loop back to the lower branch of the Bruce Trail . . . and then blazed my own. It was a soggy day for hiking with the ground a slushy mess, and I wanted to hit the old limestone cement kilns before heading back to the car. If you find it hard to judge scale from the photos, know that each kiln is about 40 feet deep, and approximately 6 feet in diameter.



 



It's one of the few areas fenced off along the whole Bruce Trail, and for good reason. Only the one kiln remains completely open to the elements, allowing a fascinating look inside, but it's definitely deteriorating. Given how much of the brickwork has collapsed, it's not a place you'd want to be when the rest comes tumbling down.



4 comments:

  1. Beautiful images. The kiln is especially fascinating and intimidating. It tempts my inner Alice.

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    1. They do have a very "down the rabbit hole" look to them, don't they?

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  2. looks very dangerous! Did you wear your Indiana Jones outfit? :)

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    1. Sadly, no. The Indiana Jones outfit was long ago adopted by my two-year-old. He styles himself Mr Jones . . . and he cracks a mean whip. :)

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