The province of Ontario is more than big urban centres. Plenty of small towns retain their rich heritage of the 19th Century. One of my personal favourites is the former village of Elora. Unlike some small towns that are mere shadows of their former selves, Elora has maintained their architectural and industrial heritage with a twist on modern-day tourism. Add to this the natural beauty of the Elora Gorge, a fantastic craft brewery and distillery, and you have the perfect day trip on the Canada Day long weekend.
A deep gorge marks the junction of the Grand and Irvine Rivers, a territory once the traditional lands of the Attiwandaronk, part of the Neutral Nations. Jesuit Missionaries first visited these lands in the 1600s. During the post-American Revolution period and the British Colonial Expansion into Upper Canada, the gorge was gifted to Joseph Brant and the Mohawks for service to the crown, known as the Haldimand Tract. British colonials slowly purchased these lands, and the first British settlers arrived in 1817, with the Matthews family being the first to build a house in 1818 in what is Elora today. The official town plan was laid out by Captain William Gilkison, a former Naval Captain who served on the Great Lakes during the Anglo-American War of 1812. Captain Gilkison is noted to have carried the flag of truce to the defeated American Army after the Battle of Crysler’s Farm. Gilkson was called back to the Canadas by his cousin, John Galt, who had attained the position of superintendent of the Canada Company to help the colonial expansion of Upper Canada. Gilkison purchased a farm on the banks of the Grand River, then half of the Nicol Township from Thomas Clark in September of that year. With the assistance of Lewis Burwell, the Irvine Settlement was laid out, with proposals of mills and bridges centred around the picturesque gorge. By 1833, the name had been changed to Elora after a cave system in Maharashtra, India. Gilkson completed a sawmill and general store on the east side of the river. But he never would see the full realisation of his dreams, dying that same year and turning over the project to his son David. The town expanded more on the west side of the river, with Charles Allan and Andrew Geddes with a grist mill and commercial section growing rapidly. And by 1848, the settlement had three mills, a post office, a tavern, two churches with a population of 100 and more lots going up for sale. Village incorporation took place in 1858, and the boom was on. Mills, stores, and hotels boosted the population, along with distilleries, tanneries, and carpet and furniture factories. And a population of 1,500 by the 1870s. And the gorge provided hydroelectric power, which was increased by 1914 on a larger scale. But as the original industries closed, the town began to turn to other means in the second half of the century, with the 1832 mill becoming an Inn and many historical buildings being preserved and turned into boutique shops. In 1999 the village, along with Fergus and several former townships, was amalgamated into the Township of Centre Wellington.
It’s hard to take a bad photo in Elora, yes there are some difficult compositions within the village, but if you get it right, you’ll get an amazing shot. So it was hard to pick which ones to include in this post. Especially since I scanned a majority of the roll, twenty-three frames of twenty-five exposed. So I ended up having to use the local historical society as a guide to pick locations that I had some historical record for. Of course the featured image is an iconic one, of the buildings located along the Grand River, which could easily have been taken somewhere in Europe. From there, I had to include images of the local brewing and distilling scene, the tooth of time, the mill and other historical buildings through the village. I ended up trusting my gut for most of these, and I wish I could have included more. While I certainly could have, I generally try to be consistent in these sorts of projects.
After being gone for the past two months, my original lens is back after a bit of jiggery pokery and a doner lens it is working and sounding much better. So it gave me that wonderful range back. And the lens is indeed working better than it has been since I picked it up, so that means that there was something wrong with it from the beginning. But no surprise there. I also packed a yellow filter this time around because I loved the results I got when I was shooting the 28mm prime, and I realised that I had a 55mm filter kit so I could use it with the 28-100mm lens. Now, I usually link my FFP roll with the developer that I’ve been working on a review for, and during June and July that is Foma Retro Special. The trouble is that the development times for Retro Special is limited to Foma films only, and I already did a roll of Fomapan 100 in the developer. I wanted to try something different, so having a ‘free space’ for the July roll I went with an old favourite Adox Atomal 49, and running with a 1+1 dilution. I ended up with a lovely low contrast on most of my images, probably helped by the overcast conditions I was shooting in. Which ultimatly was a good thing because the way the sun falls on Elora, you can face some difficult compositions when you’re there early in the day. Personally, I feel these look a lot like one of my favourite films, Kodak Panatomic-X, low contrast, and fine grain.
If you want a taste of Europe without the long flight and the airfare, Elora is certainly a spot to visit. There is plenty to see for landscape and urban photographers. And during peak tourist season, even a street photographer can have some fun. And best of all, there is a tonne of parking, some excellent dining options. And if you’re a fan of the craft brewing and distilling scene, there is the Elora Brewing Company and Elora Distilling Company that are located right in the historic core. It is certainly worth an extra trip outside of the GTA for this beautiful village. With my parental leave now over, I’m back to work, so next month I’ll be talking about the historic Oakville downtown and some of my favourite sights in the old town.