When it comes to the community of Owen Sound, it is one of those places that, unless you live up in that area, you have to make a point actually to go and visit the city. And having to head up there as part of the capture plan for my Railroad Project gave me a perfect chance to revisit the beautiful downtown. Sadly I could not spend as much time as I wanted because the drive up took far longer than I expected, mainly due to traffic, but well worth the trip all the same!
The earliest human settlement of the region was of the Ojibwe people, having migrated north well before the arrival of European colonists. William Fitzwilliam Owen surveyed the area in 1815, giving the name to a small inlet Owen Sound; it wouldn’t be until 1836 when the Saugeen Treaty ceded the area. Two settlements were established in parallel in the 1840s. First, the village of Newash, established by Chief Newash on the western shore of Owen Sound for the Indigenous residents of the area, fourteen log houses, a barn and a school. A Methodist missionary established a Wesleyan Chapel in 1845. On the eastern shore, Charles Rankin would form the settlement of Sydenham, named for Charles Poulett Thomson (1st Baron Sydenham), the then-current Governor-General of the newly established Province of Canada. The settlement was divided into lots and with a river running through, and the natural harbour made the location a popular spot. By 1846 the community was home to 150 and operated a sawmill and grist mill. In 1851 the settlement was incorporated as the village of Owen Sound and named the county seat a year later. The Government annexed the village of Newash in 1857, and the Indigenous population was forced to the Cape Croker Reserve north of the growing community. By the mid-century, the community earned an ill reputation. Being a port for sailors on the upper great lakes, it was filled with taverns and brothels. One such brothel featured a tower with a clear view of the harbour; the madam would wait and let her girls know when ships arrived. Often being nicknamed Chicago of the North, Corkscrew City, and Little Liverpool. The town proved most rowdy. One intersection had four taverns on each corner, one named “Bucket of Blood”, which named the area Damnation Corner; contrasting this, further along, an intersection named Salvation Corner had a church on each corner. By 1857 Owen Sound was incorporated as a town with a population of nearly 2000. The community is also home to many notable Canadian figures, World War 1 Flying Ace Billy Bishop, artist Tom Thomson from the Group of Seven, Thoracic Surgeon Norman Bethune, who advocated for socialized medicine, and NHL Hall Famer Herry Lumley. The reputation of villainy and vice saw a great deal of crime that by the start of the 20th Century, many in the town were no longer pleased, and by the end of the Second World War, all drink was banned. Owen Sound remained dry until 1972.
Having visited Owen Sound previously, I had a general idea of what I had to work with and decided to stick mainly to the downtown to capture the architecture. While I would have liked to include some of the seedier areas in the Mudtown area, my car was on the other side of the inlet, so that wouldn’t have worked too well with a time limit. The featured image is one of a couple of wide streetscapes I captured, but I felt this is far better as it shows off a large collection of 19th Century architecture and one of many ghost signs found throughout downtown. I did make a point to visit Billy Bishop’s boyhood home, only fair as I did originally plan for last week’s entry to include the Warplane Museum, but went in a different direction. Next is one of several amazing houses downtown. There are many Victoria, Italian Villa and Italianate homes in Owen Sound, a happy surprise. The rest of the images are focused on downtown buildings with plenty of Gothic Revival styled buildings.
I was also lugging along my 4×5 Railroad project kit, so I wanted to keep things simple. I stuck with a single lens, initially thinking my trusty 35mm f/2.8 but remembering how narrow and decently tall the buildings in the downtown were, I instead went with the 28mm f/3.5, and I was glad I did. With the narrow streets downtown, I was able to get full captures of the buildings and even got some excellent angles on the residential sections. There were some cases where I would have liked a longer lens, either the 105mm or 135mm, to get some of the stunning details in the architecture and ghost signs, but I can live. I also had a pale yellow filter with me, despite knowing that there was a storm inbound; thankfully, while I was there, I was treated to blue skies and wispy clouds, so that yellow filter helped out. I stuck with shooting the film at ASA-100, or box speed and developed in one of my favourite combinations, Adox Rodinal, at 1+50 to give a nice sharp image and excellent grain rendering.
Next week we’re sticking close to home with the close of a social group and a bit into how I met Heather.