Part 4 – Many Heritage Values At Risk

Eileen Pile poses in front of the fireplace in her heritage home at MacLeod Townsite, surrounded by pictures of family.

Eileen Pile poses in front of the fireplace in her heritage home at MacLeod Townsite, surrounded by pictures of family.  Photo E.J. Lavoie.

Stantec Consulting Ltd., on behalf of the company, has examined the local study area for heritage values in archaeology, buildings, and landscapes.

Archaeological Values

The archaeological study searched for post-contact Aboriginal occupation as well as historic Euro-Canadian occupation.   The Stage 1 field method required random spot-checking some 6,300 hectares of wilderness and developed areas. Archaeologists, following established practice, concentrated efforts near lakes, creeks, and wetlands. The study moved to a Stage 2 Assessment, with field work involving test pits at 5-metre intervals. Locales included undisturbed areas of MacLeod Townsite and Hardrock Townsite as well as the mining plant zone of the former MacLeod-Cockshutt mine and a few other spots.

The west end of Barton Bay, excluding the south shore, did not fall within the local study area, so sites of historical mining were not examined there (for example, the old Elmos mine site).

The study produced 187 pages of field notes, 46 field maps, and 1,195 digital photographs. Conclusion: “No archaeological resources were identified . . . and so no material culture was collected.”

Built Heritage Values

A three-person team inspected properties which might be affected be the Project. The team used “pedestrian and vehicular windshield surveys”. It appears the team made no effort to interview tenants/owners nor to inspect interiors. The 102-page report, titled “Cultural Heritage Evaluation”, identified 47 properties with built structures.

The team eventually identified 27 built properties likely to be affected by the Project, almost all structures being residences (one notable exception: the mining headframe). All properties had to be more than forty years old. Each of the 27 properties received a page in the report with data such as current address, type of building, a very short description of the exterior, a very short history (if known), its identified heritage attributes, and a one-word designation (a yes or a no) of its cultural heritage value.

Their analysis then exempted Little Longlac Townsite (including the former Errington Arena), Rosedale Point, and the two Cyr properties on Barton Bay (formerly part of the old Little Longlac mine). That left 17 properties in MacLeod Townsite and Hardrock Townsite.

The applied mitigation measure (in heritage-assessment jargon) for 16 of the 17 properties was “loss of heritage resource including all associated heritage attributes”.   Loosely translated, that means destruction of the property.

The single “built heritage resource” to be preserved was 495 Hardrock Road, known locally as the McNabb residence in Hardrock Townsite. A former residence of the manager of the old Hardrock mine, it would be isolated in an industrial zone behind a 60-metre buffer.

Speaking to the writer, Don McNabb described the unique heritage values of his residence. He said the place was built in 1936, and was heated by steam piped in from the mine. Referring to the three fireplaces, he said, “There’still gold in those rocks.”

Premier Gold Mines has made purchase offers to all owners in the MacLeod and Hardrock Townsites. The transactions are not public knowledge, but residents believe that there are only a few hold-outs. Eileen Pile is one of them.

The Pile residence at MacLeod Townsite. Photo E.J. Lavoie

The Pile residence at MacLeod Townsite. Photo E.J. Lavoie.

Eileen Pile, with her late husband, Herb, moved into 1 Tuxedo Lane in MacLeod Townsite on November 1, 1970. It was, and still is, a magnificent piece of architecture assigned to early managers of the old MacLeod Mine. The Piles raised four boys there. Eileen told the writer, “We turned down their [Premier Gold’s] first offer.” With the help of her sons, she will be preparing a counteroffer.

Walking into the residence, one is impressed by the solid workmanship, the hardwood floors, the B.C. fir tongue-and-groove wall boards, the high wooden ceilings, and a magnificent brick fireplace. Evidence of gracious living carried over from former times is a large sunroom, a pantry, a maid’s ensuite chamber, and numerous rooms. The house is situated in an enormous yard of grass and trees. “We’ll miss our butternut trees,” said Eileen, referring to foliage transplanted from Southern Ontario.

One son, Tim Pile, commented on the value of the land itself, next door to the golf course. “If I were landscaping such a property in Thunder Bay, I would expect to pay at least $100,000.” He said that scientists from Lakehead University were curious enough to come examine the butternut trees. Tim acknowledged that property values were lower in Greenstone.

The team’s report on 1 Tuxedo Lane states its identified cultural attributes as: “Single storey, low pitched hipped roof. Position of prominence above much of the MacLeod Townsite”.

The team, in making its assessments, had no interest in the interiors of built structures.   Some structures, examined from the exterior, actually baffled the team. At 4 Tuxedo Lane, and part of the Pile property, is a windowless concrete cube sitting in an empty lot. The Piles identify it as the superstructure of an underground reservoir.

Another son, Ted Pile, recalled taking a peek in recent years at the underground reservoir. “I didn’t climb down the ladder because it was unsafe,” he said. He estimated its dimensions as 24 by 48 feet and 10 feet deep. In the early days, the mine supplied Townsite households with water from its lakeside pumphouse, and the reservoir served as a back-up supply if there were an issue with the main water line. Tim Pile said the reservoir was probably used in emergencies such as house fires.

The entrance to the underground reservoir at MacLeod Townsite, next to the Pile residence. Photo E.J. Lavoie.

The entrance to the underground reservoir at MacLeod Townsite, next to the Pile residence. Photo E.J. Lavoie.

On the Cyr properties, mentioned above, is a similar but smaller concrete building next to 3 Cyr Way. The team could not find it. In its description of 3 Cyr Way, the team records that nearby there used to be “the original vault were gold bricks were stored”. That vault still stands, along with a prominent plaque erected by Ontario Heritage Foundation.

Landscape Heritage Values

The team identified only one property to assess for its cultural landscape values, and that is the course managed by Kenogamisis Golf Club. Their report states “the front nine were designed in 1938 by renowned designer Stanley Thompson”. The back nine were of more recent design.

Greenstone Gold Mines owns the land, which is leased to the Municipality. At the November 18 open houses, the public learned that the back nine will disappear under waste rock, and that the front nine is designated a contingency area for waste rock, so that it may also disappear. Golfers may look forward to several more years of sport as waste rock piles loom around them, and an open pit encroaches on another side.

The report makes no mention of the large clubhouse, which is contemporaneous with the course construction. For this cultural landscape, the report recommends “restitution in the form of historical documentation/salvage and commemoration strategy”. The report does not recommend any financial restitution for improvements made by Kenogamisis Golf Club.

The average person may wonder why there is no cultural landscape designation for the two old mine sites (overlooked by the Discover Geraldton Interpretive Centre) and the old Consolidated Mosher mine site.

Mining Headframe

The one built structure which is of concern to a large segment of the public is the headframe of the old MacLeod-Cockshutt mine. Owned by the Municipality of Greenstone, it received an expensive facelift a few years ago.   It is the only prominent mining relic from the 1930s era in all of Northwestern and North Central Ontario which has been preserved and maintained. The iconic structure has shared its image in many a publication, including the text logo for Greenstone Gold Mines.

The Municipality has not publicly disclosed any plans for the preservation and relocation of the headframe. As for the report, it makes the same recommendation as for the golf course: “historical documentation/salvage and commemoration strategy”. Salvage, by definition, occurs during destruction or disposal of a structure.

The next time the public has an opportunity to see updated plans for the Project will be during the review of the draft Environmental Assessment in the new year.

The iconic headframe of the old MacLeod-Cockshutt gold mine in 2004. Photo Michel Lafrance.

The iconic headframe of the old MacLeod-Cockshutt gold mine in 2004. Photo Michel Lafrance.


About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website
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  1. Julia says:

    It really is too bad that all of this will be lost for a mine that will only be in operation for a time. Then what will be left? A scar on the landscape.

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