I decided it was time for a second book. From Housewife to Vanlife was published almost two years ago. Wow! Amazing eh! What to write about is probably the most difficult decision. Something I am passionate about is a must for my writing. What excites me the most? Travel! What part about travel gets me up and going in the morning? Finding strange and interesting places along the way. I love those. Those offbeat places that make you go hmmmm…or somewhere that has an interesting story. Old architecture fascinates me, as in how on earth did they build that and make it work 100 or 200 years ago without the equipment we have today.
I have traveled throughout Ontario my whole life. Both for work and play. It is a beautiful vast province that offers a world of diversity. From big cities to vast forests the spectrum of strange and interesting is wide. The beauty comes each step of the way.
For the next month or until I have visited at least every place on my map, I want to bring you all along with me. A sneak peek into my new book you could say. Now some I have been to some in the past and some I have never been to, but let us not forget what I find along the way. Those are like unexpected treasures. Come along on my Stange and Interesting Ontario Tour!
The Big Apple
I started east and of course, my first stop had to be The Big Apple. I have traveled along a lot of highways and the giant apple definitely stands out as strange. I remember going there as a little girl with my parents and getting apples and an apple pie. It is much more now. With a full shopping experience as well as food booths, mini golf, and even a petting zoo, it is no longer just apple pies. It is a travel destination. You can even climb to the top of the apple. I did not do that! Lol! For all the juicy details of how it grew you will have to read my book. 🙂
The Stone Arch Dam
Researching strange and interesting places I found this 200-year-old Stone Arch Dam. Old architecture that still works. Amazing!! Made from sandstone this dam was constructed in 1831 and was the first of its kind in North America, the third largest in the world at its time. At 61 feet tall (18.6 meters) and 350 feet (106.6 meters) wide it is still holding back and diverting the water from the Rideau Canal through a gorge into Whitefish Lake. It is interesting to note that nothing has been done to this structure other than adding sliceways to generate power in 1947. Incredible!
Jones Falls Top Lock
I found this gem on my way to the Stone Arch Dam. As I walked up the hill I could see one of the employees looking like they were turning a large wheel. I realized they were working the lock with a wheel and pulley system. Wow, I needed to get a closer look. These locks at Jones Falls are over 200 years old and work the same way they did back then. A wheel and pulley system opens and closes the lock doors. Filling the lock requires them to open the door just a little. As the boats move in the operator chooses how they are parked inside the lock. When I was there, there was a total of 5 boats in the lock. Three in the front and two in the back. The smaller craft is in the middle. The smaller craft was to stay close to one boat but make sure there were four feet or more between him and the other boat. They would be lowered 15 feet to the turning basin and the next lock (there are a total of four). When that happened they would lose that four feet between them. What an interesting and impressive system built and created so long ago and still working!
Rockwood Insane Asylum
Rockwood Insane Asylum started as a country villa for John Soloman Cartwright. What started as a home away from home became a central part of the psychiatric hospital that is on the grounds today. The villa, built in 1842, was acquired by the government in 1856 to create a “Criminal Lunatic Asylum”. The building above was built in 1859 but not completed until 1870, but inmates started moving in by 1862. It is interesting to note that the Asylum was built by the prisoners of Kingston Penitentiary which is just down the road. Some of the inmates that would eventually arrive here were from the prison. You have to wonder if any of the builders eventually come to reside here. There are a series of buildings as it was in those days, its own little community. The stables that were built for the villa would house the female inmates until 1868 when they were moved inside. It would house up to 300 inmates at a time until it closed in 2000. It is a formative building. As you walk around you can almost feel the coldness of the stone and the spirits of those that walked the halls of this impressive 19th-century building.
As I walked around the back of the building towards the water I noticed a boat tied to the dock that looked as abandoned as the buildings. The dock was large and looked like a type of reception area with Kingston in large white letters. I am not sure what this is but it was kind of eerie. Lol!
The Vic Cafe
On my way to my next destination in Picton I came across this cute little restaurant on the main street. The colourful exterior made my van turn in. I had to go in. It was time for lunch anyway. The colour and fun travelled all the way into the inside. I almost felt I was in a psychedelic 60’s diner. The Vic Cafe was the name of the restaurant and the service and the food was something I will definitely be stopping by again for.
Graveyards and Gallows
Now you know my love of graveyards, when you mix murder and mystery into the puzzle I am all in! The tour Graveyard and Gallows starts at the Macauley Heritage Park in Picton at the old St. Mary of Magdalene Church. Our tour guide Jess lead us on a most excellent tour of historical gravestones such as the one pictured above of a family that while canoeing was tragically drowned after a young child went after his hat and tipped the canoe. Another of the headstones that was in Ripley’s Believe It or Not for a mistake that was made on the headstone back in 1860. Did someone not notice it or was it so expensive to fix that it was just not done? No one knows but the error is still there today.
If you do let me know in the comment area of my blog or on my Facebook page. It took me a few minutes to figure it out.
As we finished our tour of the graveyard we moved to the courthouse where Jess would tell the story of the murder of Peter Lazier who was shot in the chest in a bungled robbery attempt in 1883, the capture and subsequent hanging of those accused of his murder and the circumstantial evidence they were convicted on. At the courthouse we were shown the exercise yard, the jail cells and the gallows where the men were hung.
As the story goes there was something not right about how the killers were tracked. Following the tracks, the men often lost the trail in the snow and proceeded until they found more tracks in the snow, but were they the same tracks? The conviction came on the evidence of a boot impression in the snow. It looked to be the same size when put beside it and made the same imprint when put INSIDE the footprint in the snow. Although police searched for a weapon none was ever found. Joseph Thomset and George Lowder both protested their innocence until the day they were hanged on June 10, 1884. It is said that it was not a quick death for either man as the noose was not set properly and for one of them it took 14 minutes to die. There have been rumors that they still haunt the courthouse where according to some, a grave miscarriage of justice occurred.
An over all excellent tour and highly recommended. I would like to thank Jess for the wonderful story telling of murder, mayhem and mystery!
This is where the blog ends but not the adventure. Find out next week what I have found on my search for strange and interesting places in Ontario.
See you next week