The Machine Shop at St Marys Paper (6 PHOTOS)Friday, March 01, 2013 by: Riversedge
PT 1: The Foundry
PT 2: The Tower
In 1899, the only music emanating from The Machine Shop was a cacophony of whirling lathes and grinding gears with a backbeat percussion supplied by ball peen hammers and wrenched steel.
How many weekend musicians marched to the beat of that drum as they worked towards their Saturday gig?
Did the machinists of 1900 play air fiddle as they whistled and hummed among the thrumming machines?
In April of 2011, St. Marys Paper went quiet. Paper mills ground to a halt and the heavy metal wail of industry was silenced.
On December 30, St. Marys Paper Corp. went into receivership.
The Mill sold in March of 2012 and by May the sad business of decommissioning a Sault icon began.
Inside the Machine Shop, equipment was shuffled into rows awaiting shipments to other mills.
All around the old shop, the walls came tumbling down and the sound reverberated throughout the site.
The Machine Shop and the attached blacksmith shop stood unscathed in the midst of the carnage – a different destiny awaited them.
The 1900 Annual Report of The Consolidated Lake Superior Corporation states that the new machine shop, completed in June, is, “one hundred and fifty feet long (150)and one hundred feet wide(100), two stories, containing a most complete outfit of tools by the best makers of the United States and Canada.”
Like many of the other red sandstone buildings from the Clergue era, The Machine Shop is described as “Richardsonian Romanesque” architecture.
It looks a little like a castle.
The round “rose” windows on the east entrance are common details in Richardsonian architecture.
The corner turrets are Romanesque features.
The Machine Shop and many of the other buildings originally had a parapet along the roof line with regular indentations for firing arrows or rifles.
These “crenels” were purely an architectural detail by 1900, and were removed decades ago.
The stone could stop an arrow but it couldn’t withstand the constant pressure of snow and ice and, as they decayed, they were removed.
My first tour of the former St. Marys Paper site was in late October as crews were cleaning and painting the old shop in preparation for something big.
We entered through a man-door on the east end of the building, under a rose window and to the right of a huge bricked-in arched doorway.
This doorway once accommodated a horse and wagon laden with castings.
A hallway leads into the Engineering Offices where generations of draftsmen sharpened pencils and drew beautiful detailed blueprints of everything from machine mounts to paper mills.
Old wooden cabinets still hold these treasures with dates 1894, 1900, 1928 meticulously printed in the lower right corner. We left the silent offices and walked into the empty machine shop.
I wasn’t quite prepared for the size of the shop when I entered the main hall.
I also wasn’t prepared for the acoustics of this huge empty space.
I started to sing. Everyone left.
On November 2, 2012, the music changed.
Decidedly different sounds were wafting through the wintry air along the shores of the St. Mary’s River.
Evening strollers heading towards the canal heard snippets of “Dusty Old Farmer” and “Painted Ladies” as Lunch at Allen’s took over The Machine Shop stage.
The four member ensemble of Murray McLauchlan, Cindy Church, Marc Jordan, and Ian Thomas thoroughly charmed a crowd of over 500 in a concert hall that resonated with history, ambience, and really good sound.
Clergue would have been proud. Francis liked a good party. On November 23, 1895, he celebrated the completion of the groundwood pulp mill with quite a bash:
“The directors of the Sault Ste. Marie Pulp and Paper Co. gave a reception at the mill last Saturday night to celebrate the completion of Mill #1 at which over half a thousand representative people of both Soo’s were present. The mill and adjoining buildings were brilliantly illuminated with electric lights. The second floor of the mill had been cleared and waxed and the reception was held there. President Clergue and his corp of assistants were on hand early and every attention was shown the guests. At 10:30 o’clock the machinery was started and manufacture of pulp was lucidly explained to all present. Dancing was indulged in to sweet strains of music by Wescott’s orchestra which was stationed at the east end of the building. The Fireman’s Band of the Canadian Soo’s also rendered selections. A delicious luncheon was served by Landlord Husband (really-that was his name), of the Algonquin. The reception was one of the grandest social successes ever given in either Soo.” (Sault Ste. Marie News Nov.30, 1895)
Imagine the beautiful noise that night. Clergue started the machinery!
The rush of water, the shriek of inertia, and the pulping of the logs must have sounded like prosperity to that crowd.
The groundwood pulp mill is long gone, but the echoes of that night reverberated for another century.
I remember the anticipation of the crowd moving towards the refurbished machine shop building back in November.
We were all going to a concert in a 113 year old structure designed for heavy industry and very few people knew what to expect.
I watched faces light up as everyone took in the high ceiling, the stone walls, the overhead crane (yes the overhead crane is still there), and the huge upper balcony which surrounds the main floor.
Then we were all blown away by an acoustically perfect building.
On Friday, The Machine Shop will again spill “sweet strains of music” into the night as Shawn Desman and Anjulie take to the stage.
I’ll be there. Tickets are $29 and are available by visiting www.blusoo.ca
Friday, March 1st, 2013 at The Machine Shop @ Mill Square, 75 Huron Street, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.
Welcome to The Machine Shop.
There are now a total of five videos on YouTube at huronstproperties.
There is some seriously cool stuff here.
Photos courtesy of SSM Museum
* * * *