Old Stone Gallery gets a face-lift
By Catherine O’Hara, Flamborough Review Staff / Nov 07, 2008
The Old Stone Gallery, believed to have been built in the 1850s, sits across from Spencer Creek. Located on the escarpment above Dundas in Greensville, it was a place of inspiration for many local artists who occupied the edifice, until flames erupted on January 11, 2006.
Extensive damage from the accidental blaze has left The Old Stone Gallery vacant for nearly three years. However, appreciation for the structure compelled its owner, John Henley, to undertake extensive work to restore the building to its former glory.
In the mid 1800s, the Short Road structure served as the dye house for the Clark’s Woollen Mills and as the main building for the operation. According to Henley, it was erected across Spencer Creek. Bullock, who lived at the corner of Highway 8 and Brock Road (Bullock’s Corner), originally built the gallery, which is the only standing mill building in the Crooks Hollow Industrial area today.
When Henley purchased the property in 1986, he operated his business there. The gallery used to be a large open space until the late 80s, when Henley divided it into distinct rooms.
Commercially zoned for arts and crafts and associated business, The Old Stone Gallery’s location was well suited for local artists to set up shop. Painters, sculptors and other artisans occupied various areas throughout the three-storey shop, creating and selling art. Some, explained Henley, also held private exhibitions in their respective locales.
“It’s really a pleasant area. It’s quiet and it’s great for creative peo- ple. You don’t stay 15 years at one place unless you like it,” he said of one of his previous tenants.
When flames broke out on a January evening, Henley was devastated. The fire, which was caused by improperly stored linseed oil-soaked rags, tore through the building’s entrance and staircase. The smoke traveled through the vents and electrical outlets, causing damage to many of the rooms within the gallery.
The estimated damage, according to Henley’s insurance company, was valued at $135,000, but the owner believes it was much more than that, within the $200,000 range.
Originally, the gallery’s ceilings were adorned with honeycoloured beams and the floors used to be wide-pine planks with a honey patina. The integrity of the floors and wooden components of the gallery was compromised by the fire.
Once renovations were underway, Henley was committed to keeping as much of The Old Stone Gallery’s character as possible. Rich hardwood floors were installed throughout the building, the staircases were built from scratch and the baseboards, window and doorframes were all replaced. And because of a spray used to encase smoky wood, the ceiling’s beams lost their honeycolour.
But The Old Stone Gallery is a survivor, said Henley, who has taken great pride in restoring the historic building on Short Road.
Taking into account technological advancements, the renovations also served as a means for Henley to update the facility’s cable, phone and Internet connections. Each room is outfitted with outlets, which can be networked together.
“The Internet, being so important these days, businesses need it. It seemed illogical not to improve that,” he said.
Adjacent to the gallery sits a block building, which was built in the 1950s. This, explained Henley, wasn’t damaged by the fire, but needed some work.
While construction crews were repairing, restoring and rebuilding the gallery, Henley took the opportunity to revamp the block building’s top floor. It has since been converted into a spacious loft-style commercial space, beautifully illuminated by natural light following the installation of multiple skylights. A full kitchen, bathroom, and utilities room was fashioned for prospective tenants.
Although it has been three years in the making, Henley is proud to see the rebirth of the building full of character with a few modern touches. The Dundas resident is currently looking for tenants to occupy the Greensville space and encourages artists, including graphic designers, to visit his website for a detailed list of the room dimensions and specifications.
Over the years, Henley has spent a lot of time at the Flamborough Archives, researching the history of the Crooks Hollow industrial mill buildings, most of which has been posted on the gallery’s web site, at www.oldstonegallery.ca