E.D. Tillson, the first mayor of Tillsonburg, built
6 mills during the 1870’s and this is the only one
left standing. Built in 1878, it was the smallest of
all 6 and once shared the surrounding valley with
2 of the other mills (flour & corn), stretching from the present Simcoe Street bridge to Coronation Park.
It originally functioned as a pea & barley mill and did so until the 1920’s when it was purchased by R. Moulton of the Canadian Cereal Company. It was operated under their ownership for almost 3 decades until changing hands again in the 1950’s. Frank George was the last person to utilize the mill’s functions, operating it as a custom grist mill from 1955 to 1972. During his ownership he rented out the miller's quarters as an apartment and brought a little bit of notoriety to the building as a bootlegger was once said to have lived there.
The property and the 3 mills within it were purchased next by Charlie Laister, who procured sold and junked materials, using the land largely for storage. Laister demolished the other 2 flour and corn mills in the surrounding valley to free up the space they occupied. During his ownership and until he passed away, he lived in the mill office
where it was previously located across the street.
In 2000 Gordon & Lauralee Craig purchased the mill
from the Laister estate and began steady renovations
that would span over the next 9 years.
Gordon Craig & family standing before the Mill structure in 2000.
Lauralee Craig sitting by the mill structure as it was in 2000.
They took ownership not a moment too soon, as it turns out
a buyer from New York was intending to purchase and move
it to the U.S. where it would be rebuilt there. Instead the town
is able to retain the last of the 6 mills that helped forged the industry of Tillsonburg and another of the historical
landmarks left by E.D Tillson.
Gordon had many ideas for the revival of this mill, mainly a vision for the property that featured a restaurant with a glassed in patio overlooking the Big Otter Creek and the Coronation Park. His ambition was to create a building with some character, something different, while also preserving the historical qualities of the mill’s structure. Gordon was eager to revive this piece of Tillsonburg’s past in the form of a new, functioning business that the town residents and tourists from all over could appreciate.
He wanted to provide an experience for customers, more than
the traditional in-and-out restaurant/hotel routine.
Features like glassed-in patio encourage visitors to take
their time and absorb the surroundings at their own pace.
Still the highest appeal would be showcasing the robust, antique beauty of the mill’s structure and bringing to life the history
it represents for new & old generations alike.
This meant some thorough renovating was
needed before anything more could be conceived.
Gordon Craig & Bob Foutre alone were responsible for the entire re-construction of the mill, except for the electrical and plumbing work.
When the building process began in October, the re-construction started from the bottom up. The entire brick foundation was replaced with poured cement. The 12x12” wooden, vertical support beams were replaced with unique, custom cut elm posts provided by a local saw mill. An elevator was also installed for lodging services.
The main dining room during re-construction & after re-construction
The Mill Tales winery during re-construction & after re-construction
The inner workings left in the basement were gradually removed
and the antique mill stones are now proudly displayed outside as commemorative monuments paying homage to the mill’s past.
Gears left inside the mill structure before they were removed.
Naturally finished wood is the main theme, covering
all 5 stories of the exterior and the interior as well.
Each of the 10 lodging rooms feature
a different kind of wood finish, from walnut to oak.
Some of the furniture pieces are genuine, hand-crafted carpentry
and the drapes for rooms are also made by a local seamstress.
These organic touches help maintain the
wholesome, old-fashioned appeal of the mill.
And though it is already over 130 years old,
it is now embarking on a fresh new start and it's new owners,
Gordon & Laura-Lee Craig, hope it will continue to contribute Tillsonburg's history for many more years into the future.
Please visit our gallery
to see more images
captured during the
years of renovations.
about the Mill
by our local
Gordon Craig & family standing in front of the Mill in 2000
The Mill Tales Inn today after 9 years of re-construction.
The town of Tillsonburg itself is rich with history and nostalgic tidbits hiding around every corner. Settled around the town you'll find original building structures still standing dating back to the 1800's. Most of the historical buildings go unnoticed as they are nestled and integrated into the modern developments of the town. Many have been renovated to operate businesses or house residents. A few special locations, such as those built buy the town's founder E.D. Tilson, that have been preserved in their prime and are converted into museums or at the least, still maintain the majority of their original, antique elements.
All nature is historic in it's longevity, but Tillsonburg is proud to share their town with the wildlife and the trees that made this land home before we did. Some trees in town are aged over 100 years old and still stand.
"I've heard [an age] range," said Rick Cox, Director of Recreation, Culture and Parks in Tillsonburg. "We don't know for sure but we're guessing closer to 200 than 150, and maybe even greater than 200. So definitely older than Canada and older than the town, but we're not sure exactly. Certainly one of the oldest on our public lands... and they are both similar age."
Historic photographs from local photographers prove the lengthy presence of some trees in town. Many are located by Tillsonburg's man-made lake, created in 1852, previously known as Hardy's Mill Pond, before being renamed in the 1870's.
For those who seek the quiet origins of a town humming with historical echoes, this is an interesting and humble place to take a tour.
Tillsonburg hides it's age well, but if you're looking for it you'll spot the signs of age around this small town. Much like the crow's feet and laugh lines on aged skin, you will see the signs of a life lived well.
Information sourced from Tillsonburg News Article