Built by Allan Bowman in 1876, the Sheave Tower, 31 feet tall, was considered to be the oldest hydro-generating system in Ontario. The board-and-batten structure with pointed gothic windows is located in a stand of cedar, bass and maple trees on Old Mill Road outside the Village of Blair, Ontario. The late Nick Hill, an heritage architect, described the Sheave Tower as “absolutely magical . . . a jewel in the midst of a beautiful wetland.”
Water from Blair Creek ran through the sluice and turned a vertical turbine shaped like a corkscrew. A series of shafts and gears spun a giant pulley mounted high outside the tower by the steep-pitched roof. A long cable was looped from the tower’s pulley to another pulley 70 metres away at the Blair Mill. The Sheave Tower produced an additional 15 horsepower for the Blair Mill, which once ground corn for Schneider’s peameal bacon.
Heritage Cambridge restored the Sheave Tower in 1999 as a passive display without moving mechanical parts, and returned the medieval-looking tower to its original oxblood colour. Marriage proposals have been made within its walls! Fishermen, artists and photographers continue to be drawn to it.
Riverworks Mall in St. Jacobs, Ontario, designed its main entrance to reflect the structure of Blair’s beloved Old Sheave Tower.