Description of Historic Place
The Groves Mill buildings are located at 140, 160 and 170 St. David Street South, on the east side of St. David Street South, abutting the northern shore of the Grand River, in the former Town of Fergus, Township of Centre Wellington. The three limestone buildings were constructed between 1851 and 1881.
The properties were designated for their historic or architectural value by the former Town of Fergus under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 3038). 140, 160, and 170 St. David Street South are also protected by a municipally-held heritage conservation easement agreement dated November 23, 1990 which covers the façade of each building.
140 St. David Street South is associated with Watson's tannery. The two-storey house was built by Thomas Watson, proprietor of Watson's Steam Tannery, between 1851 and 1881, and it functioned as a workman's residence. After the acquisition of the tannery property by Dr. Abraham Groves in 1882, the building was converted to a stable, and it remained so until the early 1930s when it was reconverted to its original use.
The heritage value of 160 St. David Street South lies in its association with the site's importance to early industrial development. It was also the source of the first electric power in Fergus, and the headquarters of Tweddle Chick Hatcheries, once the largest producer of baby chicks in Canada. It is one of only two surviving examples of the extensive array of river-side industrial buildings that characterized the downtown core of Fergus a century ago.
Though 160 St. David Street South appears to be a unified whole, the large two-storey limestone building was constructed in three stages over a long period of time. The westerly portion was built in 1851 or 1852 by Thomas Watson, and operated as Watson's Steam Tannery until 1882, when it was acquired by Dr. Abraham Groves and converted to a grist and flour mill. A one-storey addition, a present feature of the river-side view, was built by Dr. Groves in the 1890s, concurrently with his installation of a steam-driven generator to supply electricity for street lighting in Fergus and Elora. In the early 1940s the building was almost doubled in size due to an addition built by Mr. J. G. Tweddle to accommodate the Tweddle Chick Hatcheries.
170 St. David Street South is significant due to its use as a residence, business office, sales room and warehouse for Watson's Steam Tannery. The two-storey limestone building was constructed in 1851 or 1852 by Thomas Watson, and its architectural style is highly evocative of Scottish country buildings of the time period. This building is perhaps the best example of that tradition existing in Fergus today. The building's significant architectural features include three cut-limestone chimneys, a combined cornice and rain gutter of cut-limestone, and at the rear, a distinctive wooden veranda. Most of the structure's original exterior features have survived intact.
Source: By-Law 3038, Town of Fergus.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Groves Mill buildings include their:
- location on a site of important early industrial development
- size and massing along the river
- location in the downtown core of Fergus
- stone construction reminiscent of Scottish country buildings
- three cut-limestone chimneys
- combined cornice and rain gutter of cut limestone
- distinctive wooden veranda