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Visiting Elora, Ontario and its Mill: a heritage building by the scenic Tooth of Time waterfall on the Grand River

Updated on September 29, 2015
Flag of Ontario
Flag of Ontario | Source
Elora Mill, Ontario
Elora Mill, Ontario | Source
Parts of a former bridge over the Grand River in Elora, Ontario
Parts of a former bridge over the Grand River in Elora, Ontario | Source
Map location of Wellington, Ontario
Map location of Wellington, Ontario | Source

Distant, anticipatory echoes from a 19th century version of Fallingwater?

Elora, now over 175 years old, was incorporated in 1999 into the Township of Centre Wellington, in Ontario's Wellington County, having previously part of Fergus.

Some history and features

The village was founded as Irvine Settlement in 1832, and took on the name of Elora when a post office was opened there in 1839. The name 'Elora' refers to caves in India (spelt 'Ellora').

The limestone-built Elora Mill, sometimes referred to as the Old Mill, has become one of Ontario's major visitor attractions. A combination of factors has undoubtedly combined to make this so.

One of these factors is the monumentality of the stone structure of the mill, and its aesthetically pleasing, smooth lines. Another reason is that it lies adjacent to a geologically noteworthy and scenically attractive waterfall on the Grand River, featuring an islet known as the Tooth of Time. Furthermore, its presence in the photogenic, quaint village of Elora, with its riverside craft store features, and the lantern-lit limestone Elora Mews courtyard, only adds to the attraction of its locale. Then there is the fact that Elora brings many artists to the district; a vibrant Centre for the Arts exists in the village; the Elora Festival brings together a rich variety of musical talent. Regular historical walking tours are arranged via the Elora Welcome Centre. Last but not least, the Elora Gorge, with its recreational walking possibilities, lies nearby.

This 19th century former grist mill at Elora, described as the Province's only remaining 5 storey mill, has been turned into an Inn, offering well sought out restaurant and accommodations. Among the notable features of the Inn are views of the remarkable stone islet known as the Tooth of Time, with its lush vegetation overhanging the rushing, surrounding Grand River waters at the waterfall, level with the Mill. The fact that the vegetation on the Tooth of Time once included a cedar adds the dimension of an almost Biblical resonance (1). The Tooth of Time name is thought to be derived from First Nations inhabitants dating from prior to 1651.

The deeper meaning of Elora?

The elemental juxtaposition of monumental stone and falling waters which Elora Mill and the Tooth of Time have combined since the 19th century do bring me to recall similar elements which Frank Lloyd Wright later so brilliantly brought together at Fallingwater, Pennsylvania. It does draw me to pause and ponder what these natural elements, thus crafted together, can teach us?


(1) The Tooth of Time's cedar gave rise to an evocative incident in the 19th century. A local man, Anson Matthews, who lived near the falls, decided to attempt to chop down the cedar, to more reflective minds a symbol of both permanence and arboricultural treasure. This Eloran resident was successful in his — sacriligious? — act.

An unmitigated tragedy, then? Well, actually, possibly unknown to this resident with a dubious sense of daring, it is claimed that the mounting pressure from the roots of the cedar in question were threatening to split in half the islet's rock. The act of questionable daring and sacrilege may in the event have saved the day and — it is said — ensured the survival of the islet.

In any case, in a manner maybe reminiscent of the cedar depicted on the Lebanese flag, and the Norfolk pine on the flag sponsored by the Norfolk Island government, the still herbaceous Tooth of Time, its fortunes bound up with the cedar which formerly lodged on the islet, was adopted as the emblem of Elora.

Also worth seeing

St Jacobs (distance: 25.7 kilometres), a picturesque village, with Mennonite heritage, which attracts many visitors, situated in the Township of Woolwich, and with a popular, nearby Farmer's Market, .

West Montrose (distance: 13.7 kilometres), a quaint village in the Township of Woolwich, with a remarkable, covered bridge dating from 1881; the village has long been noted for the presence of Old Order Mennonites.

Woodside , Kitchener (distance: 28.6 kilometres), the boyhood home of long-serving Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950), now a National Historic Site of Canada and museum.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson to Elora: approx. 97 kilometres.) WestJet and Bearskin Airlines fly to Waterloo Regional Airport, from where car rental is available, from Calgary and Ottawa respectively. (Distance from Waterloo Regional Airport to Elora: 31.4 kilometres.) Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. It is advisable to check for up to date information with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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