Woolen Mill Renaissance

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by Trish Dyer 

 McArthur Woolen Mill is a century old stone building, in exquisite condition, on an island in the Mississippi River two blocks from downtown Carleton Place.

In June 2011, Ashton resident James Mikulasik who owns the Mill- and the Island – unveiled plans to construct a high end condo with spectacular, four sided views of the Mississippi River to the north of the Woolen Mill on what is now brush. The building, designed by Ottawa architect Richard Chmiel, includes fifty eight units ranging from 700-1800 square feet. Pre-sales are to be conducted through an office on the ground floor of the Woolen Mill.

In the meantime, however, there is the matter of the Mill itself.IMG-20120212-00086Zoned for light industrial- commercial use the building’s second floor became home to the reconstituted Mississippi School for the Arts, a private school for students ranging from Grades 7 to 12, in September. And the school, led by Sharon Holzscherer, has, in turn, proven to be a magnet for artists, photographers, entrepreneurs and other members of the creative arts community.

“It’s a building in flux,” James Mikulasik said Saturday as he steered an impressive stream of visitors to an open house on the Mill’s ground floor hosted by a holistic cooking school, well known local organic farmers/producers Arlee and Diane Sheets (Rae Road),Alpenblick Farm (Ashton) and ‘The Worm Factory’ Foley Mountain, Westport, private nutrition, health care and health care education consultants, the Carleton Place Historical Society, SCRAPtease, the mobile scrapbook supply/instruction owned and operated in Carleton Place and Lanark drummers.

Students from the Mississippi School for the Arts, garbed in 19thcentury costume, took over from there, directing visitors up on floor to the school’s expansive open concept floor classroom, a vernissage or exhibit of paintings by Almonte artists and mock-wedding and reception table arrangements and a decorated wedding arch display set up by by ‘Who’s Your Planner’ of Carleton Place.  

Themes, Mikulasik said, are beginning to emerge.

“We’ve had photographers in here, with models. They’re look for unique buildings with good light. (McArthur Mill) is industrial, the building is bright, we’ve got huge windows, crazy angles, great views through the windows. And wedding photographers….”  

Mississippi School head Sharon Holzscherer spent a lot of time with photographers, taking business cards; giving directions to unique stairwells and nooks and crannies on the upper floors.

Gesturing toward a display of pristine white covered chairs facing a mock wedding set up, under a gleaming industrial hood vent draped to create a ‘stage’ for a civil ceremony, she laughed. .

“That’s our science lab” she laughed, “above that ‘stage.’

“Photographers are crazy about stuff like that. We’re meeting people who want to get married here; planners who’d like to use the building to stage weddings, do all their photography in and around the building- especially the industrial setting stuff and the stairwells. The interior walls are clean, white brick, they love that.”

Lori Nichols Davies, head of the Holistic Cooking Academy of Canada has been travelling to Richmond Hill from Carleton Place since 1999 to teach home chefs, caterers and culinary instructors how to cook with organic ingredients. She says she has taught 2000 home chefs and has been licensed to teach culinary instructors from as far away as San Francisco since 2007.

Nichols Davies, who made presentations at the open house to an enthusiastic audience of several dozen, plans to open a holistic restaurant and cooking school in McArthur Mill this spring. She promises the restaurant will be unique ‘the first of its kind in Canada.

Artist Brenda Milne of the Mississippi School for the Arts will offer a Fantasy Arts day camp for students aged 7-12 at McArthur Mill during school break March 12-16th. The camp will run from 9-5 and registration is on a first-come, first served basis. (613-283-0955)

To learn more about the cooking school visit: www.holistic-cooking.com  

 Alpenblick Farm can be reached at: alpenblickfarm@sympatico.ca

Rock-N-Horse Farm runs an organic produce share- the- harvest co-operative. E-mail: am.sheets@hotmail.com

Other contacts: www.whosyourplanner.com, www.mississippischool.ca

Photo: © Jamie Dyer 2012