In Glen Williams Ontario you can visit artists' studios at the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre, housed in a former mill, and shop for antiques in another industrial heritage building.
I usually have an ear to the ground when it comes to great cultural escapes, but somehow this little artists' colony escaped my notice until now.
Glen Williams is a tiny village just north of Georgetown, a 45 minute drive west of Toronto.
If you like art, crafts, antiques, and well-preserved heritage buildings, then you’re going to love this place.
Here are the main attractions of Glen Williams Ontario:
Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre
At the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre you’ll find the studios of more than 30 working artists. On Fridays and Saturdays you can speak directly to the artists, watch them at work and learn about the artistic process first-hand. The on-site art gallery features representative work from all of the artists, so if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind gifts, here’s your chance to find something that is sure to impress.
The artists include jewellers, wood carvers, sculptors, potters, glassblowers, a textile artist, painters, and a print-maker. One professional artist with a sense of humour and delight is Tara Marsh, who creates joyful goblets and window sculptures of exquisite glass. I love her fish creations!
Above: School of Fish by Tara Marsh and David Thai; photo courtesy of Tara Marsh
The Halton Wood Carvers also make their home here. This is a dedicated group of artists at all stages of development. In their bright studio you’ll find cheery figurative art – carved folk figures, lifelike birds, and other completed pieces along with works-in-progress.
The Visual Arts Centre offers classes in painting, drawing, jewellry-making, etc. The courses are taught by professional artists and artisans. Many of them are artist-residents.
The centre is housed in a group of three renovated 19th century buildings. In their past lives, these buildings served as sawmill, woolen mill, hosiery factory, flour mill, power plant and apple-processing factory. It’s been said that nearly every family in Glen Williams Ontario had a member working at one of these mills at some point. Maybe that’s why the buildings have been lasted so long; they’re such an important part of the town’s history. The architecture alone is worth the visit.
For more information see http://www.williamsmill.com/
Around the corner from Williams Mills is Reeve & Clarke Books which sells second-hand books and ephemera such as posters and cards, beautifully arranged as if they were in a museum. A calendar from 1940 in mint-condition caught my eye while I was there; what a great gift that would make for someone born that year! If you’re at all nostalgic, this is the place to indulge that passion.
There are two eateries in the centre of the village worth checking out. One is the popular Glen Oven Bakery Café at 520 Main Street. It was closed for renovations when I visited, but I’ve heard good things about it, so I plan on checking it out the next time I visit.
The other restaurant is the Copper Kettle Pub, just beside Williams Mill. You could spend an hour just looking at all the British antique collectibles in this homey place! The kitchen offers traditional English food like fish and chips, meat pie, and ploughman’s lunch along with some imported beers, among them Guinness and Smithwicks. On one side of the spacious room is a fireplace; on the opposite side is an old piano. You can hear live music here occasionally during the week.
The pub is housed in a building that used to serve as the town’s general store and post office and it dates back to 1856.
Beaumont Mill Antiques and Collectibles market
About a kilometer north of the pub you’ll find an antique market with surprisingly affordable prices. Okay, not everything here is more than a hundred years old (a pewter pin I bought for $8 is only from 1985 according to the studio signature on the back), but there are true antique pieces here as well, including furniture, toys, glassware, cookware, books, decorative items, a horse buggy and even (oddly) fossils. In addition, there’s a man here who repairs old cane-bottomed chairs. My favourite part was the jewelry/accessories section upstairs:
Although not everything on sale is antique, the building that houses it sure is. The Beaumont Mill was built in 1878 to house a knitting mill. As you make your way across the creaking wooden floors, just imagine the men, women and children (yes, child labour was common then) who worked here. Who knows? Maybe they’re still haunting the place…
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