Wellington North council accepts gift of Lynes Blacksmith Shop in Kenilworth

The crowd in the packed municipal chamber here erupted into applause when Wellington North council voted unanimously to accept the donation of a Kenilworth blacksmith shop.

On March 27 Kate Rowley, chair of the Lynes Blacksmith Shop Committee, requested that council accept the gift and assume ownership of the shop.

“The purpose of our committee was to make a plan as to how to restore and reinvigorate the Lynes Blacksmith Shop right here in Kenilworth,” Rowley said.

“We have that privilege because the Lynes family wishes to donate that property and building back to the community where the shop is located.”

The blacksmith shop opened in 1885 in a thriving village along the Garafraxa Road, now Highway 6. Today it sits much as it did when it was closed in 1955.

Owner Frank Lynes, whose father and grandfather worked in the shop, died in March 2015. His vision was for the building to be donated to a historical society and now his daughter Krysia is trying to make that happen.

Krysia, Rowley, and the committee are hoping that, under township ownership, they will be able to make the blacksmith shop into an educational and historical destination.

“This is a golden opportunity to revitalize a heritage treasure that has simply been entrusted to us,” said Rowley.

Krysia, who lives in Texas, also attended the council meeting.

“Dad was a product of Kenilworth and its good people,” she said.

Krysia explained turning the property into a historical educational centre was her father’s wish.

“The experience of putting your feet on the ground just makes history so much more real, so much more meaningful and certainly much more memorable,” she said.

Though the shop closed for good in 1955, a sign still hangs inside reading “be back in 5 minutes” and a note clipped to a beam reads, “Call at the house, James Lynes.”

Over the years, items foreign to a blacksmith shop have piled up in the building, including a 1960s car and tools and ladders.

But for the most part, inside the shop looks as if time has stood still. The building remains a relic from a bygone era, when blacksmith shops were common on Garafraxa Road.

The committee has been working with the Wellington County Museum and Archives to catalogue the artifacts within the shop.

In the business plan presented to council, the committee is planning to:

– conduct educational programs linking the shop with curriculum themes of transportation, industry, rural lives and local heritage;

– create programs that engage children and allow adults to indulge their interests through classes, events, speakers, workshops or concerts;

– share the restored site and grounds with other cultural groups;

– create exhibits showcasing the history of the shop, the Lynes family, Kenilworth and Wellington County; and

– stimulate interest in local heritage, community projects and volunteerism.

Rowley said the group is hoping to revive the shop into a working forge in order to draw interest from area blacksmiths.

In the report, she outlined several ideas to generate income for the property, including admission fees, blacksmith classes, an on-site shop, programming income from school visits, speaker series, rental of the grounds, and donations.

The committee expects the shop will operate from mid-May to the end of October, mostly on weekends.

Rowley said while there is work to be done in terms of restoration, accessibility, water, wastewater and parking, the structure itself is in good shape.

“The edges may look a little rough but the bones and the structure are strong,” she said adding municipal ownership will “immediately (give) the project legitimacy, stability and your visible support.”

She added the ongoing fixed costs for the property would be approximately $2,000 a year for heat and hydro, but Rowley said this may only be for the first couple of years until programming is underway.

The capital repair costs are unknown, but Rowley said grants will be sought by the committee.

Each councillor expressed excitement about the project.

“I think this is a very unique opportunity; it’s a very unique gift,” said councillor Sherry Burke.

CAO Mike Givens suggested council pass a resolution to accept the gift from Krysia, who said she expected to cover any seller’s costs for the transfer.  

Council unanimously approved the resolution.

Rowley said she expected public viewings of the property to begin this summer for Mount Forest Homecoming, the fireworks festival, Sacred Heart annual garden party and Doors Open.