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Say goodbye to the cement silos

by Anita Locke

They’ve stood as way-finders to the village of Lakefield for more than 100 years, but soon they will be no more.

The storage silos of the Lakefield Cement Works are being demolished, a process expected to take about 12 weeks.

A huge wrecking ball, hired by SGS Lakefield Research, has been working slowly but steadily breaking away a significant part of the history of the village.

The Lakefield Portland Cement Plant, and later the Canada Cement Company, employed upwards of 200 people and left a legacy of landmarks that, up until earlier this week, were beacons to the village which could be seen for miles around.

In 1900, the Portland Cement Co., from the Owen Sound area, came to Lakefield to determine its suitability as a site for manufacturing cement by the ‘wet process’.

The village was an ideal location. It had abundant supplies of necessary material – limestone, marl and blue clay.

These materials could be found at a local pit, Buckley’s Lake (located just east of the village) and Lily Lake (northwest of Peterborough). Electrical energy could be generated from the nearby river.

Council of the day was fully supportive of the idea of having Portland Cement locate in the village, and provided a cash incentive of $10,000, a lot of money back in 1900, as well as a 10-year exemption from municipal taxes.

The plant began operations in late 1901. By 1903, 1,000 barrels were being produced daily.

In 1909, the Canada Cement Company was formed by the merger of eight Portland Cement subsidiaries including the plant in Lakefield.

It did not go well, and by 1910 the Lakefield plant was closed. It briefly re-opened, but in 1914 it was

again closed, putting an end to the manufacture of cement by the wet process at the Lakefield plant.

In 1920, the plant again reopened, this time employing the “dry process”, using high grade limestone which was crushed, dried and filtered, eliminating the need for large amounts of heat.

The smokestack was eventually constructed to help rid the village of the massive amounts of dust that was produced. It was completed in 1932.

That was also the year that the cement factory was closed, suddenly putting 100 men out of work.

Although they’ve sat empty and unused since the early 1930s, the large concrete silos served a useful purpose, both as a major source of employment in earlier years, and a source of bemused conversation over the past many decades.

Some will be sad to see them go, while others will be glad to be rid of the eyesore.

Most agree though, that the smokestack should remain, which, according to SGS Lakefield Research, will be the case.

With thanks to the book, “Nelson’s Falls to Lakefield: A History of the Village”.

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