This weekend, weather permitting, J. and I are heading to Black Creek Pioneer Village on the north end of Toronto. I’ve been meaning to go for awhile – mainly because my love of history and genealogy has started me on a writing project (my second book of poetry) that tells the tale of my great-great-grandparents.

John Chisholm, my great-great-grandfather, was a cooper. He made barrels for a living. Probably comparable these days to somebody who welds metal into shipping containers. Back then, barrels were used for everything: packed with wine, wheat, loose salt and fish, and whatever else one place produced and another place wanted.

There is a cooper at Black Creek. A guy who sits in his workshop working a lathe to make curved slats of wood. Or so I imagine. Really, I’ve no idea, but I’m excited to see how it is actually done. And to generally soak up the 19th-century atmosphere, including an 1840 cider mill, an 1855 blacksmith shop, and a unique 1840 Neoclassical outhouse from Limehouse, the community where Donald Chisholm, John’s father, lived.

Our visit will also include a lunch of locally-sourced foods, in the Historic Brewery Restaurant & Pub – otherwise known as the Halfway House Inn. Built in 1847-48 at the intersection of Kingston Road and Midland Avenue in Scarborough, the two-story building once offered rest to passengers riding the stage coach between Dunbarton, Pickering and Toronto.

Sometimes I wish I could have ridden those coaches. I know the bumps would have been murder, but to see how things once were, and what the busy concrete city looked like covered in trees, would be amazing.

What about you? Any interest in another era? Any places that conjure another time that you’d care to recommend?

Photo by Gary J Wood

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