The Tower of Port Hope

The doors are ordinary and rather battered, but the building they are attached to is definitely not.

Port Hope8All along the St Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, there are numerous communities with a rich history from the 1800s.  The town of Port Hope east of Toronto is one of those.

I discovered this old water tower in Port Hope by accident, while looking for an award-winning bakery known for its Canadian specialty – butter tarts.

It turns out that finding the building was the easy part. Trying to unearth the history of it was an entirely different matter.

Port Hope6

When I searched for “Tower of Port Hope“, I got links to a retirement residence located next door.

Further poking around the interwebs, I found “Greenwood Tower“, but it only provided information about the motel located on the property and not the water tower itself.

Finally I stumbled across a reference to the “Belgrave Water Tower” and found an article about the history of this wonderful 1877 building.

Port Hope5

Although in disrepair, the building is still stunning with its fan design of wrought iron in the lower windows,

… the ornate railings along the roof of the extension of the first floor,

… the widow’s walk and the balustrades around the windows on the third level

… and let’s not forgot those circular spoke windows on the top level.

Port Hope9-14

Although I couldn’t see inside the tower, it is said to have a wooden circular staircase that winds up to the 4th level, and deep below the tower is a brick-walled well that is 10 feet across and drops down about 75 feet (3 metres and 23 metres respectively).

It was built on a 30-acre estate known as Belgrave, and the tower provided water to the house and surrounding gardens.  I’m obviously talking about a local businessman with serious wealth.

Port Hope7

It may look derelict and abandoned, but a family of feral cats currently call the tower home. Pretty fancy digs whether you’re a cat or not.

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.  Check it out and discover a world of doors.

104 comments

      • Oh that is cool and I can relate – I love brick homes – but also various bricks around our town (in the state of Virginia) we even have a few brick streets – maybe more cobblestone? And years ago I was more enamored with patios that had a dozen different kinds of bricks – but not to loved anymore – still like them – but the brick is everywhere and so after a while – well u know – 😉

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  1. Love this tower with all the specific details! The door fits in there nicely – on second look: not many towers have this many balconies:) Sorry, a little later but am quite distracted of re-learning the Apple system after 20+ years:)

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  2. Good detective work Joanne! By some interesting coincidence we are working on a post about a restored water tower in Saskatchewan that looks like a lighthouse. Seems we remain eerily connected. 🙂

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  3. A long time ago we stayed at a BnB in Port Hope which is a fabulous, historic Ontario town to explore. But dang. Butter tarts you say? Did you find said bakery? We are serious butter tart fanciers in this house and would make a trek to visit for sure!

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  4. I love this building, the doors, the colors, the history. Such a cool find on your part. Of course I have to ask: did you ever find the bakery and if so, how were the tarts?

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    • I don’t know what I initially thought this building might be, but water tower didn’t come immediately to mind!
      What initially caught my eye was the wrought iron widow’s walk. There is something about that kind of embellishment on top of a building that always catches my eye.

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  5. This is a wonderful building, Joanne. I love the balconies, the door, the windows, the roof lines – all of it, it’s perfect. I could see spending some serious time looking at this building. I’m glad you got the tarts.

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  6. That’s an interesting building, Joanne. I imagine it was even more attractive when it was cared for and not a home for feral cats. The ironwork is gorgeous!

    PS: Wondering what kind of wonderful treats you found at the butter tart place.

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    • The ironwork is what caught my eye – especially the widow’s walk. At one time in my youth I would have scoffed at that kind of embellishment, but the older I get, the more I’m loving it.

      That bakery exceeded my expectations – tarts with a multitude of fillings from plain butter tarts, with nuts, with raisins, to tarts with blueberry, cherry, lemon (to DIE FOR!!) and strawberry, etc.

      Then there were pies and strudels. Oodles of strudels 🙂

      Then we went down the road and got scones … both savoury and sweet.

      Did I mention cookies? OMG the cookies with caramel and drizzled chocolate on top.

      This was a day when calories were not taken into consideration, however most of what I bought ended up in the freezer for future indulgence 🙂

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  7. I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered a privately owned water tower before. I wonder how common (or uncommon) this would be. I also wonder who the business man was, and his story.

    So cool, thanks. (You will note that I am not inquiring about the butter tarts. Nope, I am not.)

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  8. This has to have been converted to live in surely with those sash windows and balconies etc. A prime example of what would appear on one of the Grand Designs or Restoration programmes! And yes, did you get your tarts?

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    • The next time I’m in Port Hope – and I’m sure there will be a next time – I’ll have to go back to learn what I can about the interior. Now I’m more curious than ever!

      … and yes, the tarts were amazing!

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  9. What a gem you found on the way to the bakery! I love the wrought iron and all that red brick. I hope it gets restored, and put to use. I think it would make a neat little home to people as well as cats.

    I could do with one of the Butter Tarts with my morning tea right now. Miam, miam! Hope you found the bakery for some.

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  10. I hope someday the tower is restored, Joanne. It’s still in pretty good shape if they don’t wait too long. Interesting history and I imagine the family had quite a fortune to build such a structure over their well. I hope you found the bakery too!

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    • That was my thinking too. This had to have been a very wealthy family. Sadly, if there was any evidence of an estate still remaining, I didn’t see it. This is such a beautiful town, it is worth the effort to go back to explore more.

      … and yes, the bakery was worth finding!! 🙂

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  11. What an amazing building! It really is a shame that it is being neglected and left to deteriorate. Someone must own it… maybe you could wiggle your way into an invitation to see the inside (and, of course, share pictures with us). Did you ever get your butter tarts?

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    • The tower appears to belong to the motel sitting on the same property. This motel seems to have its own struggles to survive, so I think the tower is pretty low on its priority list.

      There was a woman who came out of the motel to bring water to the family of cats. We talked to her briefly and I really wanted to ask about going inside, but I have to get past this shyness of asking for something. I know the worst they can say is ‘no’, but I often really struggle to get past it.

      … and yes, butter tarts were procured. They were worth the effort 🙂

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  12. I don’t know what you call those bars on the windows–we call them ‘burglar bars’ (nice, right?), but that starburst design is pretty. This entire building is pretty darn amazing, though.

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  13. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing Joanne. Hope you found those butter tarts. If ever in Cambridge again, check out Dee’s Bakery. Their peanut butter butter tarts are my fave!

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