Jewel of Pontiac heritage lost to fire

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Deborah Powell



Deborah Powell

BRISTOL – Fire destroyed the last historic building at the waterfront site of what used to be Union Village in the municipality of Bristol, February 16. Flames had already consumed the building by the time        firefighters arrived, alerted by a call from neighbours.
“They think the stones in the fireplace got hot enough to set fire to the old wood in the walls and floor,” said Brian Hayes of Arnprior, who has owned the building and used it as a cottage for more than 40 years. A family member had been using the cottage that weekend but had left to go home.
“The loss of this building is truly unfortunate,” said local historian, Maude-Emanuelle Lambert. “Originally, it was most likely the station house (Union Station) for the horse railway that transported people and freight between the Pontiac and the top of Chats Falls. From the railway you could then get on a boat at the Union Station Wharf to go to Portage-du-Fort,” Lambert explained.
The locale was originally called “Head-of –Chats,” as recalled by Jennie Yuill McIntyre, who grew up in the area in the 1850s. 
“I recall going to school at the old village of Pontiac in the 50s. At that time we lived at Head-of-Chats, and [since] it was a long way to school, we children usually rode the horse-cars over what was then one of the most unique railroads in Canada,” wrote McIntyre in the 1930s. “Head-of-Chats was marked by a wharf and a station house, and half a dozen houses were added as work was started on the Canal at both ends,” she continued, referring to the canal that was to create a navigable bypass around Chats Falls that was abandoned before completion in the late 1800s.