Alton Mill Rehabilitation

"Our architect turned fire-escapes into sculpture", Jordan Grant at Heritage Canada Award ceremony as they received the Heritage Canada National Achievement Award in 2009.

The Alton Mill was a project that took ten years from start to finish.....and one that CNA is very proud of.

We began sketches for the rehabilitation in 1999, but it took until 2004 for the clients, Jordan and Jeremy Grant, to track sufficient funding to begin the project. The project opened to the public in 2009. Grants from the federal Commercial Heritage Property Incentive Fund, and Ontario Rural Economic Development Fund bridged the gap, allowing rehabilitation of this derelict building as an Arts and Culture Centre. 

The stone building, originally a woolen mill, had been built in several stages. It might have been lost with a less persistent owner, or less patient municipality. The approach to the design was to incorporate as much original and restored fabric as possible. The modern insertions such as staircases, lifts, and partition walls are compatible, yet distinct. After much study, the windows were replaced. New doors were sourced from Ontario.

New partitions and door frames were made from recycled 2x4's, the rough finish blending with the historic wood work. Maintenance costs are reduced through the use of materials that do not require painting, yet grow more interesting with time. For example, stair treads are recycled 2x10's, robust and unfinished, broom swept and rough, inspired by the original ships ladder that had been hollowed by 100 years of footsteps. Galvanized steel for gutters and many interior finishes. Older materials were cleaned using dry ice blasting,  removing contaminents, yet preserving the underlying surfaces and patina. 

The approach to the landscape was to use soft surfaces and natural drainage for driveways, and to preserve as many trees as possible. Instead of raising grades and destroying the tree lined driveway, an alternate fire route was created by bridging the river. 

In spite of all the many challenges the building and the many government processes threw at us, the project is one that all associated with it found rewarding on many levels. 


  • Award of Merit, Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals, 2009
  • National Achievement Award, Heritage Canada, 2009