Blackburn Bros., Mica Manufacturing, 200 Crichton Street

October 29, 2008

As I mentioned in my first posting on this blog, the year we moved into New Edinburgh (1966), located on the NE corner of Crichton and Dufferin, was the former Blackburn Bros. mica factory.
I am not sure when it closed. I doubt it was still in operation at that point and shortly afterwards, the building was demolished.

The lot remained vacant for a good many years until a condominium building was built there. For a good many years, however, you would find chunks of mica lying about, between lumps of dog poo and broken bottles.

While New Edinburgh is now a quiet residential neighbourhood, it was once a thriving industrial and business area, as well as the home of those working in the area. Rocklciffe Village, to the north, which is now the home of mansions and embassies was once the home of those who were in service to the rich who lived in Sandy Hill and other areas of the city, as well as government and clerical workers.

Along the Rideau River which flows just two blocks away, from Crichton Street were heavy industry, chemical manufacturers, sawmills and other water-powered mills (located both at the Rideau Falls, where the Rideau plunges into the Ottawa River, but further upstream where Cummings Bridge crosses the Rideau at Montreal Road), rail-yards for both train and streetcars, foundries, amongst others.

202 Crichton Street (or Creighton, according to the directory listing, below)

200 Crichton Street

The Blackburn Brothers apparently also a mica mine in Hull Township. I am wondering if this is the one, now abandoned, located near Chelsea, Quebec. My mother used to take us up there on field trips, as well as her high school geography students and several generations of kids from our Sunday school.

Mica was a very important mineral and was used in a wide variety of processes including as an insulator in high voltage electrical eq uipment, manufacturing capacitors for radio frequency applications, used instead of glass in windows for stoves and kerosene heaters (and in greenhouses), pressed into a thin film and used on Geiger-Müller tubes to detect low penetrating Alpha particles, in cosmetics, used in the creation of “interference paints”, used in heating elements, as a substrate for sample preparation for the atomic force microscope, and as clean imaging substrates in atomic force microscopy….

It has been used since prehistoric times (as a pigment for cave paintings) and in windows before the it was discovered how to create glass in sheets. At the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, contained considerable amounts of locally mined mica in layers up to 12 inches thick. It continues to be used by the Hindus during Holi, in the pigments thrown during the festivities.

14 Responses to “Blackburn Bros., Mica Manufacturing, 200 Crichton Street”

  1. Andrew Aitkens said

    I just happened on this site and I am glad I did. I’ll explore the other entries too.
    My grandmother worked at the Mica Co. office in the early 1900s, according to the family history research I have been doing. She (Maimie Carruthers) married my grandfather Bert Aitkens in 1912. He became a prominent merchant with a chain of five tobacconist shops in the downtown core. They lived on Flora St. and later moved into the Blackburn Apartments on Somerset. My dad Phillip ran the Lord Elgin shop (opened in1941), and inherited the business when Bert died in 1961.
    Hope this isn’t too far off-topic.

  2. Barry Shulman said

    My father owned that property from 1960 to1975,there were two warehouses in behind a house,he used the buildings for storage . He owned Shulman Fruit in the market.there was a lot of mica in the buildings and the yards

  3. mickeyad26 said

    I went to Crichton Public School from 1960-67. I heard rumours that they had a gorilla guarding the factory so stay away. But as kid we had to explore and we did lol no gorilla.

  4. Gail said

    Fredrick Hamilton Blackburn was the man who raised me and gave me his last name. He was one of the Blackburn Bros.We lived at 70 Rideau Terrace not far from Crichton ST. If i remember correctly the Mica Mine was across the street from Crichton St. public school were i went as a child, I remember having Mica around the house. Also Fred had a Hunting camp on I think on Blue Sea lake in Wakefield Que. They also had the Blackburn Bld.on Sparks St. Neat !!!.

  5. Katherine said

    Great site! Was hoping to find some information on the Rockcliffe Base and the redevelopment – to help with research. There are some cool photos floating around of the abandoned school before it burnt down. Will be interesting to see what they develop there!

  6. Bob Cross said

    I remember the old Chelsea mine – my Uncle, Walter Cross operated a small mica factory in Hull in the 1940’s which I visited as a child. If I remember well, they sliced it for a company that made toasters – every toaster used mica to reflect the heat from the coils.

  7. Carrie said

    This is very interesting about the Blackburn bros. my grandmother’s uncle died in a mining accident in 1936 at the Blackburn Bros mica mine in their Chelsea mine. Three men died in that explosion and it’s all been forgotten by time. I managed to find the original news article about the accident.

    • mudhooks said

      Thanks for that information. So sorry to hear of the tragic loss of life. It is something I’s not heard of. I will have to look at my book on the history of the Wakefield area and see if it is mentioned. I was born in Wakefield.

      My mother was a geography teacher and used to take her students to the Chelsea mine, or what was left of it.

  8. Sam said

    LOVE THIS ! And I miss the nostalgic feel these photos inevitably brings.

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