The Forbes Mill Fire – 25 years later
September 26, 2020 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Hespeler big mill fire. The mill has operated under many names over the years – Star Woollens, R. Forbes & Co, Dominion Woollens & Worsteds, Silknit, Waterloo Textiles to name few.
Lewis Kribs built the original two stone buildings on this site for Herbert Farr and brothers George and Shubert Randall in 1864.
Sometime after 1874, the original building #2 was removed by Robert Forbes and Johnathan Schofield in order to make way for a larger 3 1/2 storey building that formed a T-shape with the original mill, building #1 (shown below).
Robert Forbes (and later, son George Duthie Forbes) would go on to fully build out the campus until its sale to Dominion Woollens & Worsteds in 1928.
Those two structures remained until September 26, 1995, when it was destroyed by fire.
Then pen & ink drawing is from original company letterhead. The black and white highlighted image was the mill ~65 years later – showing significant growth from its beginning.
The mill buildings that were destroyed were mostly empty at the time. The location posed a problem for City and Fire officials. The fire that ended up destroying the original structures was the 3rd fire set in as many days.
Cambridge firefighter, Robert Morgan, was hurt in the blaze when a brick wall collapsed on him. A broken shoulder and broken leg was the result.
On this 25th anniversary of the fire, we ‘celebrate’ the loss of a big part of our heritage. The mill was instrumental at growing Hespeler and supporting many of its citizens.
Today, the remaining buildings of the mill are undergoing transformations for residential and commercial development. We are happy to see it rebuilt and repurposed.
The location will forever be a reminder of those who worked so hard to build this community.