The Old Hastings Mercantile puts Ormsby back on the map

The Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery: worth the drive to pretty little Ormsby! (Photo from Ontario's Highlands)

The Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery: it’s worth the drive to pretty little Ormsby! (Photo from Ontario’s Highlands, ontarioshighlands.ca)

A couple of readers have pointed out that in yesterday’s post – about travelling north through the centre of Hastings County on the historic Old Hastings Road, and passing through the hamlet of Ormsby on the way home to Queensborough – I neglected to mention the very remarkable thing that is to be found in Ormsby: the Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery, a wonderful (by all accounts) old-fashioned general store and – well, emporium seems like a good word to describe this sprawling, funky operation.

But there was a reason I didn’t mention it! It’s that Raymond and I haven’t had a chance to visit it yet, so we haven’t seen it for ourselves. (At least on the inside; we stopped and had a look at the outside on our Old Hastings Road drive, but it was a weekday and the store is only open on weekends until Victoria Day. Then it’s open seven days a week until Dec. 31, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.)

This is the former Presbyterian Church at Ormsby, now called the Old Ormsby Heritage Church. Isn't it beautiful? (Photo from oldhastingsgallery.ca)

This is the former Presbyterian Church at Ormsby, now called the Old Ormsby Heritage Church. Isn’t it beautiful? (Photo from oldhastingsgallery.ca)

Our not having been there yet is most certainly not for lack of interest. Ever since I read about the Mercantile a little over a year ago in an article in Country Roads magazine by our friend Lindi Pierce – you can read it here – I’ve been dying to check it out. The problem has been our always-limited time and perpetually long list of things that need doing at the Manse. But so many people in the Queensborough/Madoc/Hazzard’s Corners/Tweed/Eldorado area have mentioned Ormsby to us, and raved not only about the store but about the beautiful little church that the people who opened the store have restored (where a lovely Christmas service is held each year), and the restaurant/tearoom they have created in the village’s old schoolhouse. “You have to go!” they say. And I suspect they say it not just because it’s a great place to visit, but because they know that the folks behind the Ormsby renaissance are kindred spirits to Raymond and me.

That is: people who have lived and worked in the big city but have (like me with Queensborough) felt the call of Hastings County, and home.

That is something to celebrate and support. You can be sure that Raymond and I will be visiting the Old Hastings Mercantile (and The Old Schoolhouse restaurant/tearoom) very, very soon.

And I urge you to do so too!

13 thoughts on “The Old Hastings Mercantile puts Ormsby back on the map

  1. I’m on my way soon with friends from Madoc, having been introduced to this lovely spot by Lindi last year. You’ll love it!

    • I can’t wait to check out the Old Hastings Mercantile, Brenda. This evening I was speaking with our Queensborough friend Elaine, who visited it (I believe for the first time) this very day, and was blown away. “You’ll love it!” she said. Just like you! And of course the work that the Ormsby people have put into rejuvenating their little hamlet is a great inspiration for Queensborough.

  2. It’s always the best to travel these lovely places on motorbikes.. the back roads greet you with many small places of interest. Make sure you check out the little place under the stairs. 🙂

    • You guys are so fortunate to have those great bikes on which to check out the back roads of Hastings County! What could be more perfect for a trip up the Old Hastings Road? Yes, I’ve heard about the place under the stairs (the Harry Potter closet?) at the Old Hastings Mercantile. Can’t wait to see it for myself!

  3. The Highlands area is responsible for one of the most notable days in New England’s history….known as “New England’s Dark Day”, in 1780. A monumental fire erupted in the Highlands, or southern portion of Algonquin Park, and the smoke carried eastward to the east coast. This was a major, if short-lived event. The smoke was so thick from Maine to NJ that the sun literally didn’t shine that day. Some people thought it was an act of God:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_England's_Dark_Day
    or…
    http://www.massar.org/may-19-1780-new-englands-dark-day/

    • What an amazing story, Mark! Thank you! I wonder if you have been a Meanwhile, at the Manse reader long enough to know that Raymond is from New England (Lowell, Massachusetts) and is also a history buff. But he had never heard of the “Dark Day” before, and was at least as interested in the story as I was. Amazing to think that a forest fire in lower Algonquin Park (and what a forest fire it must have been) could cause end-time worries for people on the coast of New England! And also amazing that scientists were able to track it back so many years later and find out the faraway origin of the “Dark Day.” Basically, you have made our day with this fascinating historical tidbit. Cheers!

      • Ya, I’ve already sent one or two things your way for Raymond (c’mon, its all about Raymond !). I’m also a history buff, so he and I would have an interesting discussion for sure. Especially about New England and the Rev’y War. I sent this to Lindi a few days ago – its a story that was called “the most extraordinary crime ever committed in New England”, in 1778, in Worcester, Mass.. I found out about this story b/c of some sleuthing that I did wrt an old house in NS, and how it connected to this unbelievable story. I forwarded the story to a blogger in the US who ran it on her blog. If Raymond likes NE history, he should be interested by this….:

        http://www.house-crazy.com/house-of-the-crazy-ruggles/#comments

      • Wow, that is a wild story, Mark! I have to say, though, that despite how odd – or crazy – the initial inhabitants of the Ruggles house may have been, judging by the photos it is one beautiful place.

  4. By the way, the anniversary of that fire is just 8 days away….May 19th. It was during the War, maybe the Loyalists were trying to smoke ’em out of New England. Ha Ha.

    • I think that next Sunday (the 19th – hey, it’s the long weekend!) we history buffs should raise a celebratory glass (of smoky [new-world] rye or [old-world] Scotch whiskey, perhaps?) to this amazing Revolutionary War/Ontario Highlands event!

  5. Katherine, I think we had a mercantile right next door to our house when we lived on Chelmsford Street in Lowell. Ask Raymond about it. I hardly have the memory you have when it comes to remembering things from my childhood, but I do recall two things: 1) the owner’s name was Mrs. Lechinsky (sp?); 2) I loved going next door with Mom because in the basement level they sold paper doll cut-outs for about .10 and I would beg Mom to buy some. More times than not, though, I went home empty-handed. Not sure if it was because we were that poor, or if it was the fact that if I came home with something, then there would be five other siblings begging for something too.

    • I guess a “mercantile” is a store that sells all manner of things, right? Those sound like happy memories of the one in Lowell, Jeannie. Including paper dolls! Now that takes me back…

  6. Pingback: On the line | rightonthedoorstep

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