Dickinson Square Management
Dickinson Square has been an important part of Manotick since the late 1800s. In 1972, Harry Watson sold Watson's Mill to the RVCA (Rideau Valley Conservation Authority), who restored one run of millstones and accessory machinery to the original 1860 operating condition. The dam over a back channel of the Rideau River is managed by Parks Canada as part of the Rideau Canal.
In 2007, Ottawa Council approved the acquisition of the "Mill Quarter" properties for $2.44M and the establishment of a corporation to manage them.
In 2008, the City of Ottawa purchased Watson's Mill from the RVCA, 4 heritage buildings in the Square (Dickinson House and its Carriage House, The Weaver's House and the Ayers Building), and Clapp House and the Holloway Property on Clapp Street. Watson's Mill Manotick Incorporated (WMMI) was created as a non-profit group with a Board Of Directors to manage Watson's Mill. The City sold the Mill to the WMMI for the nominal sum of $1 to manage the operation of the grist mill, museum and store with a small staff and volunteers. Restoration and maintenance of the Mill is ongoing, supported by community organizations and various fundraisers, such as "Raise the Roof" to replace the roof with a historically accurate replacement in 2013. The concerts have continued to raise funds for ongoing maintenance.
In 2009, the city transferred the ownership of the other Dickinson Square properties (except Watson's Mill) to the Manotick Mill Quarter Community Development Corporation (MMQCDC), a non-profit corporation of the City of Ottawa. It's comprised of five councillors and representatives from both Watson's Mill and DSHMI, who will decide on future development of Dickinson Square. The City instructed them to develop a plan for Dickinson Square and repay the City's costs ($2.44 M) by selling, leasing, or disposing the various properties.
Dickinson Square Heritage Management Inc. (DSHMI) is a coalition of community organizations (15 in 2011) whose mission is to preserve and promote the heritage character of the Square.
2012 MMQCDC Plan
The City of Ottawa created the MMQDC with a mandate to recover investment through sale or long term lease. It's mandate was to preserve and promote the heritage character of the Square, to improve arts and heritage programming and community activities, and to accommodate tourist and heritage activities in the Square.
In 2012 the MMQCDC put proposed a plan to sell Dickinson House and the Carriage Shed, then under an annual "Licence of Occupation" with the Rideau Township Historical Society.
There were plans to replace Clapp House with a large 3-4 story multi-use building. Zoning of the other buildings were changed to allow a wider range of uses. Lot lines for the Weavers House were adjusted. The Carriage Shed could be expanded to its original size, Weavers House and Ayres Building could expand their foot-print by 30%.
A heritage easement placed on the lands occupied by Dickinson House and the Carriage Shed would permit community activities which took place on these lands to continue indefinitely. All properties were to be placed on the market for sale.
In 2013, the City of Ottawa put out a Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) to be followed by Request for Offers (RFO).
The Rideau Township Historical Society (RTHS) developed a business plan for Dickinson House as a living museum depicting the role the Dickinson family played in the social, cultural, and economic history of Manotick, while working with the WMMI to have Dickinson Square declared a National Historic site. No progress has been made on this plan. The RTHS has an annual agreement with the WMMI to use Dickinson House and the Carriage Shed.
In 2016, several properties were sold: Clapp House, Ayers Building, Weavers House. The Holloway property (vacant land) was being devoped by the City and Community as a Remembrance Park, honouring Canada's veterans. Dickinson House and the Carriage Shed did not receive any viable offers, so the City of Ottawa decided to retain public ownsership, and will enter into long-term leases with the current occupants.
Current Use of Properties
5525 Dickinson St.
Watson's Mill is a working heritage grist mill, museum and store, owned by Watson's Mill Manotick Incorporated. It is open daily all summer plus November weekends, with milling on Sundays. You can buy the stone-ground flour and bread. Watson's Mill has a lease agreement with the city that allows staff to work out of the Carriage Shed where they run a used book sale during spring, summer and fall to raise money.
1127 Mill Street at Dickinson St.
Dickinson House, with Ottawa heritage designation. It is owned by the City of Ottawa, and operated by the Rideau Township Historical Society as a museum in summer, representing the home of the families who built and operated Watson's Mill. Guided tours, displays and theme weekends demonstrate heritage skills and activities.
5524 Dickinson St.
Owned by the City of Ottawa, it is operated by Watson's Mill as a used book store in summer. It provides public toilets for Watson's Mill and events in the Square. A farmers market sells local products on summer Saturdays.
1128 Mill St.
Sold to Rural Ottawa South Support Services (ROSSS) ($540,000). ROSSS provides services to seniors and disabled people. It originated as the Seniors Centre, a volunteer group that began around the same time as the Miller's Oven.
1131 Mill St. (behind Dickinson House)
Sold to "Peppermint Spa" in 2014 ($350,000).
Clapp House (vacant 2-story)
1125 Clapp Lane
Sold for future retirement residence ($800,000).
- Related information:
- Watson's Mill & Dickinson Square
- Archive: Dickinson Square News
- Manotick's history
- Watson's Mill
- Dickinson House Museum & Rideau Township Historical Society
- Dickinson Square Heritage Management Inc. (DSHMI)
- Manotick Village Community Association (MVCA)
- May 2012: Mill quarter board reveals Dickinson Square plan EMC [text copy]
- June 2012: Dickinson Square tenants face uncertain future EMC [text copy]
- March 2012: Planning Rationale for 1127, 1128 Mill St & 1125 Clapp Ln, City Of Ottawa [text copy]