Back to a time when nature was the prevailing force
in shaping our environment
If you want to experience splendor in an urban setting, go to Ancaster, a small town found near Hamilton...to get there, just follow the highway up the Hamilton Mountain. In Ancaster, nature's splendor was somehow transferred to an urban setting, placing this small community in the vanguard of human triumph over urban development.
When you go to Ancaster, try to visit the Hermitage. Take the Sulphur Springs Road west from Wilson Street to an intersecting road where Lovers Lane is to the left and Sulphur Springs Road continues right. Follow Sulphur Springs Road until its name changes to Mineral Springs Road. The Hermitage is there; you can see the parking lot from the road. The distance is only 2.2 kilometers from Wilson Street in Ancaster. From the parking lot wander in the forest following one of the several trails leading to the ruins. Don't be concerned if you become temporarily lost along the way; the detour is alluring.
When you reach the ruins, discover the shell of the early nineteenth century home of Reverend George Sheed, a Presbyterian Minister and original builder of the Hermitage. George died before construction of the mansion was completed.
In 1833, Otto Ives, a wealthy English immigrant, bought the Hermitage (as it was then called) and lived there with his wife and niece. Legend tells of a local coachman named William Black who fell in love with Otto's niece. Otto refused permission for William to marry his niece because of William's lowly station in life. Unable to accept Otto's veto, William Black took his life, hanging himself from a timber truss in the mansion's gatehouse. William was buried at a crossroad located nearby which later became known as Lovers Lane.
Stories and sightings of the ghost of William Black are traded and affirmed by many visitors to the Hermitage. William Black may still be with us, but somehow it doesn't matter as the woodland surrounding the Hermitage is primeval. It's one of those unique places in Ontario where we experience enchantment associated with a forest that appears petrified and motionless. The wooded paths leading to the ruins will draw you back to a time when nature was the prevailing force
shaping our environment.
After Otto died, the Hermitage boasted a number of owners. In 1880 it became a popular hotel. Mineral springs flowing from below the grounds attracted clients from across the country to the hotel in search of stronger health from the water's healing powers.
Since 1910, the Hermitage endured three fires. The last one, a 1934 inferno, leveled the building to the ruins standing today.
In 1971, The Hamilton Region Conservation Authority purchased
120 acres of land in the Dundas Valley including the property where the Hermitage once stood.
Almost every weekend, during the warm seasons, couples seek out this enchanted place to exchange marriage vows or as a setting for their wedding photographs.
The Hermitage is haunting, not only because of the alleged presence of the ghost of William Black, but because of the majestic loveliness and serenity of this peaceful place demonstrating again that nature is the supreme artist.