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  Beacon for shipping, farming, elevator marks 75th anniversary
By TomVanDusen - AgriNews Staff Writer

JOHNSTOWN - It looms large just west of the international bridge at Johnstown, a lasting concrete and steel symbol of the trade which plies the St. Lawrence Seaway... although few ships call anymore.

It's arguably the most familiar industrial landmark in Eastern Ontario and it recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.

It's the Port of Prescott and its 150,000-tonne capacity grain elevator. Most other waterfront elevators of the era have been abandoned or demolished since construction of the Seaway eliminated the necessity to transfer loads between different sized ships.

But this particular elevator happily soldiers on under municipal ownership... another rarity.

It's the last remaining full service elevator between Toronto and the Quebec border, still offering grain handling services for trucks, rail and some ships which these days mostly haul crushed stone and salt.

The elevator and port are responsible of about 100 direct and indirect jobs as well as economic spinoffs worth an estimated $11-million a year.

It would be a big asset, executives with Commercial Alcohols Inc. have decided, in establishing a $120-million ethanol plant on industrial land right across County Road Two.

On July 12, municipal, provincial and federal dignitaries got together to cut a cake in the elevator's honour. In the centre of the action was Leland Baynham, 93, who helped build the monument back in the days when teams of horses were still on the job.

Still looking like he could put in a good day's work, Baynham got the bug back then and spent his career in construction rather than on the nearby farm where he was raised.

He walked - and probably still could - four miles one way to line up for work in the late 1920s on the biggest construction project most folks around Johnstown had ever seen.

Baynham was a part of crews hauling piles with horses, the piles shipped in from British Columbia and cabled together to support the elevator.

Today, the structure is still standing true, "a working landmark", observed weigh master Lance Stephenson.

"I think people would miss it if it was torn down," added Robert Hennessy, general manager of the port and elevator operation owned for the past six years by the Township of Edwardsbugh/Cardinal which acquired it in a federal government offloading program.

The municipality didn't just get 395 silos with a storage capacity of 150,000 tonnes and deep water docking facilities. The package included more than 300 acres, much of it vacant, some occupied by the elevator and its services, some by cottages and a marina/restaurant.

Most of the grain processing and storage business is from Eastern Ontario, Hennessy said, and most comes in and goes out by truck.

Some 300,000 tonnes of wheat, soybeans and corn passed through the elevator in 2005, about 40,000 of which moved by ship. In addition, about 400,000 tonnes of salt and stone were handled at the facility.

Licensed by the Canadian Grain Commission, in addition to storage, elevator services include cleaning, drying and bagging.

"We could always use more business," said Hennessy, adding that, with several mechanical upgrades made since the takeover, the municipal management committee has set aside a tidy reserve and is contemplating some work to improve the structure's appearance.

The acquisition has worked out well for Edwardsburgh/Cardinal, Hennessy said. In 2005, the port was able to add about $500,000 to municipal revenues and still be left with about $700,000 in profit.



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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