Grand River - Plaster of Paris
A town arises from gypsum and cobblestones
The picturesque town of Paris got its name, and its early prosperity, from
the nearby deposits of a mineral called gypsum. According to the Canadian
Gazetteer of 1846, the town was named Paris "because of the large quantities of gypsum, or "Plaster
of Paris," found in the immediate neighborhood.
Nowadays, plaster is sandwiched between paper sheets and delivered in flat panels to construction
sites. In older times, it was delivered as a powder, mixed with water, and smoothed onto
wood or metal supports to make interior walls. "Plaster of Paris" is the term still given
to the material is used by sculptors to make molds.
Paris was built in the 1800s in a style of stonework unknown elsewhere in Canada, but common
in New York state. The buildings are erected of small cobblestone blocks of grey limestone.
The architecture of downtown Paris remains much as it was then.
Levi Boughton was a stone mason who worked on the Erie Canal, and who came north to Canada
upon completion of that work. In building many of Paris' more substantial homes and buildings
such as churches, he employed a "cobblestone" construction technique that used round, river-washed
stones as the exterior layer of the stone buildings. This gave the buildings a distinctive,
patterned appearance, and a direct connection to the river. Many of these buildings are now
historic landmarks, and are maintained with great pride by Paris residents.
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