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Grand River - Plaster of Paris

A town arises from gypsum and cobblestones

More on the Grand River:
Grand River:
Ontario’s historic heartland

Bloom Town:
The flowering of an old-style Ontario town

The Grand’s Canyon:
Tourism powers an old mill town

Grinding Along the Grand:
Stone mills lined the riverbanks

High-Rise Herons:
Big swamp birds thrive in a wetland haven

Home and Native Land:
Homestead of the Six Nations

Old Order:
Mennonites set their own pace of change

Plaster of Paris:
A town arises from gypsum and cobblestones

Raising Rainbows:
Rehabilitating a tired industrial river

Sausages to Software:
The Industrial Evolution

Grand Stand:
Survival of a river valley forest

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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