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BEHIND THE SCENES: No stone left unturned for NOTL gateway project

Niagara-on-the-Lake Local reporter Mike Balsom takes us behind the scenes

Menno Braam, a skilled stonemason, is diligently working on the new gateway project at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Over the course of about three weeks, he has been chiselling away at a shipment of limestone from a local quarry, carefully selecting each stone for its size and shape. As a seasoned professional in dry stone walling, Menno ensures the structural integrity of the wall without using mortar, allowing it to naturally settle and strengthen over time.

Menno's expertise and reputation led him to be chosen for this project, funded by the Gerald Kowalchuk Family Foundation and designed by Brad Smith of Seferian Design Group. Working closely with the design, Menno creates a solid structure with specific stylistic choices, using stones of appropriate sizes to ensure durability. He works from biggest to smallest stones, meticulously fitting each piece into place.

As Menno nears the top of the wall, he expects the job to become more intricate and time-consuming. Despite the challenges, he appreciates the workability and appearance of the limestone from Upper Canada Stone, sourced by Perry Hartwick. While his work remains hidden behind a black-screened fence, Menno dedicates about seven hours each day to the project, committed to completing it before moving on to his next undertaking in Halifax.

Menno's dedication and craftsmanship will leave a lasting impression on the residents and visitors of Niagara-on-the-Lake, with the gateway expected to be ready for its unveiling in about four to five weeks.

Video Summary:

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Gateway project involves the construction of a remarkable dry stone wall, expertly crafted by Mike Braam, a skilled stonemason with extensive experience in the field. He has been involved in various dry stone walling projects worldwide and has been practicing this unique method for about 20 years. Working alone, he meticulously cuts and places each stone without the use of mortar, creating structurally sound walls that blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.

The design of the Gateway project holds great significance for the community, reflecting the town's history and culture. The new gateway will replace the old garden-like structure and feature a long wall with an archway and wrought iron gate, potentially serving as a decorative and functional element. The town's crest will be embedded in another archway, giving a distinct identity to Niagara-on-the-Lake. The gateway is located at the end of Mississauga Road, marking the entrance to the shopping district and major tourist destinations like Fort George and the Shaw Festival Theatre. It also acts as a barrier between the road and the historic Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Course, connecting with the surrounding vista, including Fort Mississauga from the War of 1812 era.

Overall, the Gateway project represents a fusion of artistry and practicality, showcasing the beauty of dry stone walling and its historical significance in the region. Mike Braam's craftsmanship will leave a lasting impression, capturing the essence of Niagara-on-the-Lake for residents and visitors alike.