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50 Silver Street, Cobalt, ON - the former Coniagas Shaft house number 4

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50 Silver Street,
Cobalt, ON
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Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, other times by appointment. Closed on Canadian public holidays

What is this building?

Prince of Wales parade up Silver Street 1919

Located in dowtown historic Cobalt, this was an actual shaft house for the Coniagas mine that operated here between 1904 and 1924. The shaft went down 350 feet (106.68 meters) and brought the men down to work in the mines as well as bringing ore up out of the ground. 32.5 million ounces of silver were produced by the Coniagas, about a tenth of what was produced in Cobalt in that era. Cobalt was renowned world-wide as the Silver Capital of Canada. It attracted attention and celebrities, including a visit from the Prince of Wales in 1919.

In 1924 the building was sold and Mr. Giachino had a grocery store here. The cold air of the shaft was used by Mr. Giachino for refrigeration. Mr. Red Despres operated the grocery store next. In the late 1960s/or early 1970s the government decreed that the cold air of the shaft was not 'climate controlled' enough and regular refrigeration was brought in.

50 Silver Street in the 1920s as a grocery store

After that, and I am not sure of the order, it was:

a florist shop, who also used the shaft to cool their stock

an insurance agency

a travel agency (although that may have been upstairs while the grocery store was operating)

the Firefighters Museum (which is around the corner on Lang Street now)

an ice cream parlour

an exploration company

   and I will continue to fill in the list as I find out.

When I first saw this building in 1996, the main floor was divided into two sections. One side was Temiskaming Home Support, and I was on the other side to visit Charlie Angus at the office of the new HighGrader magazine. Charlie offered me a ride on the cage, but I was too chicken.

After those years, it was a restaurant, twice. First as the Silver Café and then as Cornmeals who served the best bannock I had ever had. It was empty for about 5 years before we came to turn it into a book store.

Can I look (or go) down the shaft?

No.

First off, it would be way too dangerous. That's when it was still open. In November of 2015, Agnico-Eagle filled the shaft, effectively sealing it so that the cold wind stopped coming through, and the floor settled. We are most grateful.

If you wanted to know what it looked like, dig a hole in your backyard about 5 foot by 5 foot square and about 4 feet deep. Go out and have a look at it at midnight with no moon. That's what it looked like. Sorry, but there really wasn't anything to see except black with a cold wind coming up, summer and winter.

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