The Village of Waterdown developed upon land that was originally granted to Alexander McDonnell in 1796. In 1805 ownership was transferred to Alexander Brown who built a sawmill at the falls of Grindstone Creek. This creek provided power for the endeavours of the early pioneers and thus the Village of Waterdown was born. The enterprises of Brown, and later of Ebenezer Griffin, accounted for substantial growth in the Grindstone Creek Valley. The valley, known as Smokey Hollow, was fuelled by dams and raceways, and was the site of saw, grist, and flour mills, a woollen mill, a brass foundry, tanneries, rake, snaith, cradle, and basket factories. Waterdown was incorporated as a Village in 1878 but a series of fires and a decrease in the water power of Grindstone Creek heralded the slow decline of the settlement’s importance.
Although few remnants of the old mills remain, many other original structures from the village’s pioneering days have been magnificently preserved.
1. The North East Corner, Main & Dundas Streets
This building was constructed by the Dale Family after the Great Fire of 1922 destroyed all the buildings on this corner. Many residents of the village consider this building a Waterdown landmark as it housed Langford’s Pharmacy for 64 years.
2. The Royal Coachman
The earliest record of a hotel upon this corner is in 1868 when William Heisse is listed as a hotel keeper. Patrick Kirk purchased the small frame hotel in 1888 and it remained in the Kirk Family until 1966.
Soon after the Kirk Family took possession they enlarged the building, probably to accommodate passengers of the three different stage coaches that passed through Waterdown. Until the 1950’s a small stream crossed the open area in the present parking lot and was reputedly used to douse the Great Fire of 1922.
3. The Flamborough Review
The Flamborough Review has been circulated weekly throughout the area since May, 1918 when Mr. Harold Green published the first edition. Prior to moving to this location in the 1950’s the paper was published in the old Bell Tower, which was situated where Memorial Hall stands, and then from a building on Flamboro Street. The upstairs of this two storey structure was designed as a residence but has now been converted into offices to accommodate publication of the paper. When the Flamborough Review was first published the editors printed three hundred copies for the area; less than the number of copies sold today at the local IGA grocery store.
4. 49 Main Street North
This fine Waterdown residence, built c. 1900, was once the home and office of Dr. John Owen McGreggor. Dr. McGreggor, who began his career as a general practitioner in Dundas, came to Waterdown in 1884 and was widely known throughout the area as a kind, hard-working doctor.
During his lifetime he served as a member of County Council, Director of the Union Cemetery, and owner of both a drugstore and meeting hall. Dr. McGreggor died in 1928 after administering to the sick in the district for 48 years. The unusual house was constructed by John Reid, a builder well known throughout the Waterdown area for his unique architectural style.
5. 103 Main Street North
On the corner of Main Street and Cedar Street, this typical centre gable, one-and-a-half storey home dates from the late 1860’s. It was once owned by the Smith family, well known Market Gardeners. The farm, one of the largest in the area, was irrigated by a huge water tank filled with water pumped from a swamp which was located behind Cedar and John Street.
6. 173 Main Street North
Built c.1845 by Burwell Griffin, this fine stone residence was once a farm house on property that extended northwards to Parkside Drive and from Hamilton to Mill Street. Originally designed to face Dundas Street, the lane which led to this house later became the well travelled village road known as Main Street. Hugh Creen, listed as a “Gentleman” in the 1865-66 Directory Listing, moved into the house with his family soon after it was built. Hugh Creen was the father of John Creen, Proprietor of the Upper Mill Site in Waterdown in the 1860’s.
7. 142 Main Street North
This two-and-a-half storey red brick residence was built c.1890 by John Prudham. Mr. Prudham was the farm implement dealer for the Waterdown-East Flamborough area. He used his house as his office where he took orders all winter from local residents for new machinery and equipment to be delivered to the Aldershot Railway Station early in the spring. Once all the farmers had collected their equipment from Aldershot they paraded back into the village, stored their horses in the hotel stables, and enjoyed a big banquet hosted by the implement agency. This building is noted for the two storey bays with tent roof, and the one storey verandah accented by decorative gardens along John Street.
8. 19 John Street
Set close to the road this one-and-a-half storey house displays some of the Gothic Revival characteristics such as the three bay main elevation with central entry, flanking windows, and centre gable window. It is believed that the house was built c. 1865-1875, when the property was purchased by John Thomas Stock from the Creen family. Mr. Stock was a village merchant and owner of the building at the corner of Mill Street North and Dundas Street where the first telephone in Waterdown was installed, May 1882.
9. 32 John Street
Built c.1889 for local blacksmith George Gilmer, the house is similar to both 19 and 33 John Street with matching centre gable and symmetrical facade. Behind the stucco and board and batten siding in this home is a layer of brick and plaster which provides the house with insulation. This method of construction was called “colombage” but was commonly referred to as foot-a-day construction, presumably because work proceeded at about that rate.
10. 45 John Street
Henry Slater owned this house in 1910 although the date of construction for the building is probably closer to the turn of the century. Slater’s Mill was the last mill in Waterdown to operate on the banks of Grindstone Creek. This two storey residence has undergone extensive modifications including a large addition on the south-west side of the house.
11. 108 Mill Street North
This tiny frame cottage is probably the building referred to in Stock and McMonnies Survey of Village Lots in 1855. The house is balanced by a single large window on either side of the central door. A cistern built in 1910 is now covered by the new addition.
12. Knox Presbyterian Church
The first Presbyterian services in the village were held in a school house on Vinegar Hill in 1830. The original stone church is located at the rear of the present church, and was opened in 1844 although by 1840 there were two Presbyterian congregations in the village. In 1877 when the two churches united, the congregations began to gather in the old stone Knox building and the Sunday School met at St. Andrews Church. When a larger building was required for the congregation, this impressive brick church was built. It was dedicated in 1901.
13. 76 Mill Street North
Constructed c.1890, this magnificent red brick home was designed by John Reid. Irregular in plan, this two-and-a-half storey home features a unique two storey octagonal tower, open at the first floor level as the entry porch, encircled by round Doric columns.
14. 47 – 51 Mill Street North
According to local history, these two houses were once a single frame building constructed c.1870 and owned by the Salvation Army. Reportedly the building was cut in half by Frank Slater c.1900. There are numerous similarities in design between the two houses including a moderately pitched side gable roof and a one storey shed roof extending across the front of the houses.
15. The Old Jam Factory
It is believed that this structure was initially built for Charles Sealey c.1865 in an attempt to influence his son James from going to the west. The stone walls of the building are three feet thick at ground level and one foot thick at the roof line, indicating construction by superior stone masons. In 1923 the property was sold to George Nicholson, who in partnership with Harlan Stetler, established a food processing business. After six years the factory was converted to large scale jam production, but by the 1980s the factory had ceased operations.
16. The Wesleyan Methodist Church
In 1838 the Wesleyan Methodists built a simple frame church on Mill Street North at a cost of $1,400, “to serve the settlers who previously had depended upon saddlebag preachers.”
Covered in stone in 1866, this building has had few other physical alterations although it has housed congregations of various denominations. In 1925 this building became home to the United Church of Waterdown, and from 1957 until the present the Waterdown Alliance Church has held services at this location.
17. 319 Dundas Street East
Constructed in 1864, this building has housed numerous Waterdown businesses including the Boadicea Hotel, Alton’s Meat Market, and both Edward’s and Buchan’s Bakery. The original fieldstone used during construction can be seen at the rear, and the large baker’s ovens used in the early 1900’s remain in the back section of the building.
18. The Crooker Fountain
Situated in front of the Waterdown Memorial Hall is the decorative fountain dedicated to Frederick Wesley Crooker in 1930. Mr. Crooker was the postmaster for the village for more than 20 years, and at the time of his death in 1927 he was serving as Reeve of Waterdown. This water fountain is a fitting tribute to Mr. Crooker as he was responsible for the installation of the water-works system in the village.
19. Franklin Street
The block south of Dundas Street between Franklin and Main Street South was the site of a disastrous fire in 1922. The fire started at a heading mill, a mill which produces the tops for barrels, at the south end of Franklin Street.
The villages’ fire fighting equipment was a completely inadequate opponent for the fire which quickly spread across Dundas Street and down the east side of Main Street. Just two hours after the fire ignited, the core of the village was destroyed. No lives were lost in the Great Fire of 1922, but three residences and eleven businesses were destroyed resulting in $80,000 in damage.
Map of the walking tour:
The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society
Research and design by Lori Dodman
Photographs by Maurice Green
Layout by Robert Wray