During the 20th century, many of the historic buildings and landmarks along the Snake Road disappeared or changed in appearance so that their original importance to travellers has now been forgotten.
By the mid-1950s, responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the Snake Road had been transferred to Burlington as a result of their annexation of the Lower Concessions of East Flamborough Township.
By this date, the importance of the road to the Village of Waterdown was almost non-existent, for its narrow width, numerous bends and steep ascent made it completely unsuitable for heavy vehicular use. Great changes had come to the area in the 1920s, for the growing popularity of the motorcar made road improvements necessary. With the construction of the bridges on Highway #2 at the Rock Gardens and Wolfe Island in 1926 and 1927, and the opening of Highway #6 North through the Clappison Cut in 1921-23, the entrance to Snake Road through the Valley Inn was gradually reduced to that of a local route providing access to Woodland Cemetery.
With the road changes came the demise of the Valley Inn Hotel. By 1928, the hotel stood empty and in late November, it was destroyed by a fire. Sparks from a passing train started a blaze on the roof that quickly spread through the old frame building before the Hamilton Fire Department arrived. Although they managed to extinguish the flames before it was burnt to the ground, the city’s fire chief and building inspector declared the building valueless when they returned to inspect the site the next morning. The remaining buildings were lost in another fire in 1959, which removed all traces of one of the most important hotels in the area.
In 2005, another Valley Inn landmark became threatened when it was found that the old Bailey bridge had deteriorated. Restrictions were placed on its use and it faced certain closure. Installed in 1965 after a truck hauling equipment crashed through the original bridge, the present structure was originally loaned to Hamilton by the province and erected by Canadian army engineers as the dispute over which municipality was responsible for its replacement couldn’t be solved. Today this lower half of Snake Road is closed, but an interesting walk can still be taken by parking at the Beth Jacob Jewish Cemetery and following the remains of the old paved road.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 9 March 2007.