Around the Mill-Dundas Streets intersection of Waterdown is a group of handsome stone buildings that are among the finest still to be seen in the villages of the Hamilton-Wentworth area. These buildings include the Waterdown Alliance Church, the former Nicholson and Stetler Jam Factory and Weeks of Waterdown Hardware Store, the American Hotel and the Waterdown Library, formerly the East Flamborough Township Hall. Several of these buildings have undergone restoration, renovation or recycling during the past twenty years, and this Heritage Paper looks at one of these–the East Flamborough Township Hall up to the time it became the Waterdown Library in 1979.
Situated on Mill Street North, the former Township Hall is a distinguished and important example of the fine quality attained in the public architecture of prosperous Ontario towns during the mid-19th century. Far grander in scale than its counterparts in Greensville and Rockton, it does not overwhelm the neighbouring stone buildings, all of which suggest that there were superior stone masons at work in the village throughout the nineteenth century.
Construction of the East Flamborough Township Hall dates from 1856, after the Council of the township agreed on 28 June of that year to appoint “Messrs. Stewart, Foster and Morden as a committee to ascertain where a suitable site for a town hall can be obtained.”1 According to By-law 96 of the Council records, on 20 December 1856, the Council of East Flamborough purchased the site for a new Township Hall from John Cummins for £50 and authorised as well £3.1s.3d. for the building committee’s travelling expenses. On the same day they accepted the tender of John Graham, a carpenter, for building the Hall. The estimate was £900! It was also agreed that “the said John Graham shall build a safe with the exception of a door and without any extra charge”.1 The safe remains in the ground floor of the building and can still be seen today. At the time of construction and passage of the by-law, the Reeve of the township was Alexander Brown, son of the Alexander Brown whose headstone can be seen inside the building, and who played such an important part in the early settlement of the village. By December 1857, the building was finished and Council Minutes stated that “L.A. Cummer and James McMonies, Reeve, certify that the Town Hall has been examined and . . . the building is satisfactory.”1
Following its construction, the Township Council felt it necessary to establish a few rules regarding the uses to which the new building could be put. Among the noted rules and restrictions . . . “the Public shall have the use of the Town Hall for any public lecture that is calculated to benefit Society in general–to the exclusion of all Tea Meetings, Bazaars and Shows and Religious Worship.”1 Apparently members of Council later decided that religious worship was of some benefit to society, for in March 1858, they agreed “that the Episcopalian (Anglican) Church have the use of the Gallery of the Town Hall each Sabbath for Divine Service for one year–for the use of which the said members agreed to pay thirty dollars.”1
During its long life, the building has played an important part in the civic and social life of the village and surrounding area. From 1858 the Hall was used for elections–in 1871 it was the voting station of Electoral Division No. 1, while Electoral Division No. 2 was given to Carlisle. In 1879, when Waterdown was incorporated as a village, the East Flamborough Township Council purchased the Town Hall for $150.00. During the late 1880’s, the Mechanic’s Institute Library (forerunner of the present-day library) moved into the building under librarian Dr. McLaren.
In the early part of the twentieth century, the second floor was used as a meeting house by The Orange Lodge, the west wall of the room being decorated with a large painting of King Billy (William of Orange).2 It provided classroom space for the overflow from the old school on Main Street South at Sealey Park while the new school on Mill Street North was being completed.
In the 1940’s the basement was partially excavated and the floor raised to accommodate a new furnace. The exterior was repointed in 1966 and a year later the interior was completely renovated and modernized. The last meeting of the East Flamborough Township Council was held in August 1976 when the Municipal Office moved to the new headquarters on Dundas Street.
In 1978, the architectural and historical significance of the Hall was recognised by Flamborough Council in its designating the building a Heritage property. The interior was renovated again in 1979, when the handsome building was the focus of an ambitious community project that commemorated the one hundredth anniversary of Waterdown’s incorporation and saw the Waterdown Library become the new occupant.
“East Flamborough Township Hall”Vertical File in Building Inventory of Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society Archives 1977.“The Governor’s Road: Early Buildings and Families from Mississauga to London” Mary Byers and Margaret McBurney. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1982.“When Classes Were Held in The Township Hall”Waterdown Review 3 August 1977. Clipping in Scrapbook of Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society Archives.East Flamborough Township Council Records.
Originally published in Heritage Happenings, May 1987.
© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1987, 2021.
Editor’s Note:The Waterdown branch of the Hamilton Public Library officially closed November of 2015 in preparation for the opening of the new community complex opened in Waterdown. The 15,000 square foot facility includes the Waterdown branch of the Hamilton Public Library, a Senior Centre, the City’s Municipal Service Centre, Flamborough Archives, and Flamborough Information & Community Services, on the former site of the Municipal Office.
When plans were being drawn up for the new Waterdown Library on Dundas Street, there was never any hesitation—the Brown tombstones had to move with the Library. As the Flamborough Archives was being included as a partner in the building, it was felt that the best place for them to be housed was within the Archives.The old location of the Waterdown Library, formerly the East Flamborough Township Hall, went up for sale. The building was bought by brothers Andrew, Nathan and Nick Brown in November of 2016 and restored to be the home of Brown Lawyers and Brown Financial Security.
Waterdown Alliance Church (21 Mill St N) was deconsecrated and became a commercial space. It currently houses Birmingham Consulting.