The famous sound of cars crossing the Bailey bridge at Valley Inn is no more since the decision was made to close the road to all vehicular traffic in 2009. What was once a key crossroads at the west end of Hamilton is no more.
For many years, before changes to the landscape were made by the construction of the Desjardins Canal, the opening of Snake Road and the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway, the site of the Valley Inn was an important intersection for First Nations people and explorers as they passed between the Head-of-the-Lake and the Grand River to the west. The arrival of early settlers on their way to Dundas, Flamborough and Waterloo County added to the importance of this crossing at the original entrance into Cootes Paradise.
Situated at the western end of Burlington Bay, the crossing point was protected by high land. The narrow opening provided a controlled exit for Grindstone Creek and Cootes Paradise as they emptied into the bay, which also served as a safe haven for the early traffic of scows used to transport people and goods to and from Dundas, especially in times of inclement weather.
During the early 1850s, James Kent Griffin, son of Waterdown entrepreneur, Ebenezer Culver Griffin, formed a number of road companies to service the rapidly developing trade around the Head-of-the-Lake. Among them were the Hamilton-Nelson Stone Road Company between Hamilton and Toronto, and the Hamilton, Waterdown and Carlisle Road Company – both using the crossing point at the Valley Inn as they exited the city. Although the more refined plank roads were popular with the toll road companies, gravelled surfaces began to make their appearance as traffic grew in volume.
Opened in 1853, Griffin’s road to Waterdown, which climbed the steep face of the Niagara Escarpment by following an old aboriginal trail, was one of the first gravelled roads in the area, using stone taken from Griffin’s Waterdown quarries. Snake Road, built with private money, was open to travelers who paid the required toll levied to pay for the construction and upkeep of the road.
With the opening of the road, a toll house was built on the east side of the old entrance into Cootes Paradise, together with a hotel on the west side to serve travellers.
The Valley Inn Hotel quickly became a landmark and reached its peak during the late 1880s, when Snake Road served as the route for Flamborough farmers on their way to Hamilton Market to sell their produce.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at email@example.com.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 21 October 2010.