Queerest, quaintest place in all Christendom."
Detroit Journal on the occasion of Walkerville's incorporation as
a town in 1890)
origin and growth clearly illustrate the skill and entrepreneurial
abilities of Hiram Walker and reflect the changing nature of Ontario
and its development as an urban industrial province to which men
such as Walker greatly contributed.
terms of its physical development, Walkerville was very much a small
town in the years leading up to incorporation. In 1884, the village
consisted of four streets extending north and south and five running
east and west.
to the Detroit River was Sandwich Street, the business centre of
the village. Along this riverfront street, most of the Walker interests
were located, but such centres as the Walkerville Music Hall, large
enough to accommodate six hundred persons for lectures, dances and
other entertainments, were found there also; the remainder of the
village was residential.
twenty-five years of existence, the village of Walkerville had a
population of 600 people. Most of the inhabitants of the village
were Walker employees. They were offered a lease to a Walker-owned
cottage in the village, none of which were privately owned by the
this way, Walker could control the type of individual who lived
in his village. The inhabitants used and drank water pumped
through pipes laid by the Walkers. They received police and fire
protection at Walker's expense. They attended St. Mary's Church
constructed by Hiram Walker and named after his late wife. The children
of the village attended school on a site donated by Hiram Walker.
the absence of a commercial bank, the Walker employees could deposit
their savings in the Walker bank. Walkerville in the 1880's was
a wholly owned family principality and it had been developed with
a company town, it was never of the type intended to survive no
longer than it takes the loggers to cut the timber or the miners
to raise the ore, its foundations were well and truly laid and it
was built to endure.
1890, Walkerville retained its lowly position as an unincorporated
post-office village. On the 29th day of January, 1890, a petition
was forwarded to the Ontario Legislature, requesting the incorporation
of Walkerville as a town, and citing the significant contributions
of the Walker family to the development of the settlement.
the founding of the village, it had been under the immediate jurisdiction
of the Township of Sandwich East. However, as Walkerville became
more populous and more active industrially, this relationship began
to prove unsatisfactory.
village needed additional territory for future industrial development
and homesites for the workers who were expected to follow the various
industries to Walkerville. These problems required extensive planning,
and the delineation of definite municipal boundaries through incorporation
as a town would permit the formulation of a more extensive long-term
as a town released the Walkers from the continued maintenance of
a police force and fire department. As a town, Walkerville would
enjoy increased stature, and as owners of extensive real estate
handsome profits would accrue to the Walkers. At the same time,
the family could expand its municipal lighting and waterworks system
to serve a large community as an additional source of profits.
1890 to 1910, Walkerville witnessed a fantastic metamorphosis during
which the distillery town became a flourishing industrial centre
of considerable importance. The transition probably began in 1880
with the establishment of ferry service between Walkerville and
1888, Walker turned his talents to the art of railway building.
A railway to the Walker holdings in south Essex enabled him to ship
his farm produce directly to the distillery and cattlebarns with
a minimum of handling. Also, the presence of a railway with the
possibility of connections with eastern rail lines enhanced the
value of the Walker real estate in south Essex.
1901, the railway was completed with its eastern terminus at St.
Thomas. Until 1888, the Walker distillery and its affiliated enterprises
dominated the Walkerville scene. The railway, however, attracted
numerous industrial enterprises into the village, including the
drug firm Parke Davis, the Globe Furniture Company, the Walkerville
Malleable Iron, Company, the Ontario Basket Company, and the Milner-Walker
Wagon Works, the forerunner of the Ford Motor Company of Canada.
The latter began production in January 1898, with a daily output
of twenty-five wagons.
industries moved into the village before the turn of the century,
creating an impressive industrial complex along Walker Road, the
street running parallel to the Lake Erie, Essex and Detroit River
1890 the Walkerville Land and Building Company was incorporated
and the Walker real estate holdings in Walkerville were placed under
the management of that firm. Edward C. Walker served as president
for many years until his death in 1915, while his brothers were
directors in the company.
1890, the firm gradually disposed of the Walker real estate holdings
to private persons, and in the process of this task the firm continued
to influence the planning of the town in significant ways.
as Hiram Walker had done during the earliest years of town development,
every effort was made to instill pride in Walkerville with contests
for the finest flower-bed, the most attractive vine-covered home
and for general household appearance.
many of the early Walkerville buildings have disappeared, the concept
of a garden community in the midst of the city remains intact.