They are one of the many quaint and wonderful things to be discovered walking the streets of Olde Walkerville. Look down at almost any corner in this company town founded by Canadian Club distiller Hiram Walker in 1858 for his employees and you’ll see the name of the street engraved in the sidewalk.
With a population of 600 in 1884, the unincorporated village of Walkerville once consisted of just four streets extending north and south, and five running east and west. Probably the first to be laid out was Walker Road or Fifth Street about 1860. West of Walker Road, and parallel, were Fourth, Third and Second Streets (Monmouth, Argyle, and Devonshire). The east-west streets were Sandwich (Riverside), on the riverfront, with Assumption, Brant, Wyandotte and Tuscarora Streets parallel and south of Sandwich Street.
Hiram Walker realized the value of pavements and other public improvements. By 1890, when it was incorporated into a town and Windsor was floundering in the mud,“Walkerville was in the enjoyment of advanced civic conditions, with its cool boulevards, well-kept pavements, adequate sewers, street lighting, gas, waterworks, and all the other comforts that pertains to metropolitan existence.”
If you pay special attention, you can still find “First”, “Second”, “Third” and “Fourth” and “Fifth” Street engraved in the sidewalks in the northern areas of Olde Walkerville just north and south of Wyandotte Street. These streets were later given more distinguished sounding British names. I can’t find the reference but I believe Hiram’s wife Mary had a hand in that and they would have been renamed before her death in 1870.
Former street names for Richmond and Chilver can also be tracked down: “Huron” is stamped in at least two corners – Richmond at Chilver, and then one block west at Windermere. “Victoria” can be found in the older north end of Chilver near Wyandotte. “Victoria” was changed to “Chilver” after 1935 when Walkerville was amalgamated with Windsor to prevent confusion with Windsor’s Victoria Avenue. Chilver was actually called “Susan” even earlier in its history after the mother of the road’s developer, Charles Chilver. A dug up chunk of pavement bearing that name used to rest beside the fence of the Victoria Tavern’s backyard on Chilver at Brant. I took a photo of it about ten years ago and someday I hope I can locate it in our archives.
As you can see from the photo above, the city of Windsor saved this historic chunk of sidewalk when they upgraded the corner of Tuscarora near Wyandotte Street a year or two ago. The incorporation of the old street engravings was done on all the corners of several blocks that received cutouts for wheelchairs. Unfortunately, not all the incorporations of the old sidewalk remnants was successful as evident by this blank slab.
Did the road workers not realize their mistake until it was too late or did they not care? Sadly, there are several other corners where this mistake was duplicated.
Somehow I doubt that Hiram Walker would have ever allowed this to happen.
Many photos of the early days of Walkerville are featured in our latest local history book, “Windsor Then”.