Walkerville Walking Tour
The former Town of Walkerville was founded by Hiram Walker in 1858. The New England-born distiller bought two French farms on the south shore of the Detroit River, and the growth of his industry and the town it supported continued for seven decades.
Railroads played an important part in Walkerville’s history. First, the Great Western’s extension to Windsor in 1854, then the Lake Erie Essex & Detroit River Railroad, which connected Walkerville with lakeshore towns and farms. The availability of rail transportation attracted other industrial enterprises to the area, and brought great prosperity to the Walker family and their town.
All of the community’s amenities were provided by Walker – a fire brigade and police, streetlights, sewers, paved roads and sidewalks, parks, a music hall, a school, library and church.
The Second Phase – An Edwardian Town on the Garden City Plan
- While Hiram Walker’s original developments concentrated mainly on the business/commercial areas of town, his sons’ residential neighbourhood continued to grow until the City of Windsor annexed the town in 1935.
- By 1901 the Walkers sold their expanded Lake Erie & Detroit River Railway and used the funds to develop their land between Wyandotte and Richmond Streets. The interrupted street pattern reduced the traffic, keeping the park-like setting quiet, and the Walkers used this feature to promote a fine residential neighbourhood focused around St. Mary’s Church and Willistead. Since lots were sold only to those who could build homes of at least 350 square feet, the substantial character of the neighbourhood was guaranteed.
- Every home Albert Kahn designed shows Arts and Crafts influence. Kahn believed that historic period styles were best suited to homes and public institutions, while factories should be utilitarian, brightly illuminated and devoid of ornament. By the 1920s many architects believed that the simplicity of factories should be models for all types of construction.
- Except for some changes since the amalgamation, most of this Walker-built town still survives. If conservation persists, this planned, century old, self-sufficient town will be a cultural treasure for Windsor and North America.
Tour participants are reminded that many of the properties herein are private residences, and should be viewed with discretion.
Starting Point: Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. – 2072 Riverside Dr. E., Windsor