Old Seneca Village Walking Tour
This tour will take you to some historic sites of the 1800s, 1900s, and of more recent times. Some are visible and some are left to your imagination. Taking the time to walk through Caledonia gives you the opportunity to picture our community in the era of the Grand River Navigation Co., as you get to know and appreciate the history of Caledonia. Time frames for our walking tours are only suggestions, take as long or as little as you'd like! Enjoy!
Starting Location: At the Edinburgh Square Heritage and Cultural Centre: 80 Caithness Street East.
Suggested length of tour: 1 hour
Built in 1857 as the Town Hall, this building is of Victorian design. At one time the town constable's residence was on the first floor along with the Council Chambers. A jail and meat market were in the basement. The second floor public meeting hall provided a platform for politicians, Chautauqua Shows and other travelling performers.
Today, the second floor houses the Gillespie Clark Research Library where Caledonia historical family documents, the 140 year old Grand River Sachem newspaper files and other historical data of the community are kept for public use. A meeting room for small community gatherings is also on this floor. The Rotary Club meets here every Tuesday at noon.
Office, washrooms, and community displays are set up on the main floor. The building’s architect was John Turner of Brantford.
In 1981 renovations commenced and in 1988 the old town hall opened as a Cultural and Heritage Centre. Take a look at the Cupola. It is an exact replica of the original cupola, lifted to the rooftop during a colourful ceremony in September, 1983.
Edinburgh Square is the only square left in Caledonia which at one time had five squares. (see 1879 circa map for other square locations) Lawnbowlers can be seen often during the summer months. Those killed in WWI and WWII are honoured by large crowds each year on Remembrance Day at the War Monument.
At the east corner of Edinburgh Square (across the street) and Caithness St., running almost to Sutherland St. is the location of the one-time Scott Foundry Iron Works from the 1850's to 1890's. During its day farm implements, stoves for homes, cutting boxes, road scrapers, gearing for waterpower, water wheels, threshing machines etc. were manufactured here. The steel arches for the 1875 Caledonia bridge (went down in 1925) were also cast in the Foundry.
Follow Caithness St. to the Fairgrounds where the 140+ year old Caledonia Fair is held the last weekend in September every year. The Caledonia Old Arena is used as the Exhibition Hall during the Fair. The Caledonia Fairgrounds was purchased in 1878 but for five years before that Caledonia Fair was held at Edinburgh Square.
Once you climb the hill, you are entering old Seneca Village. You will eventually come to Seneca Park. Be sure to take a look at the designated heritage iron bridge, a bridge without use today. Built in 1912 by Melvin Runchey, it was used on the former River Road until 1950. It is one of few remaining linerod steel bridges in the area.
The village of Seneca, first developed in about 1834, predates Caledonia. With Caledonia development commencing in 1840's, Seneca Village not many years later ceased to exist as a village. Lock No. 4, dam, canal and a bridge to South Seneca Village were here during the Grand River Navigation days. A saw mill on both sides of the river, a grist mill on Black Creek (running north), a school, a Methodist Church, and homes in the area of King William, Winniett and Onondaga Streets were all part of this one-time village.
Bridge St. ran to the north and at one time Hamilton St. ran along the river bank. The home at 17 Seneca St. with a picket fence in front is an original Seneca Village home where a Grand River Navigation Company worker once lived.
The Methodist Cemetery is visible from King William St.at the very north of Tuscarora St. While you're in the area, take a walk through the old cemetery, it is the oldest cemetery in Caledonia. Some of those people working on the Grand River Navigation System's Lock No. 4 at Seneca Village are buried in this cemetery.
On your way back be sure to note Winniett and Onondaga Streets. There are a few homes still left of those early days.
502 Caithness Street East
On Seneca Hill was a Seneca Village home where James Little lived at one time, conducted post office business, a customs office, and carried out his duties as secretary of the Grand River Navigation Company. It was also an inn.
446 Caithness Street East
Was the old parsonage of the Seneca Village Methodist Church.
Grace United Church
In 1996, this Church became a 150 year old congregation, a culmination of Seneca Village Methodist Church and Grace United Church. In 1925 when union of the Presbyterian and United Churches was a factor, Rev. Neil McKinnon walked with two thirds of his congregation from the Argyle St. Presbyterian Church to join with the Grace United Church on Union Sunday.
Smith House- 156 Caithness St. E.
Observe this beautiful old century home at 156 Caithness St. E. with a circular drive. It is one of the first large homes built in Caledonia built about 1850 by Neil McKinnon, a nephew of Caledonia's founder Ranald McKinnon. Dr. Forbes once lived in this house. His locked drug cupboard with its secret compartment is still in the room once used as an office by Dr. Forbes. Note the cucumber tree in front.
The Regency Apartments
The Regency Apartments and lower level professional offices stand today on the Caithness St. E. south side property which was either the site of another foundry, the Regent Theatre, a school, or an apple processing plant at one time.
The Stucco House - 46 Caithness St. E.
This house at 46 Caithness St. E. has been in the Jones family since about 1910. The stucco is visible only on the front facade, and is covered by siding on the rest of the building. Hugh and Debbie Jones (Jones Bakery) and their family own the home today.
Hugh and Debbie Jones also own Jones Bakery, just around the corner on Argyle St. N. Stop in for a visit as you walk by this old fashioned bakery, the oldest family business in Caledonia (since 1904).