South Side 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: Ron Clark Memorial Riverwalk entrance (foot of bridge, beside Scotiabank).
Suggested length of tour: 1 hour
Caledonia's landmark bridge links the south side community with the north. At one time the south side was nicknamed 'Brooklyn.' The concrete name span bridge is known to be the only one of its type in Canada.
Built in 1927, it is the third bridge to span the Grand River at this particular location. The first one was built in 1842 just before the Plank Road from Hamilton to Port Dover was built in 1844. The second bridge with six cast iron spans was manufactured at the Scott Foundry in Caledonia and was built in 1875. It collapsed at 3pm Monday, August 24th, 1925 when a truck, driver and span, dropped into the river with such a bang that it 'woke the town.' The truck driver immediately jumped out to rescue a boy who had disappeared with the fallen sidewalk. Twenty children swimming in the water under the fourth pier were uninjured too. The span was temporarily repaired, and on September 30th the bridge was re-opened.
This old bridge was demolished and a temporary bridge was built while in the summer of 1927 the current nine-span concrete bridge was built in a record 140 days.
The Ramsay walk was completed in the year 2000. It boasts a beautiful park area and paved walking path which winds along the riverbank towards the Caledonia Mill. At the end of the bridge, turn right onto Forfar Street West to take the Ramsay walk towards the Caledonia Mill. The Ramsay walk features heritage lighting.
The Caledonia Mill was a reminder of the industrial past and early development of Caledonia. The Mill was built in around 1846 by Irish Immigrant, James Little. Known then as Balmoral Mills, the flour it produced was top-notch. After several ownership changes, the Mill was eventually purchased by Scott Brothers, a firm of brothers and relatives who would go on to form The Caledonia Milling Co. Ltd. in 1892. The Caledonia Milling Co. shipped flour as far as Glasgow, Scotland, and carried brands like: Peerless and Perfection Pastry Flour, Clover Leaf, Bridal Veil, Golden Crown, and Manitoba Hard Elect. In 1964 the Milling Co. surrendered its charter and the Mill was sold. The Mill was demolished in 2018 and a near-replica built in it's place.
On your way back you might take note of the fact that this was once a busy roadway to farm traffic taking goods to the Mill. About mid-way down the street was the site of a pop (soda) factory, then called mineral water. Mr. Clark, better known as 'Pop,' delivered his beverage by horse and buggy to the hotels in town beginning in 1879. Following his death, next door neighbour Mr. Harris inherited the name 'Pop' and continued selling the product.
Haldimand House & Oasis Drive-In
Haldimand House and The Oasis are a lively spot these days, with a history unequal to any other. Chris Leousis is putting life back into this former hotel built around 1836 by James Little. As a Stagecoach Inn, Haldimand House received the first licence on the Halidmand Registry in 1842. William Lyon Mackenzie used Haldimand House as his campaign headquarters when he was running for election in Haldimand County in 1851. After a period as a boarding house during the two World Wars, Haldimand House was divided into apartments by its owners, the Richardson family. In 1991 Leousis obtained the historic building and has converted it into an antique shoppe. Take a break from your walk and enjoy some refreshments at The Oasis: Canada's oldest drive-in restaurant, opened in 1927 by the Richardson family. A plaque on the building outlines the history of the restaurant formerly called 'Cone Cottage Refreshments.' Enjoy the old-fashioned music and atmosphere surrounding this historic property before you resume your walk.
The Forster House- 20 Wigton Street
At 20 Wigton Street, the Forster House was owned by Fred Forster from 1921 to 1963. Claimed to be the first and oldest brick house built in Caledonia, this old home was built prior to 1850. It was renovated in 1963 to restore its full original beauty inside and out by Bruce Lockhardt.
The Leach House- 92 Wigton Street
92 Wigton Street was home to six generations of the Leach family. A letter was sent by James Little to Mr. George Leach in 1851 telling him to go ahead with the house. Grandpa Leach drowned in the cistern of the barn at 100 Wigton street next door which was used to soak lime for masonry. Brick work on homes in Caledonia was continued by generations of the Leach family.
Caledonia's cemetery is as scenic as it is a serene resting place for many Caledonians. Its stones and monuments tell as much about the community as any document.
You might want to take the third laneway leading into the cemetery from Wigton Street. The monument for Ranald McKinnon, founder of Caledonia, stands on a hill in this old centre section (between second and third laneway).
Take particular notice of the Docksteder monument as you walk along the pathway from the third entrance to the second. The monument is 18 feet high with a life-size statue of the Virgin Mary. The statue was imported from Italy while the granite shaft and pillars came from England. The monument was created to serve the whole family who founded Mount Healy. The monument was moved to Caledonia in 1962 from Mount Healy and is said to be second to none in the province for beauty and permanency. Continue walking towards Renfrew Street side entrance.
The black iron fence around the cemetery is the result of contributions from residents and businesses in 2000, all named on a plaque as you walk toward the entrance. The old concrete fence was installed in 1923.
Walk along Renfrew Street to Berwick Street. Turn left and walk along the beautiful Grand River on Forfar Street East which will take you back to the bridge. You will see some beautiful residential homes along this Patterson walkway route
Nicholas Property- 106 Berwick Street
106 Berwick Street was deeded to Thomas Nicholas in 1835. It was in the Nicholas family until the 1920s. Market Gardening on the rich sandy loam soil provided good business for a few generations of the family and subsequent owners. There is still a garden.
Caledonia High School
This was once the only high school in the area. Built in 1924, Caledonia High School remained until 1992 when the new McKinnon Park Secondary School (MPSS) was opened on the corner of Haddington Street and the McKenzie Road. The first principal (and principal for over 30 years) at Caledonia High School was Mr. T.J. Hicks, a very strict man who presided over students and staff alike.
The School was renamed River Heights and opened to elementary school students in 1993 after a year of conversion from the old high school. Notice the additions to the original section of the school: 1959, 1992, 1999, and 2014.
There were once gates to enter the school property from Argyle Street at Wigton street, but these have long since been removed.
Last on the tour is the Oasis Parkette, a part of the Downtown Caledonia Revitalization in 2012. Halidmand Horticultural Society members are active in maintaining these beautiful gardens: a great place for a serene break by the River.