Windows On the Past

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A series of illustrations by local artist Don Munz have gone up in storefront windows on Prescott Street and Clothier Street in Kemptville as part of the Canada 150 festivities.

Prescott Street Bridge, 1928 – 1961

In the early days of Kemptville the main settlement was on the north side of the South Branch of the Rideau, but settlers and travellers still had to get across the, sometimes raging, river. During the spring, when the water in the river was running fast, enterprising citizens charged one penny to ferry people across. At other times of the year squared off logs, lashed together, sufficed as a reasonably safe method of passage for people and animals, and might have been an extension of a “Corduroy Road” running south from the river.

A squared timber structure, wide enough for a team of horses or a yoke of oxen, replaced the logs, and this structure, much repaired, survived until 1885 when an iron bridge, complete with plank walks was erected. This bridge survived until 1928 when the first concrete bridge was erected and that bridge was replaced in 1961 with the bridge you see today.

Kemptville Post Office, 1915-1970

Designed by the Dominion Architect, David Ewart, the Post Office opened in 1915. It stood on the corner of Reuben and Prescott Streets in an area that had been decimated by the great Kemptville fire of 1872. Prior to the Post Office being erected, it had been the site of the first library in Kemptville and the site of John Magee’s tailor shop. Following World War 1, the War Memorial was erected there also. In 1970, the Post Office was demolished and the War Memorial moved down Prescott Street to the High School.

The Empress Theatre Kemptville

The Empress Theatre stood on Reuben Street where the modern Post Office now stands. The moving picture house stood on this spot from ca. 1921 to 1929 when it was closed and the building became a law office. In 1949 Vincent Kelly purchased the property and for the next ten years ran a movie house here. It closed in 1959 and was renovated into storage space until it was demolished to make way for the current Post Office.

Kemptville Agricultural College, 1920

The Kemptville Agricultural College was established in 1917 with the purchase of two farms. It became a well-respected place of learning offering programs in agriculture, horticulture, heavy equipment and equine studies. In 1997 the school became affiliated with the University of Guelph and in 2007 celebrated its integration into the University. In 2014 the University of Guelph announced that the Kemptville campus would close, and in 2015, the campus was taken over by the Township of North Grenville. Plans are underway to open two schools on the former agricultural site, so that once again it will become a vibrant place of learning.

Waldron’s Store, Bishop’s Mills

Moses Waldron was born in Lachute, Lower Canada, in 1827. As a young man he moved to London Ontario to work in the lumber business. In 1860 he and his family settled in Bishop’s Mills where he built this store. He died in 1879. Over the next 150 years the General Store, which in 1878 also became the Post Office, continued to successfully operate under several owners.

Kemptville Citizens Band, 1922

Kemptville Citizens band dates back to the 1860s when Mr. Robert Beddingfield was the organizer and bandmaster. Little is recorded about the band’s first 40 years, and the band was inactive from the time of the Boer War through World War I. In January 1921, with a donation of $500 from the Women’s Institute and a further $1,500 raised by popular subscription, the Kemptville Citizens Band was brought back to life. Mr. Findlayson of Smith Falls, who had the reputation of being one of the best band-leaders in Eastern Ontario was engaged to purchase new instruments and to teach the band members how to play them.

The “Ottawan” Steamer on the South Branch of the Rideau

Almost as soon as the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832, steamboats and barges were using the waterway as an easy method of transporting goods, livestock and people from Kingston to Ottawa and then onward to Montreal. Once a week a steamer would travel down the South Branch of the Rideau, it would stop at Clothier’s wharf at Bridge Street to pick up lumber, then proceed through the swing bridge and travel on to a wharf at Prescott Street.

Kemptville CPR Station

The first railway to reach Kemptville was the Prescott and Bytown Railway in 1854. The railway was built by a company owned by Robert Bell of Ottawa with several residents of Kemptville investing in this new mode of transportation. Only 53 miles in length, the railway brought new prosperity to the Kemptville area, offering residents a faster method of getting their products to market in Ottawa. In 1884 the Canadian Pacific Railway took over the Prescott and Bytown Railway and eventually built a new line through Kemptville with the station being situated on Wellington Street next to Clotheir’s Mill and wharf on Bridge Street. The station closed in 1969.

First Store in Kemptville. 1829

Levi S. Church opened the first store in Kemptville in the late 1820s. The first Post Office also operated from this store. Mr. Church also operated an ashery from which he produced potash on the bank of the river, a little east of the intersection of Clothier and Prescott Streets. The current Clothier Street position of the store is occupied by O’Heaphy’s pub and restaurant.

Maplewood School, Oxford Mills

Oxford-on-Rideau School Section #8 was opened in 1875. Following the closure of the “One-room schoolhouses” in 1964, the building was purchased by the Township and operated as a school for pupils with learning disabilities until 1983. A branch of the local library was then moved into half of the building with the other half being used as a Community Hall. It was designated historic under Section IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1991, completely renovated in 2001, and is still in use as a Community Hall.

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