Cultural & Historic Resources

(Excerpt from the Cootes to Escarpment Park System Phase I Background Report.)


The federal government, through Parks Canada, has a program to recognize nationally significant places, persons, and events in Canadian history. Burlington Heights was designated in 1929 as a place recognized as a battle site during the War of 1812. In 1813, it was a strong point of reserve and depot arms for the defense of the Niagara Peninsula and for support of the Navy on Lake Ontario. Dundurn Castle was recognized as it incorporates an old farmhouse, classical and Italianate motifs, and French windows in what is considered a fine example of the Picturesque movement in Canadian architecture. Built between 1832 and 1835, it was the villa of Sir Allan Napier Macnab, former Premier of the Province of Canada from 1854-1856. MacNab is recognized as an influential politician, business man, land speculator, and soldier. He was lawyer appointed as Upper Canada’s first Queen’s Counsel. The Royal Botanical Gardens was designated in 1993 as an important teaching and research garden and conservation area.


The Ontario Heritage Trust has a similar recognition program for the Province. Dundurn Castle is also recognized by the Province as is McMaster University, the Desjardins Canal and James Crook’s paper mill on Spencer Creek as the first paper mill in Upper Canada. Sir John Harvey is recognized for leading a contingent of 700 men from Burlington Heights in a surprise attack against an invading force of 3000 American troops camped at Stoney Creek. The successful rout is generally considered to be a turning point in the War of 1812. Thomas Baker McQueston is recognized for his work with the Hamilton Board of Parks Management, as Minister of Highways and Chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission and his devotion to the creation of parks and numerous beautification projects.

City of Hamilton

Within the City of Hamilton the following is an overview of the protected heritage resources within the study area (information compiled by Meghan House, Nov. 1/07).

1) Dundas

Within Dundas, Cross-Melville Heritage Conservation District was designated under the by the former Town of Dundas in 1988 and is comprised of the properties located on the west and east side of Sydenham Street between Victoria and Melville Streets; the north and south sides of both Victoria Street and Melville Street between Sydenham and Cross Streets; and the west and east sides of Cross Street between Alma Street East and Park Street West.

This primarily residential area includes well-preserved mid- to late-nineteenth century homes, ranging from modest vernacular cottages to grand estate homes. Architectural styles range from Italianate and Queen Anne in the earlier periods to ranch and split level styles in the post-war era. The district also includes three churches, including St. Paul’s United Church, Knox Presbyterian Church, and St. Augustine’s Catholic Church.

Properties designated individually under the Ontario Heritage Act include:

  • Worker’s Cottage (built 1853) - 7 Cross Street
  • Chapman’s Book/Victoria Hall (ca. 1840s) - 11 Cross Street
  • Platt Nash Family Home (ca. 1840s) - 22 Cross Street
  • Former Mayor Thomas Wilson House (built 1859) - 39 Elgin Street
  • Laing Apartments (built 1882) - 13-17 King Street West
  • Dundas Town Hall (built 1849) - 60 Main Street
  • Walter Chisholm/Laing Home (built 1959) - 15 Park Street East
  • Original Hatt Property (built 1833) - 30 York Street
  • Grove Cemetery Cottage (built 1875) - 129 York Road

2) Waterdown and Surrounding Area

The Mill Street Heritage Conservation District was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1996 by the former Town of Flamborough. The District is located in the traditional village centre of Waterdown and includes the north and south sides of Mill Street between Elgin Street and Sealy Park; the west and east sides of John Street East between Mill and Main Streets; Griffin Street; and Union Street. The area protected by the heritage designation comprises 130 properties, including a portion of the traditional commercial area, a large residential area, several churches and a cemetery. Most of its buildings date back to the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century and represent a variety of architectural styles, with the predominant character of these buildings being modest vernacular construction with some Gothic Revival and Italianate embellishment. Setbacks, lot sizes, and other landscape features vary, illustrating the area’s evolution over a long period of time.

Properties designated individually under the Ontario Heritage Act or subject to an easement held by the Ontario Heritage Trust (referred to as OHT), include:

  • Former East Flamborough Township Hall (built 1857) – 25 Mill Street North
  • Pearson Home (Avonsyde Dairy) (built 1857) – 493 Dundas Street East
  • Waterdown Memorial Hall (built 1922) – 317 Dundas Street East
  • Former Waterdown Post Office (OHT easement only, built 1857) – 31 Main Street South

3) Original City of Hamilton

The Cootes to Escarpment area includes two distinct areas of the former City of Hamilton, including the Burlington Heights area and the Westdale area.

a) Burlington Heights Area

The northwest entrance to the city of Hamilton, an area known as Burlington Heights, includes some of the City’s most significant heritage resources. Burlington Heights is an area situated at the westerly end of Burlington Bay which, likely due to its elevated topography and access to a large water body, has a long history of both pre-historic aboriginal and early Euro-Canadian settlement and occupation. Historical features of this area include: York Boulevard, the original road from Hamilton to York (Toronto); historical associations with the War of 1812 and remnants of defensive ramparts and earthworks; the Hamilton Cemetery, the oldest municipal cemetery in Hamilton; the entrance to the Desjardins Canal; and, the Dundurn Castle National Historic Site of Canada, former estate home of Sir Allan MacNab.

Properties designated individually under the Ontario Heritage Act include:

  • Castle Dean - 233-235 Locke Street North
  • St. George’s Anglican Church/Sunday School - 137 Strathcona Avenue North
  • Gardener’s Cottage - 25 Tecumseh Street
  • Dundurn Castle and Park - 600-610 York Boulevard
  • Hamilton Cemetery Gatehouse - 777 York Boulevard
  • Thomas B. McQuesten High Level Bridge - York Boulevard over the former Desjardins Canal
b) Westdale area

The area known as Westdale is located to the west of Highway 403 and east of the former Town of Dundas. This area comprises a number of cultural heritage landscapes, including the original Westdale neighbourhood which was one of Canada’s first planned communities, with initial development in the 1920s; the historic portion of McMaster University, built in the 1930s; an area of Veterans' housing; and, another early suburban area known as the Burke Survey. The McMaster University Historic Core is subject to an Intention to Designate under the Ontario Heritage Act, therefore the property is under the protection of the Act, but is not officially designated.

4) Prehistoric Context and Archaeological Potential

There is a long chronology of continuous aboriginal and early Euro-Canadian occupation in the Cootes to Escarpment area. Prehistoric aboriginal cultures in this area include Paleo-Indian, Archaic and Woodland, dating back from approximately twelve-thousand years before present to historic aboriginal and Euro-Canadian occupations. The Head-of-the-Lake area has been a popular location for settlement for the same reasons across all cultures, including proximity to water, temperate climate, areas of elevated topography, plentiful subsistence resources, and rich soils.

Late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century settlement is evident along transportation corridors, focused on what are now York Boulevard and King Street West in Hamilton, King Street East in Dundas, and Dundas Street East (Highway 5) in Waterdown, as well as farmsteads, churches, cemeteries and schools generally located along the original concession and side roads throughout the entire area. There is also a border of initial historic occupation and activity along the original shoreline of Burlington Bay and the Hamilton Harbour area.

There are at least fifty registered archaeological sites within the Cootes to Escarpment area, other “known” archaeological sites and numerous areas of archaeological potential. These registered and known archaeological sites range from aboriginal campsites and villages to historic trading posts and wharves, estates, military encampments and pioneer cabins.

The sequence of early historic settlement and urbanization in the area has had significant effects on the archaeological potential of the area. Areas of early urbanization have undoubtedly resulted in the loss of archaeological resources. However, lands developed prior to the 1950s generally have little disturbance outside of rights-of-way and building footprints, resulting in areas of archaeological potential outside of these disturbances, typically in back-yards. There are also substantial areas of greenspace and agricultural lands where lower degrees of disturbance have occurred and where buried archaeological resources may be undisturbed or been capped by fill. As a result, there is potential for both prehistoric and historic archaeology throughout this area.

City of Burlington

The City of Burlington has recorded information on close to 40 buildings north of Hwy 403 in the Cootes to Escarpment area and many south of the highway. It has designated buildings at the Royal Botanical Gardens and LaSalle Park under the Ontario Heritage Act.

  • bruce trail
  • city of burlington
  • Conservation Halton
  • Halton Region
  • City of Hamilton
  • Hamilton Conservation Authority
  • hamilton harbour
  • Hamilton Naturalists' club
  • McMaster
  • RBG

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