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The Valley Town

Dundas (1780 - 2007)

Archeological evidence suggests that First Nations peoples may have inhabited the Dundas area as early as 9,000 BC (Miller, Bucovetsky p. 114) The first European records of Hamilton date from 1616 when Etienne Brûlé, an adventurer and traveler, noted perhaps 40,000 people whom he called "Neutrals" living in the Burlington Bay area. Samuel de Champlain made note of the same people a few years later while passing through.

Europeans brought new diseases with them, and this, coupled with plague and famine, weakened the native populace in the mid-17th century. In addition, the New York Iroquois attacked and dispersed the dwindling group in 1650. By the end of the century they had either died or dispersed.

The Dundas region came under the control of the British in 1759 after the fall of Quebec. Shortly thereafter, Loyalists started to arrive and colonize the area as "authorized squatters". They were encouraged to develop parcels of the unsurveyed land with the understanding that they would receive grants for the land when the surveys were completed.

The first settler was the Widow Morden who began a homestead on a creek leading into a marsh at the western most end of Lake Ontario which is now known as Cootes Paradise. Many homesteads were built in Dundas, Hamilton and, later, Toronto on similar creeks as land access was much more difficult than water access. The original travel routes for the early settlers, not surprisingly, were mapped out along the Indian portage routes.

Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe arrived in Upper Canada in 1792 with ambitious plans for organizing the new province into a strong British colony that would provide a lawful and prosperous society in contrast to the rebellious Americans. The Dundas Valley was placed in the Home District, one of many district created in Ontario, as an important link in the planned inland defense system to be created by connecting Lake Simcoe, London, Kingston and York (Toronto). The proposed settlements were designed to maintain the ordered society of England with a strong aristocracy and a prevalent Anglican Church. The early architecture reflects this attitude. Simcoe's town plan, a rigid rectilinear grid ignoring both the escarpment and Spencer Creek, was disregarded by the settlers who instead made use of the water power and the protection of the "mountain." The first main road on the survey, however, was built according to plan linking Burlington Bay and London. It was called Dundas Street, but was more popularly known as the Governor's Road. A small stone building located on Dundas Street at Main Street survives from this era.

Settlers were attracted to the ready power source provided by Spencer Creek and the excellent soil. There were many applications for land and by 1799 most available plots were spoken for if not officially granted. By 1805, a cart track later known as Brock Road was opened up linking Dundas with Guelph. These two original roads are still in use today.

James Morden built the first grist and saw mill in 1799 at the crossing of Spencer Creek and the Dundas Road. In 1800 the mill was purchased by Richard Hatt who renamed it the Dundas Mill. Wheat was the major crop of the agricultural settlers in the area, and mills in both Dundas and Ancaster prospered.

By 1812 there were 200 people living in Dundas along the four main streets; Dundas (Governor's Road) Hatt, York, and Hare (later King Street). Road connections improved over the next 40 years allowing further commerce and travel. In addition, the Desjardins Canal, started by Pierre Desjardins and finished by Alexis Begue in 1837, allowed schooners and steamers into the Dundas basin making it the head of navigation for Lake Ontario shipping, connecting the produce from points west to the markets at points east and south. Lumber and flour mills flourished along with distilleries and breweries.

In 1813 James Crooks located his homestead and business above the escarpment at what is now known as Crooks Hollow. He first started a store and grist mill, then a saw-mill, general store, blacksmith's shop and other businesses to service the growing agricultural community along the escarpment. Many beautiful stone residences remain on top of the Dundas hill dating from this period. Springdale and the Kerby House are two good examples.

By 1840, Dundas was the major shipping point in the area. Manufacturing establishments moved to the downtown area closer to the shipping. Tanneries provided leather goods while paper goods, furniture and carriages were produced from local lumber. The two mainstays of Dundas manufacturing also started in this era: textiles and foundries. The Dundas Forge building (1846) dates from this period. By 1851 Dundas had a population of 3,517. The town included a post office, a registry office, a courthouse, a jail, and nine churches.

Two years later the Great Western Railway was built between Toronto and London. The rail station in Dundas was located half way up the escarpment, quite a distance from the downtown area, effectively marking the end of Dundas's golden age as a shipping center. Because the railway went through the center of Hamilton, it replaced Dundas as the major port west of Toronto.

Dundas maintained its importance as a manufacturing center after 1855. The industrial-residential area along Hatt Street and the commercial-residential area along King Street became augmented by residential areas north of King Street. Dundas was a popular area for Hamilton workers to live due to the beauty of the escarpment, the wonderful worker's cottages that were erected, and because of the omnibus system - first horse drawn, then steam, that connected Dundas with Hamilton.

The Cross Street neighborhood became the location of choice for the more prominent Dundas citizens who built substantial residences in the fashion of the time. Most homes in this area date from 1840 to 1890. Knox Presbyterian Church (1847 - rebuilt 1875) became the local parish.

In 1851 a rectangular grid was imposed on the downtown core west of Cross Street. Park, Sydenham and Melville Streets are visible on a map of that year. Other properties by Church Street were developed with triangular lots because of their proximity to the property line of the large Rolph homestead. The area on the west of Sydenham became known as the Park Neighborhood.

By the end of the century, Dundas had declined in importance as an industrial center but had gained popularity as a residential area. The Hamilton and Dundas Street Railway, implemented in 1879, helped to make Dundas a dormitory community for Hamilton.

Dundas remains an industrial and residential community. Many of the industries located along Hatt street have disappeared, but Valley City furniture manufacturing (1884) is still going strong. The worker's cottages along Hatt Street are still in great shape, and the western end of the town around Hatt Street maintains the distinctive industrial/residential feeling that distinguishes Dundas form other small towns of the time.

After 1900 Dundas developed slowly with Edwardian style houses interspersed with the older homes. After WWII, and the adoption, by most people, of the car, suburbs outside Dundas but using Dundas retail developed.

Since 1960, the town has been experiencing a population explosion. The western end of Governor's Road has been straightened out and ...

Click here for books and web pages on Dundas.

Crooks' Hollow and West Flamborough

Occasionally in history you come across an individual who is solely responsible for the development - or ruin - of an entire area. Such a person was James Crooks, a Scottish immigrant who moved to Spencer Creek in 1813.

"He then created one of the greatest industrial complexes of his time, starting with the purchase of a store and grist mill. In five years he added a saw mill, a general store, a cooperage, a blacksmith's shop, an ox-shoing stall and a carding mill. By 1822 Crooks owned the greatest manufacturing center in the Western Province." (Blyth, p.120)

Crooks' most influential project was the paper mill that supplied the new province's paper needs.

The Crooks' house was demolished in 1884, and most of the frame buildings erected during the time have also disappeared. The early architecture of Crook's Hollow is generally stone, and often either Georgian or Neo-Classical in nature.

The history of Crooks' Hollow and West Flamborough is beautifully presented in from West Flamborough's storied past.

Click Hotpoints for descriptions of terms in both text and images.

Westfield Village

This example of a Log House illustrates the basic log cabin built by the first settlers in Canada. The chimney was placed in the centre of the house so that heat could radiate in all directions. A great many of these log cabins had internal dimensions of 15' by 16' --the traditional dimensions of an English cottage. The windows are 12-pane fixed.

The log house provided the first winter's shelter, but a larger house made from either wood plank or stone replaced the log house as soon as was economically feasible. This house was originally along Hwy 99 and has been rebuilt in Westfield Village.

The Cummins House 1837- 38

Prior to the Gothic Revival Cottage, the "cottage" was the most frequently encountered residential design in Ontario.

As can be seen above, the design is not far removed from the traditional log house. The door on this building is more ornate than in the log cottage, but it is facing west. The windows on the south side of the house are large to emit the sun.

The owner of the property, Daniel Cummins, was of Scottish origin. He moved to New Jersey, then up to Flamborough in 1794.

Morden House, Rock Chapel Road 1810

The Morden family arrived in Flamborough from Pennsylvania after fighting in the American Revolution. Like other Loyalist houses, this one commands a spectacular view, in this case a look over what was to become Dundas from the very edge of the Niagara Escarpment. While it looks like a modern house, the door transom and proportions are definitely Loyalist. The interior of the house has a stone walk-in fireplace with the original metal pot crane hinges.


The subsequent owners of the Van Every house on Highway 8 in Flamborough have had both the grace and the luck to preserve over time the house and its spectacular setting. As the city of Hamilton imposes new taxes and thus new incentives to "change your yard into a cul de sac", this gem provides instant time travel back to the years before cars, seven eleven and CD ROM.

No amount of chem-lawn can provide the settled beauty of this spectacular site.




The front of the house, restored in the 1940s, is completely hidden from the road by trees while the back, shown here, overlooks a wide, gently terraced lawn descending down to a brook.

In the rear gable is a Roman arch enclosing a Venetian arch window carefully crafted in wood. Two heavy pillars support a second floor balcony. The windows are encased in heavy stone quoins, but have no other adornment. The owners have provided six over six storm windows to maintain the look of the original ones. Two dormers with segmental arches allow light into the upper floors.




The Van Every family came from the Poughkeepsie area of the Mohawk Valley in New York and fought in the American Revolution as well as being part of Butler's Rangers during the War of 1812. For their efforts they received 800 acres is East and West Flamborough upon which they built a frame house in the first decade of the nineteenth century. This house was enlarged and veneered in stone in the 1620s or 1830s. Three sets of triple chimneys show the amount and size of the fireplaces within.




The façade is composed of five bays, the central bay contains the Neoclassical front door. The door itself is a regular six panel construction often called a Christian door because the connecting panels on the top four panels create a cross.

The fanlight over the door is deeply recessed showing that the glazing is authentic, muntins radiating from a solid block hold six individual pieces of glass. Sham fanlights with metal or wooden muntins placed over a large piece of glass first started appearing during the revivals of the late nineteenth century. The muntins are less and less authentic looking in vinyl replacement windows of the 21st.




Fireplaces on the main floor of Loyalist homes were generally ornate. This one on the lower level of the house is less ornate and still has the original slate lining.

For those who appreciate older architecture, it is difficult to say whether fire or renovation does more damage to these homes. Dundas is very fortunate to have many home owners who see themselves as guardians of the house as much as owners.



Springdale 1810

This house was built in or before 1810 by Hector McKay. It was bought by Joseph Webster in 1819 and remained in his family until the twentieth century.

The front of the house is composed of dressed stone while the back is rubble. Like the others in this area, it has six over six sash windows, a wooden door with side lights and a square transom. The door surround is simple but elegant. There are large stone lintels and well preserved shutters on the windows . The austere lines of the house earned it the designation of Wilderness Georgian.


This door detail illustrates how carefully the owners have preserved the original wood. The reveals are paneled as are the door and base panels. The agraffe above the door is a simple foliage pattern. There are large quoins along the edge of the door made of the same limestone, but in larger blocks than the rest of the façade.


Crook's Mill

James Crook purchased four hundred acres of land on top of the Dundas escarpment in 1811. Within ten years he had eclipsed the growing town of Dundas by creating this mill plus a number of other mills including the province's first paper mill which began operations in 1826.

Construction of the paper mill was encouraged by the imposition of a tax on paper from the United States imposed by the British Government in 1826. Crooks Hollow was the largest industrial center in Ontario in the 1820s.

Moxley's General Store 1812 - 1820

These two lovely stone buildings have been used as commercial buildings for almost 200 years. The large gabled building was a retail outlet - general store, snack bar or Antique shop. The three gabled building was a hotel. Local stories maintain the William Lyon MacKenzie, when living in Dundas, was a frequent visitor to the hotel.

The front of the building, like many in the area, is cut stone. The back is rubble.



Kerby House 1835

The beauty of the Neo-Classical style can be seen in the detailing of the doors and windows. This detail shows the quality of craftsmanship that was available at the time.

It is interesting to note that all of this is done by hand with no electrical power either for cutting or lighting. Now that we have power tools, comfortable work places, and excellent lighting, this detailing can't be found.

Springhill 1820 - 1895

Prior to the onset of suburbs and cul-de-sacs, people created building designs that took advantage of the setting. This splendid residence has, perhaps, the most exquisite setting in all Hamilton Area, on the escarpment brow in Dundas. The house began as an unassuming cottage in the early 1810s, and remained as such until the 1890s at which time it was embellished by a belvedere, a stunning verandah, a glassed in sunroom, and an elegant entrance portico.

Historians have labeled this addition an example of the "Romanesque" style, but I'm inclined more to the Italian Villa style, popular at the time, that emphasized a central tower, mansard roof, exaggerated cornice brackets, venetian arches, and extravagant woodwork, all of which are part of this design.

Springhill Detail

This detail of the above shows the kind of workmanship available at the time.

The Italian Villa design was for wealthy clients who were well traveled. They would generally be of British decent, and would, perhaps, have made a European tour.

Records show that between 1871 and 1901 only 22 people living in Hamilton claimed to be of Italian descent. In 1871, approximately half of the population had been born in Ontario (13,969), just less than half were from the United Kingdom (10,639), about 5% were from the US (1,227) and .5% were from Germany.


Stormont 1837

This is a variation on the Neoclassical design, the addition of Classical elements to the austere Georgian simplicity. The frontispiece became a mainstay of the more ornate Italianate style of twenty years later.

This and other stone houses in the area are detailed by Nina Chapple in A Heritage of Stone


McKinlay House 1848

The central hall plan and symmetrical windows on this house are certainly Georgian in design. The recessed portico, central gable, and elliptical arch with lancet windows places this, as well, within the realm of Neoclassical The portico has four Doric columns complete with entasis. The sash windows have elegant shutters and decorative Jack arches. The roof has three sets of paired chimneys, decorated with banding. The history of this house and its owners is very well presented in from West Flamborough's storied past.


Arts and Crafts

The Flatt House in West Flamborough by William J. Walsh (1880-1952) is a charming Arts and Crafts style English cottage. This home is situated on one of the most spectacular sites along the Dundas Valley with a view across the glen to Lake Ontario. The original construction in 1820 was probably in the Regency style. Just under 100 years later, the house was renovated to add two sun porches, a second storey and an entrance portico in the A&C style.

Arts and Crafts

The built in cupboards in the dining room are in the Picturesque Gothic style. The Flatt House follows the requirements of English rural vernacular. The rooms are set out according to function, taking maximum advantage of the gorgeous site for providing views across the Niagara Escarpment and through the garden.

While small and unpretentious, this home is an oasis of charm and comfort. Like the Wychwood neighborhood in Toronto, the most famous Arts and Crafts neighbourhood in Canada, it has that ephemeral Midsummer Night's Dream quality that makes you want to stay forever. The magic dream potion would be kept in this picturesque Gothic built-in.

Downtown Before 1850

By the early 19th century the theory of Classical architecture had rigidified in England as a result of overuse with Palladian architecture. There was a strict code of rules specifying which particular branch of the Classical: Doric, Ionic or Corinthian, should be used on a particular building and what decorative features could be used. Architects had little freedom to add their own "signature" to a building. It was against this background of weariness with the Classical on the part of many architects, and a renewed interest in the medieval period, that the Gothic Revival was born.

In Dundas, as in many Canadian towns, the Classical Revival style was much used for residences as can be seen in Mount Fairview The Gothic Revival style was used in churches as a result of the writings of Ruskin and Pugin, among others, who said that the Gothic style most perfectly reflected the Northern spirit.

Prior to 1850, some large residences were found, but mostly there were small cottages.



Retail Building 1800-1812

This stone structure was built near the crossroads of the first town of Dundas by the Dundas Mill.


Mount Fairview 1847

The most striking feature of really good architecture, regardless of the style, is the attention paid to the site. Mount Fairview is a brilliant example of this.

The land for Mount Fairview was purchased from the Widow Morden in 1847. Hugh and Jane Moore then built this home on the top of Cotton Mill Hill to take advantage of the view in every direction. There are lookouts and verandahs on every side, and a promenade deck on the top level with an enclosed belvedere. The view, then and now, is spectacular.

Mount Fairview 1847

Mount Fairview is built in the Classical Revival or Greek Revival style. The enormous giant order Ionic columns across the front have scroll capitals with front and back volutes and an egg and dart echinus.

The entablature has discreet dentils and a plain architrave. The cornice is nicely proportioned.

The white columns are beautifully restored and shown to great advantage in front of a soft ochre background.

Glencairn and Willowbank in Queenston have similar giant order, front columns with a second floor balcony. (soon to be on the Classical Revival page)

Mount Fairview 1847

Skill without fanfare is the fashion statement of the front hallway.

Cross Street Neighborhood

The area north of King Street in Dundas was the first exclusively residential area of Dundas, and was the home of the well-to-do. The driving park was originally intended for the promenade of horse carriages, much like Hyde Park in London.

The Rolph estate took up much of the neighborhood and was slowly divided. Prior to 1951, the Coleman (demolished), MacKenzie, Beque and Notman estates were the only large houses in the area. A few smaller cottages date from this time as well.

One draw of the Cross neighborhood was that it was within easy walking distance from the downtown core where many people had businesses, and the escarpment and the Spencer creek basin protected them from easy access from the outside.

After 1851 this neighborhood grew quite consistently with Italianate and Victorian houses as well as several churches.

Gothic Revival Cottage

The Gothic Revival Cottage was the most prevalent residential design in all of Ontario prior to the 1950s. Generally speaking, the GRC belonged to the farmer who owned the land, the design for the cottage was written up in Canadian Farmer magazine in 1865. This cottage has a segmental arch in the window within the gable. It is finished in local limestone, but not with the same finish as the more stately manors in the escarpment. This limestone is in irregular pieces and has been re-pointed many times prior over the years.


This Regency cottage in Dundas is made of local limestone with an ashlar finish: all stones are carefully finished to provide a smooth surface. It has the low pitched roof and expansive rectangular floor plan typical of Regency design.

The large covered verandah has been replaced by a terrace that surrounds the building. The symmetrical French doors are prominent, and the entrance door is ornate with Ionic pilasters, a transom, and side lights. This is understated elegance at its finest.


The first floor of this house is similar to the Regency design above with tall windows and a central plan. The stonework is different, not ashlar, and there is no verandah or terrace.

The Mansard roof, indicating a French influence, was added later to replace a Mansard roof that was more traditional. The dormers are in a Neoclassical style instead of rounded. The iron cresting over the doorway may once have been a balcony. The original roof can be seen in Pictorial Dundas.


This is a Victorian mansion from the 1880s - 1890s. The wood detailing is extraordinarily fine both in the gables and on the verandah and porch. The verandah is only five years old and has been constructed with great sensitivity to the original style.

The woodworking on this building is in the Gothic style. On all gables there is a king post, even on the small gable on the porch. On both sides of the roof there is verge boarding. This decorative woodwork, often referred to as gingerbread, was originally used to protect the ends of the roof members that were exposed to the elements.


Victorian 1890s

This Victorian also has fine woodworking in the gabling. When built, there was probably also a fine front porch.

While both Victorian, these two houses are very different.

Both houses are built with red brick. Both have fairly simple window treatments, and both have a bay window. The major difference is in the wood detailing. On the house above, the gables are very large and are all treated with a Gothic style of wood trim. On this house, the gables are very small. The house has a large cornice and the wood trim is in a 'sunburst' pattern. The vergeboarding is not lacey but solid and relatively sturdy.

Maple Lawn 1896

The porch on Maple Lawn is beautifully restored and maintained. It is an Italianate design, slightly different than the rest on the block, with a central hall plan, paired windows, and large cornice brackets.

The woodworking, however, is more in the tradition of Gothic Revival. It is solid, substantial, full of quatrefoils and multifoils, and quite well suited to the substantial structure of the building. Like the Victorian above, the gable wood trim is not lacey but solid as in the one above.

Cottage 1840s - added to in 1870s

There are quite a few cottages in the Cross Neighborhood worthy of note. They tend to be larger and more ornate than similar cottages on Hatt and Witherspoon Streets. This one has a lovely finial over the front door and accolades over the windows.

Window Detail

Accolades were often used in the middle ages and the Renaissance to adorn window and door lintels. They are two ogee curves that meet together to form a point over the door.

In Ontario architecture, the accolade is most frequently made of wood.

Walnut Cottage

Home of T.H.A. Begue, Walnut Cottage once had a large encompassing verandah.


This is slightly outside the Cross neighborhood, strictly speaking, but is a similarly well designed and well cared for cottage, probably a workman's cottage.

Col. Notman's House 1846

Cut stone is used on the veneer of this three bay Classical Revival. The hip roof is ornamented with dentil blocks along the sill. There are also concrete sills on the windows. The original four over 4 sash windows have been covered by aluminum outside windows.

The arrangement of all the features is formal and solid. The application of the details follows academic rules that evolved through the Palladian Classicism practiced in England and in the United States during the 18th century. The result is a sturdy, impressive building made from vernacular materials that, after over 100 years, remains dignified.

Classical Revival

The Classical Revival differs from the Neoclassical in that it tries to imitate certain architectural features of the Classical period rather than simply apply Classical detailing to a Georgian façade.

The Greek portico is a translation into stone of wooden construction methods that may have been used for centuries. The dentils used to ornament most Ionic entablatures are translated from the wooden roof purlins used above the ceiling joists and below the main roof deck. The triglyphs represent the built up wooden members that provided the ceiling joists. The metopes would have been decorative terracotta finishes inserted between the ceiling rafters to prevent wind and rodent entry into the building.

Notman Detail

Cut stone is used on the veneer of this three bay house in Dundas. The hip roof is ornamented with dentil blocks along the sill. There are also concrete sills on the windows. The original four over 4 sash windows have been covered by aluminum outside windows.

The arrangement of all the features is formal and solid. The application of the details follows academic rules that evolved through the Palladian Classicism practiced in England and in the United States during the 18th century. The result is a sturdy, impressive building made from vernacular materials that, after over 100 years, remains dignified.


Octagon houses were much more prevalent in the 19th century and were often built for religious reasons. This is the only Octagonal house that I have seen that is raised on a central structure then cantilevered out.


Parkside High School 1959

Designed by the great and wonderful Lloyd Kyles. This won an award for the most innovative structural design in Ontario in 1959. Precast concrete structure. The outside walls and spandrels were precast reinforced concrete sections with marble chips inserted in the precasting, Kyles' original idea. The reversed arch concrete roof was poured in place - in situ.

Park Neighborhood

The Park neighbourhood is a rich and varied assortment of houses. There are industrial buildings dating from the mid-ninteenth century, workman's cottages, and very fine large homes along the same stretch of road.

As Dundas followed Greensville as a manufacturing center, farm produce and lumber were closely followed by textiles and metal goods as exported items. Growing prosperity resulted in a diverse range of architecture, including Italianate masterpieces,

quaint worker's cottages, sturdy Georgian homes, and glorious Gothic Revivals, Classical Revivals and extraordinary Second Empire. Dundas presents one of the most well preserved town centres in the province. It simply cannot sprawl. What is remarkable in Dundas, as Angelo from Adventure Attic pointed out, is that it is one of the few places "where professors, doctors and lawyers live happily beside factory workers." This is the Park neighbourhood.

Dundas Forge 1846

Foundries in Dundas produced engines, pumps, agricultural machinery and implements, screws and other ironware.

This building has segmental arches over the windows, but is largely of a Georgian design: regular bays, simple sills, and a lack of ornament.

Witherspoon Cottage Park Neighborhood

Witherspoon had the property?

Miss Witherspoon, the daughter, built five of these cottages in 1870??. The first year it was rented out there were nine adults living in the house - before running water or indoor toilets.

This cottage retains the original porch, front door, and exterior finish. The tress have grown around the house as it nestles into the side of the escarpment.

Witherspoon Cottage Park Neighborhood

This Regency cottage in Dundas is made of local limestone with an ashlar finish: all stones are carefully finished to provide a smooth surface. It has the low pitched roof and expansive rectangular floor plan typical of Regency design.

Instead of a large covered verandah, there is a wide terrace that surrounds the building. The symmetrical French doors are prominent, and the entrance door is ornate with Ionic pilasters, a transom, and side lights. This is understated elegance at its finest.

Witherspoon Cottage Park Neighborhood

Two other cottages have been renovated, covered with "new" stucco complete with exaggerated quoins and fashionable keystones. The shutters and lintels nicely accent the pleasing proportions of the original cottage.


Doctor's Office Park Neighborhood

Another marvelous example of brilliant wood detailing can be seen in the Doctor's House in Dundas. The upper window is almost rounded, but it contains the set of double lancet arches from the decorated period. On the lower level, the door and window are both topped with four centered arches. The roof is topped with a finial, and the verge boarding on the roof is a Canadian classic, the "droop." Here is how Marion Macrae describes this detail in her excellent book The Ancestral Roof . "The verge boards conjure up visions of many little buttered hands happily pulling molasses taffy."

Over the top widow is a drip mould. There are lancet arches, curved four-centered arches, and wonderful sills.

King Street

This wonderful Georgian building, made from local limestone, is found on the west end of King Street. The quoins are beautifully cut, the door lintels and sills are sturdy and sure of themselves. The front door has a small but impressive pediment.

The rest of the exterior finish is in relatively rough limestone. The windows would originally have been multi-paned.

Hatt Neighborhood

Hatt Street illustrates the unique character of Dundas with mixed industrial/residential buildings. More than that, it still has the flavour of a real working Ontario town. This is the Hatt Neighborhood.

As more and more products are being produced in the Pacific rim and craftsmanship disappears over the horizon, Dundas with it's unique mixture of potters, sculptors and painters centered around the Dundas Valley School of Art and the Carnegie gallery, maintains the feeling of a working town.

Wonderful architecture enthusiasts around Ontario are trying to preserve the workings of picturesque towns and villages, and credit should be given to them. The fear is that the town, while being maintained in a certain fashion, will be bleached out, homogeonised and even Disneyed. Shops tunr into Shoppes with frilly overprices nicknacks and gifty doeys. Dundas stil has shops with real goods that real people buy and use for every day purposes. It's the real deal.

Hatt Street

This small cottage is like many along Hatt Street. Charming and delightful in every way. The astute owners have resisted the dreaded vinyl replacement salesman and have maintained the original stone finish and the basic shape of the old windows.


Hatt Street

These multiple housing units are similarly manitained. Simple, straighforward design and regularised proportions makes this building work.


Hatt Street

here is another cottage with a brick facade.


King Street - The Commercial District

Nestled into a small valley in a fold of the Niagara Escarpment, the town of Dundas has cultivated that extraordinary mixture of a rich architectural history, wonderful cutting edge eateries and a thriving retail industry that provide the heart and soul of Small Town Ontario.

One of the most notable eateries was the Deluxe restaurant opened in 1950 by Du Wong and his wife Sue. The Wongs had done their homework. They knew that downtown Dundas was the heart of a strong community serving the long established manufacturing component of Dundas, the growing suburban population, and professors and administrators from nearby McMaster University. Dundas had a thriving market and a series of well established retail stores. It needed another lunch spot.

What the Wongs may not have known was that Dundas and Greensville were among the oldest communities in Ontario being settled by Europeans as early as the 1700s. In fact, the area was considered the greatest manufacturing centre in the Upper Canada by 1822 due to the efforts of James Crooks, who started with an existing store and grist mill then added three more mills, a general store, a cooperage, a blacksmith's shop, and an ox-shoeing stall, thereby creating the largest industrial center of Upper Canada by 1830.

Down the hill, Dundas was becoming the major shipping centre for western Lake Ontario. As Dundas followed Greensville as a manufacturing center, farm produce and lumber were closely followed by textiles and metal goods as exported items. Growing prosperity resulted in a diverse range of architecture, including Italianate masterpieces, quaint worker's cottages, sturdy Georgian homes, and glorious Gothic Revivals, Classical Revivals and extraordinary Second Empire. Dundas presents one of the most well preserved town centres in the province. It simply cannot sprawl.

The Deluxe Restaurant was a typical 1950s development: the street level brick facade was covered with the cutting-edge Mid-Century Modern material vitrolite. This clean, trendy, ever-so-hip restaurant had a neon sign, a soda counter, and jukeboxes in every booth.

Many small towns still boast a drug store or restaurant in this design, but those in larger cities have succumbed to the dreaded remodelling.

Du Wong died unexpectedly in the 1970s, but his ghost hung around for the next 30 years protecting his artistic vision and securing a monument to Ontario architecture for future generations. His widow, Sue Wong, steadfastly refused to let anyone "mess with" the building until the film industry started discovered it in the 1990s. By 2005 she was convinced that the building was safe, and at 101 years of age, she gave up her own ghost and joined her husband. The building was a location for many movie and television shoots. Robin Williams, Ed Norton, Geena Davis and Jimmy Smits all played a part in keeping Dundas and this diner in good form.

The story of the Deluxe is indicative of a curious synchronicity that surrounds Dundas. The movie industry uses the main street as a timepiece backdrop while the merchants themselves seem to come from a different era. They steadfastly refuse to let it sink into the mind-numbing dullness of 21st Century purely-profit commerce. They are merchants making a living pursuing their passions. They don't compromise on quality. They stand behind their products and they know what they are talking about.

Sadly, in 2009 the Deluxe restaurant building was sold and the facade is currently being ripped apart to make room for a remodelled Thai restaurant. Apart from the drug store, it will be the only 'chain' on the street. We wish we could wish it prosperity.

Carnegie Gallery

By the turn of the century, architectural vocabulary was taken to its limits by the Beaux Arts style.

Like most Beaux Arts banks, it has an exaggerated version of a variety of Classical elements: giant Corinthian pillars, thick fluting, a balustraded pediment, a cornice with huge dentils, an entablature that proclaims the builder's name more proudly than any triumphal arch, and nicely carved spandrels. The same vocabulary of the Classical Revival Style is used, but for a very different effect. This is one of the few buildings left in Hamilton's once "historic" core.


Dundas has one of the most impressive pre-1850 buildings in the province. This building, designed by **** and finished in 1848, is made from local limestone with an impressive ashlar finish.




The door on the town hall is a late Renaissance style, verging on Baroque. The pediment is broken in many sections and the center has an urn flanked by a series of stylized roses. The keystone has an interesting agraffe. The fanlight is a large semi-circular radiating design. The pillars and the spandrel design are French.

Classical Revival

Dundas has the distinction of having the shortest highway in North America and the longest running hotel in Ontario, the Collins Hotel.

The most astonishing feature of this building is clearly the front portico with the four fluted, Doric columns. Above them are the triglyphs and metopes found on a traditional Doric entablature. Above this is a discrete cornice.

The roof has a series of dormers with Florentine pediments. There are two floors to the hotel, the second of which has a balcony running the full length of the building. On the ground level there are shops.



Dundas has some of the best Italianate architecture in the province, even in the country. This detail found over a set of buildings on King Street has over-the-top detailing all done in caste iron.

If any architectural style can be called truly Victorian, it is the Italianate. Not many people had been to Italy, but they wanted a style that would reflect the opulence and material success that these fourth or fifth generation people had acheived.

Many merchants built shops in the Italianate style because it reflected this optomistic material success. The homes, just two or three blocks from the down town area, are also often Italianate in style.

King Street Dundas

Again, this detail is all done in caste iron. The oversized cornice, the capitals with their molding, the window surround with the ornate brackets, pediment and acroterion, the dentils, all the detailing assembled together and made in the Dundas foundries.

Dundas was famous for its metal work. This building shows why.


Further up the street and on the same side are many two storey buildings with brick hood molds sporting keystones and fancy label stops. The double brackets holding up the cornice are Italianate.


During the 50s, 60s, and 70s, many of these buildings were 'renovated' along the street level. The Dundas BIA is now engaged in trying to restore the street level to its previous glory. This block has a whole set of dedicated owners who have spent a small fortune maintaining and restoring their buildings. This may be one reason why the film companies keep shooting theis street.

King Street 1870

Another fabulous cornice, beautifully designed and maintained. The window treatments are also amazing. The keystone and skewbacks on the window mold are a delightful example of stonework.

Residential Italianate

This residence is slightly off King Street and illustrates another major component of Dundas architecture. It illustrates not only the beauty of the original design, but the dedication and taste of the person who so painstakingly restored it. There are many houses in Dundas that have comparable architectural potential languishing beneath faded, dreary paint jobs, but these are being restored slowly as Dundas maintains it's historic position as the home for "people of taste" if not necessarily money for many Hamilton workers.


The De Luxe

Incomparable mid-century modern architecture, this wonderful restaurant was used often for movie shoots. The façade was the original vitrolite and chrome, the materials used in Art Moderne and Art Deco architecture. The vitrolite buildings in Europe are seeing a huge come-back. Sadly this is not the case here.

The signage on these places is also interesting. The signs were not purchased, but rather rented, with a maintenance contract. This gave the owner, who was probably not familiar with the new neon lighting, the ability to keep it under constantly good repair. When the signs went out of fashion, the sign companies often just left them where they were.

Out of Town

The King Street of Dundas


Concession 2

The late 20th century saw the arrival of an as-yet-un-named style of architecture that aimed at providing a comfortable living space in the least amount of time possible. The requirement is for a two car garage, three bedrooms, and as many purely ornamental columns, keystones, pediments or gables as can be randomly arranged on the façade. The oversized steep-pitched roofs are often ornamental as well: they are completely empty. Descriptions of these houses say that they are "nicely appointed".

Wasn't it Great




Blyth, J.A., "The Development of the Paper Industry in Old Ontario, 1824 - 1867", Ontario History, Toronto: Ontario Historical Society; 1970 (June)

Chapple, Nina, A Heritage of Stone,Toronto, James Lorimer and Company, Ltd., 2006

Green, Patricia and Maurice H., Wray, Sylvia and Robert, from West Flamborough's storied past , The Waterdown East-Flamborough Heritage Society, 2003

Tarnas, Richard, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, Toronto, Penguin, 1987

A very useful ink to the Hamilton and Dundas Street Rail website-


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