Westdale is a residential neighbourhood in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It is centred on the Westdale Village shopping district and located near McMaster University. Westdale has been the heart of the Jewish community of Hamilton for many years. It is bordered to the north by Cootes Paradise, an extensive nature reserve marking the western end of Lake Ontario, to the south by Main Street, to the east by Highway 403, and to the west by McMaster University.
On 29 March 1923, real estate agents and politicians announced the winning name of a "Name the Neighbourhood" contest, at the Royal Connaught Hotel in downtown Hamilton. 6,170 people were gathered for the official announcement. Rev. Canon Percival Lawson Spencer won $200.00 for his submission of the "Westdale" name. Other names that were seriously considered for the neighbourhood include Westhome, Vimy Ridge, Bridgeton, Woodlands Park, Surrey Park and Bridgeview.
Archeological surveys have shown that the land south of what is now Cootes Paradise was once occupied by successive cultures of aboriginal peoples. In the early seventeenth-century, when the first French explorers and missionaries visited the western edge of Lake Ontario, they found the region populated by native people, who were referred to as the Neutral Nation because of their neutrality in the disputes between the Iroquois Confederacy and the Huron.
In the mid-seventeenth century, the Neutral Nation and the Hurons were defeated by the Iroquois Confederacy. Eventually, Ojibway from what is now northern Ontario began to push southwards and displace the Iroquois and occupied the land until they themselves were displaced by European pioneers.
Following the creation of Upper Canada in 1791, the land upon which Westdale is now located was surveyed as part of the Township of Barton. Shortly afterward, the boundary was adjusted and the lots west of present-day Paradise Road were incorporated into the Township of Ancaster. This area of the township situated below the escarpment was commonly referred to as the Gore of Ancaster.
Following the transfer of the land from the Township of Barton to the Township of Ancaster, the land upon which Westdale is now located became lots 57 through 60 of Concession 1.
Early settlers of these lots include the Forsyths, Ashbaughs, Clines, Paisleys, Buttrums, Brambergers and Strouds. Land use was primarily devoted to agriculture.
Westdale was founded in the 1920s (in conjunction with McMaster's 1930 founding in Hamilton) as one of Canada's first planned communities. Spearheaded by W.J. Westaway's development company Westdale Properties and a contingent of local investors on the Westaway Citizens Committee, the project aimed to stimulate an upscale Protestant environment. Established on what had been predominantly farmland, its shopping district was constructed on King Street, the western end of a major Hamilton route. The major housing developments branched from Sterling Street, a wide tree-lined lane that ends at McMaster's east campus gates.
Westdale was envisioned as an exclusive white Protestant neighbourhood. Specific groups such as blacks, Asians, Slavs, and Jews were unable to purchase homes; near the end of the Second World War restrictions upon Jewish home ownership were lifted whereupon many relocated from the central part of the city. However, legal loopholes allowed for discrimination to persist into the 1950s. Over time, Westdale has become increasingly diverse and vestiges of its former exclusivity have largely disappeared - yet well into the 1990s accusations of "racism" in the Westdale community were made surrounding opposition to a multicultural festival which was causing significant traffic issues.
Although urban development has reduced the isolation once integral for Westdale's modelled environment, the Village persists as an established shopping destination for West Hamilton residents. The Westdale Business Improvement Association represents over 70 businesses located in the immediate Westdale area. The Westdale community is contained between Highway 403, Main Street and the areas east of McMaster. In addition to many small businesses, Westdale is also home to a grocery store, a branch of the Hamilton Public Library, and branches of three major banks.
In late October 2013, the Royal Botanical Gardens, which owns land bordering on Westdale (i.e. the Westdale (or South Shore) Ravine), announced that it was considering a hunt to cull what it claims is an over-population of deer. It was stated that only "Native" hunters would be allowed to participate in the hunt - as has been the case with the controversial hunts that have taken place in recent years in the Dundas Valley.
The increase of McMaster's student population in recent decades has resulted in many Westdale homes being rented out to students.
In 2006 a few Westdale homeowners calling themselves WADS (Westdale Against Drunk Students) staged a rally to protest the student population and called for the McMaster pub, Quarters, to be closed. McMaster responded by setting up a mediation between surrounding homeowners and student residents, as well as clarifying that Quarters closing would not fix the problems residents were facing, as students would just go to other bars located in Westdale. Over 200 people attended the rally. After a sting operation the Ontario Provincial Police charged the Bar with liquor license violations alleging the Bar over-served its student patrons. Recently, the Court of Appeal for Ontario found the bar had violated the law by over-serving a patron who went on to run down a pedestrian with his truck. The case, McIntyre v. Grigg, made Canadian legal history when it awarded punitive damages against a drunk driver.
The Westdale Village BIA, the Ainslie Wood/Westdale Community Association of Resident Homeowners (AWWCA) and McMaster University formed the Campus Town Association in late 2004. The CTA was formed to address concerns facing both the community and the university.
Westdale is currently part of the Federal and Provincial riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale and is represented by Member of Parliament David Sweet and Member of Provincial Parliament Ted McMeekin respectively. On the Municipal level, Westdale is part of Ward 1 and is represented by Brian McHattie.
Aside from McMaster University, three public schools are located in Westdale: Westdale Secondary School, Dalewood Middle School, and George R. Allan Elementary School. Columbia International College, a private boarding school for international students, and Hamilton Hebrew Academy, a private Jewish Day School, located just outside of Westdale, are an integral part of the community.
- Henley, Brian (1993). Hamilton our Lives and Times. The Hamilton Spectator. ISBN 0-9697255-0-7.
- Close Quarters
- Community partners form Campus Town Association