The former town of Walkerville Ontario, Canada is now a heritage precinct of Windsor, Ontario. Incorporated in 1890, the town was founded by Hiram Walker, owner and producer of Canadian Club Whisky. Walker planned it as a 'model town’ (originally called 'Walker's Town') ) that would be the envy of both the region and the continent. He established a distillery on the Detroit River, diversifying the business by growing grain, milling flour, and raising cattle and hogs. Later, the town supported other major industries, notably automotive manufacturing.
Walker established homes for his workers, a church dedicated to his late wife, and a school. The town, which developed outwards from the distillery, included buildings designed by Albert Kahn, notably Willistead Manor, the home of Walker's second son, Edward Chandler Walker. Upon Walkerville’s eventual amalgamation with Windsor, the Manor became heritage-protected property of the city, being used as an art gallery and, currently, a function venue.
The neighbourhood is characterized by large houses, wide streets and abundant greenery. A three-story high school, carrying the name 'Walkerville', stands next to Willistead Manor. Other structures include former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s home, Kahn-designed houses, the distillery (now belonging to Wiser’s) and the Via Rail station. The Tivoli Theatre (recently reopened Old Walkerville Theatre), is of 1920s art-deco design by C. Howard Crane (who would also design the Fox Theater in Detroit, Michigan). A large performance stage, ornate fixtures, balconies, and grating-lattice hint at the community's grandeur in those days.
Social and industrial growth
Divided into three sub-precincts, Walkerville was an amalgam of business, commercial, and residential land use, at times all nestled together. This cohesive character gave the community its uniqueness as compared to surrounding cities. Walker acted as self-appointed overseer of everything, including the police, fire and church facilities.
During the period of Prohibition in the United States, Walkerville became a principal source of cross-border alcohol exportation. The bulk of alcohol consumed in USA during prohibition was manufactured in Walkerville, as depicted in the TV series ‘Boardwalk Empire’, in which are often displayed crates of bootleg whiskey stamped ‘Canadian Club: Walkerville Ontario’.
Hiram Walker favoured diversification and Walkerville welcomed many industries including the automotive industry. The Ford Motor Company of Canada opened its factory there in 1904, followed by the E-M-F Company whose plant was acquired by Studebaker in 1910:p.70 and which became the assembly line for right-hand-drive vehicles exported to the UK and British Empire.:p237 In 1929, the Financial Post reported that 500 of the town's families were supported by Studebaker,
"only one of its activities being the manufacture of motor cars. During the world war, great quantities of war material was produced for the Canadian and Imperial governments. Today, [the plant] manufactures a line of 59 models of six- and eight-cylinder passenger motor cars, trucks, ambulances, and funeral coaches".
- Morgan, Carl (1991). Birth of a City. Windsor On: unknown. p. 66.
- Weeks, Elaine. The Best of the Times. Windsor On: Walkerville Publishing. p. 21. 1st edn., 2004.
- 104.pdf, Canada Year Book 1932
- Longstreet, Stephen. A Century on Wheels: The Story of Studebaker. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 121. 1st edn., 1952.
- Hendry, Maurice M. Studebaker: One can do a lot of remembering in South Bend. New Albany: Automobile Quarterly. pp. 228–275. Vol X, 3rd Q, 1972.
- Studebaker Corporation Financial Post Oct 1929
- Birth of the Auto at WalkervilleTimes.com
- Walkerville Times 2007 14mB pdf download containing historical articles and photographs
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