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Hilary Shantz Hilary Shantz, MBA
Sales Representative
Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., Brokerage


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A Little Oakville (Ontario) History Lesson: Understanding Our Roots as a Community

Respecting the Past, Celebrating the Present , Embracing the Future is the Town of Oakville’s motto.

John A. MacDonald bookMy husband Wayne (history major) is currently reading a book entitled John A., the Man who Made Us.  It is a new book about Canada’s first prime minister, by Richard Gwyn, author of The Northern Magus. 

Wayne has been feeding me tidbits of Ontario history such as:

Did you know that in 1820 the population of the entire province of Ontario was 200,000 people? In a few years the Town of Oakville will surpass that in number!

All this talk of Ontario history this week inspired me to write something on how the Town of Oakville evolved. 

Mississauga Indians

Oakville was originally the home territory of the Mississauga Indian tribe who were hunters and fishers.  The Mississauga sold their land to the Crown in 1805 but retained lands at the mouth of the three major rivers emptying into the lake – the Credit RiverSixteen Mile Creek, and Twelve Mile Creek (now called Bronte Creek).

Oakville early settler's homeEarly Settlers Had Hard Life

As in other parts of Ontario, the New Territory was surveyed into lots.  Lines and Concessions created blocks of 1000 acres each, which divided into five settler lots each of 200 acres.  To acquire title to a piece of land the settler was required to clear and fence at least five acres, build a house about 16 by 20 feet, and also clear the road adjacent to his land; it was hard and laborious work as the area was densely wooded!

Willliam Chisholm Purchased Land

Land with waterways was always in demand, for drinking, fish, and for water power to drive grist mills and sawmills.  By 1820, the Mississauga Indians decided to sell their reserved land at the mouth of the Twelve and Sixteen Mile Creeks. The thousand acres at the mouth of the Sixteen were bought by William Chisholm, a successful businessman and politician, for the sum of $4,116!  It was Chisholm’s vision that a town and harbour at the Sixteen would be a center through which goods could flow and grain be exported from farm lands to the north.  

Oakville Harbour

The mouth of the Sixteen was protected by piers and the harbour dredged; a shipbuilding yard was set up (at the north end of Navy Street); further up, the Sixteen was damned for water power and a grist mill/sawmill was built; and the village was surveyed into streets and building lots for tradesmen, mariners and workmen.

What we now know as Oakville Harbor was built with private funds, and for this William Chisholm was authorized to levy duties and tolls on goods arriving and leaving.

Timber, Wheat, and Barrels

The first “crop” produced from the forests was timber, particularly for making barrels.  Staves were produced from the White Oaks of the forest.  Heavier timbers were used for home building and ship building, and exported.

As settlement developed, wheat became the important export, and wheat rolled down the new ‘plank road”,the Seventh Line, (now Trafalgar Road), for shipping from the harbour. 

First Mayor and Strawberries

Lots of strawberries were grown in Oakville OntarioThe village prospered, and in 1857 it was designated a Town (municipality).  Its first Mayor was George King Chisholm, eldest son of Oakville’s founder William Chisholm, who had died in 1842.

When a number of economic factors resulted in a glut of grain and a depletion of oak trees, farmers in the town also turned to fruit production, with strawberries a principal crop.  Strawberries were introduced by John Cross at his farm located where Cross Avenue now stands.  Oakville became known as the strawberry capital of the Canadas.  (For more on how Oakville’s founding fathers provided  names for Oakville streets click here.)  Besides strawberries, other fruit orchards produced apples, pears, and plums.

Summer Visitors from Toronto, Large Estates Built Along the Lakeshore 

Because of its attractive location, style, and pleasant summer weather, Oakville became the destination of summer visitors, for the most part from Toronto, many arriving by steamship.  One of these, the “White Star,” would bring up to 3000 visitors on a single day, giving the Townsfolk opportunities to sell teas, and to provide overnight accommodation.  It became fashionable to “summer in beautiful Oakville”. Soon the lakefront bristled with a few large estates on the lake and more modest cottages, walking distance to the lake.

Early in the 20th century, wealthy city gentlemen, who could commute to their city employment by train, developed the Lakeshore through the construction of more permanent homes, often with large grounds or estates. 

Cars, Paved Highways and Ford Motor Company

old ford carThe automobile reached Oakville for the first time in 1909 but could not be used for commuting until 1916 when Lakeshore Road between Toronto and Hamilton was paved – with cement – for the first time.  But it was not until the Queen Elizabeth Way was opened in 1939 that “easy” commuting became possible; both ways; into Oakville from the cities of Hamilton and Toronto, and to the cities from Oakville.

An early consequence of this was the settling in Oakville of car manufacturer, The Ford Motor Company, which contributed a great deal to the economic prosperity of the Town. 

Incorporating Neighboring Villages

Oakville continued to grow from a sleepy Town to the large municipality it now encompasses, incorporating neighbouring villages, Bronte, Postville, Palermo, Proudfoot’s Hollow, Merton and Sheridan.

That’s enough history for today!  More History of Oakville in further posts.

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Landmark Oakville Historic Home for Sale

Do You Remember When we Ate the Fish In Lake Ontario? New Memorial in Bronte

Authored by hilaryshantz | Discussion: 6 Comments »

Landmark Oakville Historic Home for Sale

Exceptional Restored Georgian.  Asking Price $2,695,000.  Ideal for Growing Family or Bed and Breakfast

Thomas house front shot

Like Being in a Trisha Romance Painting

This home has a wonderful sense of time and place.  “I feel like I just stepped into a Trisha Romance painting” I tell Francine as she pours me a cup of tea in her sunny kitchen.  The house reflects the owner, who is gracious, warm and passionate about history.

“My husband and I love old houses. We fell in love with this one” says Francine Landry.  “We loved raising our kids here and entertaining all our family and friends.  Now that the kids are grown, it’s time to pass it on so another family can enjoy it.” 

Francine and her husband undertook a faithful restoration, with uncompromising historical integrity.  They were careful to retain the classic Georgian look and feel, but incorporated new mechanicals, new bathrooms and a modern kitchen, family room and mudroom. 

Oakville Resident Francine LandryUnderstated Elegance, Yet Casual and Comfortable

The house has six bedrooms, five bathrooms, four fireplaces.  I love the layout.  Large well proportioned rooms and an open kitchen with breakfast bar, eat-in area with expansive windows and a “keeping room” with fireplace, create “the great room effect” popular with families today.  The 5400 square feet includes an in-law suite on the third floor. 

Unparalleled Location, Walk to Downtown, the Lake and Oakville Marina

Where else but Oakville can you be in the heart of the downtown core and still enjoy leafy neighborhoods and spectacular lakeviews from your balcony?  

Lakeside Park is only a few feet away.  The shops, boutiques and restaurants of Downtown Oakville, the Oakville Club and the Oakville Marina just a stone’s throw.

Ever Wanted to Have a Parterrre Garden?

This home boasts the finest formal gardens.  Thoughtful planning by renowned landscape architect

oakville Historic property grounds of Glenorchy

Christopher Campbell has created privacy and garden rooms separated by stunning shrubs, mature trees, arbors and trellises.  Several stone walkways and terraces enhance the natural landscape.

A Landmark Home in Old Oakville

Here`s a little bit of Oakville history for you. 

The original home was built in 1839.   In preparation for his marriage to Mary Jane Chisholm, daughter of William Chisholm (founding father of Oakville), Peter MacDougald purchased the original house and two adjoining lots in 1854. 

He named it “Glenorchy” (his parents were Scottish immigrants) and he and Mary raised three children there.

MacDougald later became Mayor of Oakville.  I did a little research into the life and times of Peter MacDougald.  One source said “During his tenure of nine years as Mayor, the Citizen’s Band gave concerts on many occasions on the lawns of Glenorchy to which the townspeople were invited.”

PB080011I can hear the lilting sound of bagpipes somewhere off in the distance, as I finish my “spot of tea”. 

(Did you know I was born in Edinburgh and lived there as a child?)

A few more photos of the living room, formal dining room, great room, original Mayor’s office, garden, renovated bathroom and master bedroom, with original coal-burning fireplace.

Oakville historic house living room

 Oakville historic house dining room 








Oakville historic house keeping room
















Oakville historic house garden

















Oakville historic house master








Want to find out more?  There is so much more to say about this home.

Call me, I would be happy to send you more photos or show it to you in person.

Authored by hilaryshantz | Discussion: 8 Comments »

Do You Remember When We Ate the Fish in Lake Ontario? New Memorial in Bronte

Respecting the Past, Celebrating the Present , Embracing the Future is the Town of Oakville’s motto.

Oakville is a forward-thinking modern town that also cherishes its history and heritage.

This past weekend Wayne and I were strolling along Bronte waterfront with our friends Ashley and Min-Na and enjoying a cappucino gelato.   We stopped to admire the new Fishermen’s Memorial Monument. 

Oakville's Bronte Harbour

Unveiled just a few weeks ago, this beautiful granite memorial measures 12′ x 6′ x 2′.  The simple dedication reads:


“In memory of the Bronte Commercial Fishermen who ventured onto the lake in good weather and bad to set and lift their nets to earn a living catching fish. Ciscoes, Herring Whitefish Lake Trout. Cleaned at the dockside shanties. Packed in ice and shipped to markets in Toronto, Hamilton and New York City. Twenty-two boats travelled from the harbour at the peak fishing season. As the fish dwindled, so did the boats fishing from Bronte. The last boat left the lake circa early 1950s.”

Not too long ago we, and people as far as New York City, would pay to eat fish from Lake Ontario!

A local Bronte community group took on this project as a labor of love and raised funds from the community in the amount of $54,500 to finance this memorial.  


The Village of Bronte became part of the Town of Oakville in 1954.  Today Bronte is experiencing renewal and is becoming a growing centre for commerce, tourism and residential development. 

It’s nice to know that along with progress, residents see value in preserving the past.  

I like the royal blue benches in Bronte Harbourfront Park. They remind me of Portugal and Greece.   My friend Ashley took this photo and the one at the top.


More on Bronte waterfront development in upcoming posts…

Authored by hilaryshantz | Discussion: 1 Comment »

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