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Walkerville's Victoria Fountain

Historical Survey of the Town of Walkerville, 1858-1922
(Ron Hoskins' Masters Thesis, 1964, University of Windsor)

As early as 1893, the Walkerville Council lamented that the town did not possess a fountain. The matter was repeatedly deferred until 1897, when it was decided that the erection of a suitable commemorative fountain should be the focal point of the town's proposed celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Hiram Walker & Sons felt that the $300 budget for the proposed fountain was inadequate and promised to finance a first-rate fountain as a gift to the people of Walkerville.

The Walkerville Fountain

Al Roach, April 4, 1984

fountainthumb.jpgThe date is June 22, 1897 and loyal British subjects everywhere are celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, who ascended to the throne in 1837 at 18.

In Windsor, Sandwich, and Walkerville, stores and schools are closed. Union Jacks fly proudly in the June breezes and strips of red, white, and blue cloth decorate the public buildings.

In Walkerville there are preparations to lay the cornerstone of the beautiful Diamond Jubilee Fountain, designed by Detroit architect Albert Kahn [Kahn, who had joined the Detroit firm of Mason and Rice in 1885, left from 1896 until 1900 when he returned to Mason's office for two more years. Did he design the fountain prior to his departure, or did George D. Mason produce the design himself?].

It will stand on the west side of Second Street (Devonshire Road), just south of the ornate station of the Lake Erie and Detroit River Railway and just across the street from the new Crown Inn.

locvictoriafontthumb.jpgA gala parade is gathering on Sandwich Street (Riverside Drive). The beginning of it is at the intersection of Fifth Street (Walker Road), while the rear is far to the west at the Grand Trunk (Peabody) Bridge. At 10:15 a.m. the chief marshal, Alex Leavitt, gives the signal and the parade moves off.

In the leading carriage is the mayor of Walkerville, Thomas Reid. Immediately following in their carriages are the members of council and several important visitors from the neighbouring city of Windsor. Next comes the Walkerville Band, followed by the Essex Fusiliers and the celebration committee.

School children from the Walkerville Public School, located on the southwest corner of Second (Devonshire) and Wyandotte Streets, are followed by the teachers and school trustees. Bringing up the rear are the Walkerville Bicycle club ($5 prize for the best decorated bicycle) and the members of the Walkerville Fire Department.

locvictoriafont2thumb.jpgEdward Chandler Walker, eldest surviving son of Hiram Walker, makes the formal presentation of the fountain to the people of the town. Besides Edward sits Hiram Walker himself. Born on July 4, 1816, in East Douglas, Mass., he is now approaching his 81st birthday and is in ill health (he died a year and a half later). But illness does not prevent him from coming from his Detroit residence to attend this ceremony.

Mayor Reid invites Edward's wife to step forward and, silver trowel in hand, lay the cornerstone for the fountain-to-be.

When the ceremonies are over, those of status gather across the street for a luncheon at the Crown Inn, while the rank and file people stroll over to the Farmers' Rest at Fifth Street (Walker) and Niagara.

After lunch, activities are transferred to Walkerville Grove (the site of Walkerville Collegiate). There are military displays and a baseball match, in which the Walkerville club defeats the visiting Harrow team ­ 19 to 7. The Page Wire team then beats the Globe Furniture Co. in a tug o'-war.

In the evening, a twenty-foot (6-metre) bonfire blazes at the head of Second Street (Devonshire) where Willistead now stands. Its glow was reportedly seen halfway across Essex County.

Upon completion, the fountain, probably crafted from Amherstburg limestone, was beautiful. It had a copper roof topped with an imperial crown. Within the four stone columns was an iron centrepiece with four gargoyles spouting water to the four points of the compass. Tin cups were provided so passers-by could quench their thirst. And out at the curb stood an oval stone horse trough filled with cool water.

Extending around all four sides of the fountain near the top was inscribed:

  • Her court was pure, her life serene

  • God gave her peace, her Land reposed

  • A thousand claims to reverence closed

  • In her mother, wife and Queen

On the front of the fountain was inscribed:

"To commemorate the completion of the sixtieth year of the glorious reign of her most gracious majesty, Queen Victoria. The gift of Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. to the people of Walkerville. MDCCCXCVII

Over the decades, the fountain served its dual purpose: it was a thing of beauty and also provided a cool drink for people and the animal life.

By the 1930's, the horse trough was gone. Three of the fountain's spouts had been stopped up. A regular tap-type drinking fountain had been attached to the remaining gargoyle.

After Walkerville was amalgamated with Windsor in 1935, the City of Windsor saw no reason to protect and maintain this part of our heritage. Neglect and vandalism took their toll. The crown disappeared from the top of the fountain. The copper roof began to crumble, piece by piece.

In 1958, someone decided to replace the fountain and park with a parking lot, and the fountain; or what was left of it ­ was hauled off to Willistead. A pretence at restoration was effected and then the once-beautiful Victoria Memorial was hidden behind Willistead Manor where vandals could get a better crack at it.

And there it stands today. Wouldn't it be nice if the fountain could be restored crown and all and be made the centrepiece it once was?

Fast forward to 1990; With the exception of the crown from the peak of the pyramidal copper roof, the fountain was restored, and we look forward each spring to its emergence from the plywood cocoon that protects it from Windsor's notorious freeze-thaw cycles.

Click here to see Victoria Fountain Photos

The Crown Inn: First Hotel in Walkerville



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