life and times
hiram who
birth of the auto
border cities
sports heritage

Home in Walkerville

A Great Place to Live

by Shelley Divnich Haggert

from Issue #16: Summer 2001

One hundred and eleven years ago, the thriving community that American distiller Hiram Walker built achieved town status. Originally a company town bounded by Montreuil (one street east of Walker), Riverside on the north, Kildare on the west and Wyandotte Street on the south and inhabited almost exclusively by Walker’s employees, the area grew with the fortunes of the Walker family.

Since development was restricted laterally due to the neighbouring municipalities of Windsor and Ford City (the town did expand westward slightly creating a new border that ran along the alley between Lincoln and Gladstone — right down the middle of the Tivoli Theatre), Walkerville grew primarily in a southerly direction.

First, Walker’s sons developed the area between Wyandotte and Ottawa following Britain’s "Garden City Plan" with Willistead Manor and St. Mary’s Church as its centre. Here are found what are considered the grandest homes in Walkerville with the largest lots.

As more people arrived to staff the numerous factories springing up along the industrial corridor of Walker Road, the town grew yet again. The large area between Ottawa and Tecumseh was developed and then in 1922, the first house was built south of Tecumseh Road. By 1935, when Walkerville was forcibly amalgamated with Windsor, the town extended all the way south to Memorial Drive.

Today, Walkerville is one of the most attractive areas in Windsor. Residents take pride in its historic architecture and beautiful gardens. And the rebuilt King Edward School and Market Square demonstrate that new structures can retain a traditional "Walkerville" feel.

Walkerville residents love it here. The Page Family of Chilver Road moved from Toronto 19 years ago and chose to live in Walkerville, primarily because it reminded them of the neighbourhood they had left behind. Susan enjoyed working right in her neighbourhood on Ottawa Street for many years. Her three daughters, Laura, Rosie and Lindsay, relished trips with their dad Stewart to the lunch counter at Woolworth’s and picking up fresh bread from Pierre’s Baguette. Willistead Park was always a family favourite, though Susan actually prefers the quiet park beside St. George’s Anglican Church at the south end of Devonshire.

The girls’ first taste of "school" was at the Richmond Learn as You Play Group (now in its 31st year. Lindsay eventually enrolled in the Performing Arts program at the Windsor Centre for the Performing Arts (WCCA) and Laura is currently doing post-graduate work in Toronto. Not surprisingly, she has chosen to live in a neighbourhood that reminds her of her Walkerville home.

As families have moved on, Susan has noticed that many new neighbours aren’t so new, having moved within Walkerville, rather than to it from somewhere else. In fact, second and even third generations have settled just blocks from the homes where they grew up.

Marg Simpson has lived in Walkerville most of her life; her parents founded Teron Signs. Marg raised three children in South Walkerville. Fifteen years ago, she and second husband Ray (also with ties to the neighbourhood) moved to their present house on Windermere and now Marg’s grandchildren are growing up in Walkerville.

Marg and Ray appreciate their proximity to Wyandotte and Ottawa Streets. According to Marg, one of the advantages to shopping in the area is the attention paid to customers by individual shopkeepers and the ability to develop a relationship with them.

Recently retired from the Children’s Aid Society, Marg enjoys walking her dog Molly in Willistead Park. Walkerville’s sense of continuity and community add to its appeal for Marg and Ray. Marg is also pleased to see the area becoming ethnically diverse.

That sense of community ties Lizabeth and Douglas Sanborn to the area as well. The two Walkerville Collegiate alumni are raising their children on Willistead Crescent, just a short stroll from the tranquility of Willistead Park.

Both grew up in the area — in fact, Douglas lived right on the crescent — and knew they wanted to return eventually. They’ve lived here for 3 years; daughters Monica and Erika attend Ecole L’Envolee on Ottawa Street while little brother Stephen helps Lizabeth in the gardens until he’s old enough to join his sisters at school. Wyandotte, Ottawa and Erie Street shopping are added benefits for the Sanborn family.

When Kris Gosselin returned to Windsor with her two children, South Walkerville was her destination. The safety of the neighbourhood and the proximity to good schools were key factors in her decision. Born and raised there, Kris takes pride in the fact that her children are the third generation of the family to attend Hugh Beaton.

As a child, Kris and her friends enjoyed tobogganing at Memorial Park, and now Kris, Adam and Katelyn enjoy cycling around the neighbourhood that is so much a part of their family’s history.

Proximity to Tecumseh Road, the South Walkerville Library and Schwab’s are all advantages, as are the quiet, tree-lined streets and friendly neighbours. The Gosselin family has lived on Vimy Road for 5 years now, and Kris doesn’t hesitate to recommend Walkerville to friends moving in from out of town.

From a small company town to a diverse and growing community, Walkerville has aged gracefully. New homes appear in the midst of traditional neighbourhoods, but the sense of community, that "small-town feeling" remains. Hiram Walker hoped Walkerville would retain its community spirit and civic pride — and it has.

It’s all right here, hidden in the midst of big-city Windsor.





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