Beautifully present of an avant-garde past
Brockville has a lot of cachet and vestiges that take us back to the beginning of the 19th century when the village took on more and more space in Upper Canada. Then called Elizabethtown, it is one of the oldest colonies in Ontario. The first inhabitants settled there in 1785. Although it was founded by American citizens, these first founders were great supporters of the British regime. William Buell, Daniel Jones and Charles Jones are three pioneers who were given a plot of land for loyal service in what is now downtown Brockville.
Brockville is located directly on the Saint Lawrence River. Across the shore is New York State’s town of Morristown.
Unlike other waterfront lands, Brockville has always been unsuitable for agriculture. Rather, a port was set up there, a popular stopover when public transport was naval. Today, cruises leave from this place to explore the beautiful region of the thousand-islands and a marina welcomes pretty pleasure boats. Some ships have unfortunately sunk around the area and today their wrecks arouse curious divers despite the cold water. Interested in diving, go to the Centeen Memorial Dive Park.
From 1809, Brockville became a center of justice. In addition to the courthouse, a prison was built right next to it. Go to the Court House Green to see the beautiful square surrounded by public buildings and churches.
The town is renamed Brockville in honor of General Isaac Brock. He is acclaimed “Hero of Upper Canada” for fighting and defeating the American invasion. His bust is featured in the Court House Green.
The influx of goods mainly transitioning via the Saint-Lawrence River brought industrial development to the region. Despite the envious wealth of the region, the villagers wanted to add a land transit. As early as 1850, rail transport stopped in Brockville, the village being an important trading point. But they wanted more. They voted to add a connection to the shore. This idea gained ground but required digging a tunnel for this purpose. The work began in 1854 but the costs slowed down the work and the necessity was questioned. The first railway tunnel in Canada was eventually completed and the first train to reach the shore passed through the tunnel in 1860. A roundhouse was also part of the work to allow the train to change direction. The development of road transport and the decline of maritime transport changed the situation and the last train to cross the tunnel did so in 1970.
The rocks excavated during the construction of the tunnel were not transported very far. In fact, they were used to backfill access to Blockhouse Island, which is no longer an island today. Today, we walk there peacefully but this island, then known as Grant Island, was, in the 1830s, witness to many events. Nicknamed the hospital island, sick immigrants with cholera were welcomed there in 1832. It was a pandemic that claimed the lives of many. Later, in 1838-39, a blockhouse was built there to protect the village from an imminent American attack. This is after this period that the island took the name of Blockhouse Island. The building was destroyed by fire in 1860, the year the first train passed through the tunnel.
Brockville is a 1-hour drive from Kingston, 1 hour 10 minutes from Ottawa and 2 hours 15 minutes from Montreal which makes it a great day trip destination. Depending on your choice, it is possible to combine your road trip with a beautiful maritime excursion in the 1000 islands, a walk on the waterfront, kayaking, golfing, scuba diving, cycling, sailing, fishing or see the various local attractions in Brockville or combined your visit with other nearby villages on route 2 which connects Cornwall, Long Sault to the east or Prescott and Fort Wellington to the west, the choice is yours, Brockville is halfway between Cornwall and Kingston.
Did you know that Brockville is associated with the creation of the Canadian flag with the red maple leaf? This is what you will learn if you stop in front of the hundred historical markers in the city.
To see :
- Town Hall
- Court House Green
- Post Office
- John H. Fulford fountain
- General Isaac Brock’s monument
- Railway tunnel
- Blockhouse Island
- Block trail/park
- Women’s memorial
- Golden Hawk CF-86 Sabre Jet
- Block trail/park
- Fulford Place
- Brockville Museum
- Brockville Armories
- Centeen Memorial dive park
BROCKVILLE CITY HALL
1 King St W
This historic building with rounded-headed doors and windows is located on King Street above the 1st Canadian Railway Tunnel and surprisingly it does not face the river but has its back to it. This building was completed in 1864. Originally named Victoria Hall, it was a combination of a concert hall, an indoor market, and offices.
There are a lot of historical buildings but what makes it charming, for me, is the shape of the clock tower with the columns and the dome.
The chimneys you see were surprisingly ventilation shafts to evacuate the smoke from the locomotives.
Beautiful buildings – beautiful location – pleasant and historic setting
Find this avenue and you will find yourself in the past. This avenue includes historical and religious buildings, a park, memorials and a fountain. Among the historic buildings are the courthouse, a prison, the old post office, churches and the first bank.
Three churches surround this historic urban space: First Presbyterian Church, First Baptiste Church and Wall Street United Church (5 Wall Street).
If you walk from King Street, past 48 King street on the corner of Courthouse, there is a former Toronto bank branch now converted into a hotel. Take a few more steps and you will instantly be drawn to the Great war monument. This monument is a reminder to the residents of Brockville who gave their lives for the country during the First World War. The statue is said to be inspired by Major Thain MacDowell, the sole survivor of the First World War and recipient of the Victoria Cross after the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The monument also mentions other important armed participations.
Take the time to walk up the avenue to get to the Court House Green. You will then see the Fulford fountain in a beautifully flowered green area. John H. Fulford, not to be confused with Geroge Fulford who also has his own museum Place Fulford, was one of the mayors of the city. Note the detail of the shapes of fish and turtles in the fountain which was installed in 1916 and, I hope, will be functional during your visit.
But just before, admire the building on the corner, the Thomas Fuller Building.
Thomas Fuller Building – the Old post office
14 Court House Ave
Beautiful classic red stone building which was originally built in 1886 to become the very first post office in the village. Located on the west side of the avenue, this building is now named the Thomas Fuller Building in honor of its architect. Although it is the only building designed by Mr. Fuller in Brockville, Mr. Fuller was the architect commissioned by the Canadian government to supervise several federal constructions, including some major ones in Ottawa, several post offices and Anglican churches across the country without naming his works in England, Antigua and the United States.
21 court house Ave
Look at this beautiful 3 story building. While you could say this building has seen a lot, I wouldn’t have guessed it was the roof of different banks.
The land was sold by Buel’s descendant, and Dr. Elnathan Hubbell bought the land in 1824. The date of construction of the first building erected was probably around 1825 and in 1833 it is known to have hosted visitors. Consequently, we tend to think that it has been used as a hotel, but the evidence is lacking. The Bank of Montreal was a tenant until they changed location and the Commercial Bank took over in December 1857, the Merchants Bank from 1869, and the Molson Bank in 1873 which was purchased by BMO in 1925. However, since 1927 this is no longer a bank and today it is the location of a law firm.
Court House Green
Courthouse Avenue splits in two to make way for a beautiful green space in the center, the Court House Green.
If you arrive on foot from King Street, you will see the Great War Monument directly located on Court House Avenue. Take the time to walk up the avenue to get to the Court House Green. Going up, you can see the Fulford Fountain in front of the Thomas Fuller Building, and the two large churches on each side of the courthouse/prison.
The one who gave his name to the city has his bust on the edge of the square. Major-General Sir Isaac Brock was a member of the British army and responsible for defending the region against the American attacks of which he was a hero in 1812. 100 years later, the monument to his memory was unveiled.
Brockville Court House
41, Court House Square
On a hill, at the very top facing the river and surrounded by churches, the old post office, and green space with a fountain stands the imposing courthouse and prison.
Although the building in front of you dates back to 1842, the first more modest version was built in 1810. Brockville is therefore very early in its history the legal place designated for the county.
Notice the large statue of Sally Grant that stands atop the courthouse. The figure of Justice with a scale in one hand is a replica of the 1841 version which is in the Rideau District Museum. The one currently perched high up was installed in 1982, the year of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the city.
As with other historic sites in Brockville, signs provide descriptions of the site and buildings.
First Bank – BMO
1 Wall Street
The BMO flat-roofed building near the courthouse and facing Courthouse Square was opened in 1966, but an interesting plaque reminds us that the first bank to set up shop in Brockville was from the BOM Bank of Montreal subsidiary, and this was from September 1843.
First Presbyterian Church
10 Church Street
If you read me regularly, you have probably perceived that I have an attraction to take a closer look at religious buildings and this place is no exception. Although very low-key when looking at the courthouse from King Street, if you walk up the square you can admire the architecture. Unfortunately, the church was closed at the time of my visit.
This congregation, one of the first in the city held its first service in 1819. In front of you is the 3rd construction, that of 1879. The first had been destroyed in a fire and the second was demolished, after a vote, to make room for a larger gathering place.
I must admit that its location contributes to the harmonization and concentration of historic buildings in this area of the city.
Wall Street United Church
5 Wall Street
Another church on Courthouse Square is present but little information is available. The Wall Street United Church which was built between 1828-30 on land ceded for the construction of this place of worship. The current architectural sight is the result of multiple enlargements from the original version. It is found in records as the Wesleyan Methodist Church.
BROCKVILLE RAILWAY TUNNEL
As mentioned in the first part, Brockville was relatively ahead of its time by choosing railway development despite a significant presence in a maritime way. More efficient access to the interior lands was a wise choice for the transport of goods and by 1850, rail transport stopped at Brockville. Access to the shore requires the construction of a tunnel. Divided choice, it is expensive and daring because it had never been done before in Canada.
Completed in 1860, after 6 years of work, it was the first railway tunnel in Canada. It served for more than a century until 1970.
Although inoperative, the tunnel is now a city attraction. This historic place is highlighted with seasonal access to the tunnel (.5km or .3miles) now presented with a light and sound continuous show. A very nice colorful display. Open in summer only, you should know that despite the great heat outside, access to the tunnel gives the impression of visiting a cave but without the suffocation of the tight areas. The walls are damp and natural wet drops are dripping down but don’t let that stop you. You can use an umbrella if this is inconvenient, but it is not necessary. There are also stalactites hanging from the ceiling.
The trail is level allowing the use of a stroller, wheelchair or walker. Access is free but donation boxes are placed at each end.
Information panels are placed along the passage to find quick and concise highlights of the site.
There are two entrances/exits to the tunnel, the one behind the town hall and the one at the water’s edge. The latter is prettier and more pleasant.
BLOCK HOUSE ISLAND
Smell the fresh air, look around and relax!
Contrary to what one might think, Blockhouse Island is no longer an island since the construction of the railway tunnel. The extract from the excavations was used to backfill a small section of the river to join the island. So today you can easily access this site for a pleasant walk along the water.
Do not look for the blockhouse either, because this construction was destroyed by fire in 1860, the very year of the opening of the tunnel.
As indicated in the introduction, the island, before 1860, played two key roles in the history of the region. The first was a quarantine island. and the second, a national defense. The cholera epidemic was devastating and sick immigrants were kept there. Subsequently, the threats came from the other side of the shore, American territory led to the construction of a wall on the island with the Blockhouse. Hence its current name, before the island was known as Grant Island.
No need to remember all this information as panels will remind you of these lines.
It is a very pleasant place to walk, run, feel the breeze on your face, and relax. Many park their cars there to simply admire and enjoy the view of the river.
Women’s Monument Along the Brock Trail you will find monuments. The one dedicated to women caught my attention. For their freedom, for their right to stand up and do whatever they want and against violence towards them, see the bronze statue of two women letting doves fly.
Golden Hawk CF-86 Saber Jet At the tip of the trail, a nod is given to the Golden Hawks aerobatic team with the CF-86 Saber jet well posed in the air in the park. It is also a memorial to airmen who lost their lives in the cause of freedom. The Sabers were built by Canadair in Montreal and were known as the F-86. Initially used by the Air Force for their agility and maneuverability, they saw service against Korea and in Europe for NATO. The planes were later flown by the Golden Hawks aerobatic team of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and this, mainly from 1959 to 1964 for acrobatic air shows in a set of 6-7 planes.
287 King Street E
Residence of George Taylor Fulford (1852-1905), this site shows social life at the beginning of the 20th century. Having made his fortune through the creation of patented medication manufactured right here in Brockville, he used his fortune for the construction of this site with a large beautiful Italian-style garden showing wealth and taste and fully appropriate to welcome ministers, royalty and chic events. Mr. Fulford died unexpectedly in an automobile accident in 1905.
It is possible to visit the site where original articles are displayed: furniture, works of art, and glassware. Mr. Fulford being a traveler, part of his special collection is also exhibited.
The Fulford family occupied the site of Fulford Place from 1900 to 1987.
6 Broad Street
The river is full of marine life and you will have the opportunity to know more about it if you visit the Aquatarium.
5 Henry Street
Aurinda and Isaac Beecher’s house, of which the back part was built in 1815, is now part of the Brockville Museum where you will learn about the social and industrial history of the city.
The exhibits highlight people’s lives, the commercial and industrial history including that of the printing press and the history of the railway with the tunnel and more.
Site : https://www.brockvillemuseum.com/
BROCKVILLE ARMOIRIES (RIFLES)
144 King Street E
The military architecture of this still active center is impressive. The Brockville Rifles is a reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Army.
Although the construction of this building dates back to 1900, it was well before military work was recognized in the region, even before the confederation of the country. Its creation dates back to October 1866. The militia was very present for the protection of the river and fought against American attacks. Later, they also participated in international missions.
I’m not sure if you can visit the interior.
CENTEEN MEMORIAL DIVE PARK
70 Water St E
Brockville is a very interesting place for scuba diving. The Centeen Memorial Dive Park is adequately equipped with facilities to facilitate the exploration of the seabed. Although the water is cold, it is a popular site for “shallow” (9m or 30ft) and clear waters perfect for beginners. There are old shipwrecks that sank 200 years ago and the seafloor also has the addition of more than forty human-size sculptures to discover.