Part Eleven ~ People of our Past (Part One)

Nell McCann Nell McCann and her bicycle. Nell authored “The Diary of Nell McCann ~ one woman’s journal of life in the Village of Westport, as written in the early 1900’s” which is a fund-raiser for The Rideau District Museum. We’ve looked at the hotels, palace ships and even the layout of the village, but we have yet to talk about the early citizens that helped shape our town. Prominent businessmen and early entrepreneurs frequently got their names into the local papers for their accomplishments, but Nell McCann was a resident that wrote down everything that she saw and heard into the pages of her diary. Those same prominent businessmen and notable citizens made their way into Nell’s writ

Part Ten ~ Clothiers of Westport

There were a great number of merchant tailors and clothiers popping up around Westport in the early 1900’s. No matter what your needs were, there was someone available to make you look your best. There was also an abundance of general stores, grocery and bakery shops. The following ads were found in turn-of-the-century editions of The Westport Mirror. Ephraim Wiseman had his clothing store on Main Street East (partway down the block between Spring and Bedford Streets). Declan Foley sold clothing, shoes and general goods at his shop on Main Street. John E. Whaley was a merchant tailor on Church Street who specialized in tweeds, worsteds, serges, fancy vestings and overcoatings.

Part Nine ~ Revised Westport Fire Maps

New construction. Destruction by fire. Many things changed quickly in Westport in the early 1900’s. Last week we looked at the fire maps of the village in 1897. Now, if you would like to examine the differences between the original maps and almost ten years later (September of 1908), you can check them out below. To examine them on a bigger scale, they are available on the website of Library & Archives Canada. Simply click on the following revised maps and you can zoom in and examine our village and the changes that occurred during the early 1900’s.

Part Eight ~ Westport Fire Maps

Ready to explore the village of olden days and see if you can find your home, or what used to stand on its spot? The fire maps of Westport (and most towns) for 1897 indicated which buildings were made of stone, wood or brick and also showed where there were piles of woods, sheds and more. This would help both insurance companies and fire responders know what they were dealing with in a town. The maps of 1897 for Westport show a lot of the streets before they were destroyed by fires, and these maps would later be revised in the 1900’s to show the changes that had occurred since they were first created. The Westport maps have now become public domain, and the link to examine them closer ca

Part Seven ~ The Hotels of Westport (Part Three)

Last week we mentioned the fire that came close to the American House Hotel. That would be the fire of March, 1923, which destroyed the Windsor Hotel along with a house to its north and two across the road. The late Beulah Knapp (Palmer) was present at the fire and recalled the piano was saved from the flames, was rolled out the front door by helpful onlookers and sustained damage when it crossed the road. Likely due to the brick construction of the Foley House and the stone of the American House, both of those buildings survived the north-blowing wind that might have otherwise destroyed them. The Windsor Hotel, which was located just north of the corner where Rideau Street becomes Main,

Part Six ~ The Hotels of Westport (Part Two)

I’m sure that many of you can remember The Westport Inn, which had once been called the Alhambra. Standing on the outside curve of George Street, The Westport Inn was a local landmark for many years, even after its doors closed to overnight guests. Abandoned and largely forgotten (except by those that would sneak in to play cards), the large hotel fell into disrepair and was torn down in the 1980’s. The Alhambra Inn was located on the outer curve of George Street. The Alhambra (later known as The Westport Inn) was mentioned in the pages of “Nell’s Diary” ~ “Alhambra Hotel changed hands Nov 1st – 1941 – Hagan & Mitchell Proprietors”. There probably aren’t a lot of locals that can still reme

Part Five ~ The Hotels of Westport (Part One)

Because of the railway, the proximity to the Rideau, and the number of roads passing through it, Westport was once a hub of activity for reasons other than our current bustling tourism trade. Farmers stopping in the village to trade their livestock, cheese merchants coming to town to ship out their goods on the train, and tradesmen staying over for business purposes could be picked up at the station or the waterfront and catch an express stagecoach to one of the many hotels in town. The Wardrobe, The American Hotel, and the Cameron Hotel were just three of the hotels functioning in the late 1800’s in Westport. Of these three hotels, only one is no longer standing. Fire came close to the d

Part Four ~ Luxury of Westport’s Past

Cruises were a big deal in the late 1800’s and into the early parts of the 1900’s. Ships like “The Haggart” of Perth would ply their way along The Rideau bringing tourists, sports teams and spectators to Westport on a regular basis. For a few cents, folks could join a group of people and sail to our village to enjoy events like community picnics, fairs and baseball games. These day excursions were extremely popular, but those seeking true luxury would splurge for a cruise on the bigger ships, such as the James Swift, the Rideau Queen, the Rideau Belle and the Rideau King. These “Palace Ships” would take their passengers in comfort between Kingston and Ottawa with numerous stopovers in be

Part Three ~ Snowy Days on The Mountain

For anyone that ventured out during the snow storm this week, it was easy to see why it was considered one of the biggest snowfalls in recent memory. Although storms in Canada are commonplace, our modern snowplows got everyone back up and running within a day. Back in the earlier days of Westport, snow clearing took a lot longer, with many parking their cars and reverting to the horse and sleigh when the roads became impassible. Below are three pictures of a snowy day on The Mountain, where the road might have been nightmare-inducing for those with bald tires and bad brakes. Imprints on The Mountain made by horse and sleigh as you can see hoof marks between the tracks. A snow-covered Moun

Part Two ~ Winter on the Railway

With our first real blast of wintery weather coming up this weekend, it might be a good time to look back at what winters were like in Westport’s earlier days. Back in the days of the B & W Railway, the speediest route between two stops wasn’t always the train. Oftentimes, the train would get stuck somewhere along the way and nothing could help but some good, old-fashioned, shoveling. Bresee’s Cut was a particularly treacherous stretch of track where the train sometimes ended up stuck for quite some time, bringing the passengers to their destinations over 18 hours late! The following three photographs show the old B & W mired in the snow in Bresee’s Cut.

Part One ~ Beginnings

Westport, 1871 ~ from the Archives of The Rideau District Museum Above is one of the earliest-known photographs of Westport, circa 1871. With open fields in the distance and Fredenburgh’s Furniture Factory in the foreground, many of our current landmarks are absent in this old picture. Prior to construction in (circa) 1876, the lot where W.H. Fredenburgh would later build his home on the northwest corner of Bedford and Main Streets stands vacant (currently The Cove Country Inn). The year following this photograph (1872), Hiram Lockwood would construct his general store (currently the home of Lower Mountain Mercantile). The Red Mill, 1871 ~ from the Archives of The Rideau District Museum A

Part 71: ...and then there were more

For some reason, the obituaries were full of drowning deaths in the early days. Whether it was caused by the clothing that was worn (nobody dared leave their home without that three-piece suit or bulky day dress with bustle and hat), a lack of lighting along the water (last week we discussed Herbert Foster that drowned in the canal at night), or simply the inability to swim (many never learned, as there was too much work to do during daylight hours to waste time swimming when just a quick sit in the shallow water could cool you just as well), drowning was certainly near the top of the list of accidental deaths. One thing that they all have in common is the effect it had on family and commu

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30 Bedford Street, P.O. Box 68

Westport, Ontario, Canada

K0G 1X0