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*Updated September 8, 2020*
Halton Hills is a community of towns, hamlets and villages that occupy an area along the Niagara Escarpment, with the Credit River winding its way through the forests, plains, and marshes. The abundant natural beauty and small-town charm have captivated many artists, encouraging many of them to call this place home.
VISIT THE Halton Hills Cultural Centre – 10:00 AM
DAY 1 – 10:00 AM: There’s everything you need at halton hills cultural centre
The Halton Hills Library and Cultural Centre has been designated a Bike Welcome Centre and has everything you need to tune up your ride, and prepare for your tour. The Helson Gallery is in the same complex, integrating the old Congregational Church structure with its vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows, as is the John Elliot Theatre.
Ride Down Historic Guelph Street – 12:00 PM
DAY 1 – 12:00 PM: The booming local economy of the 19th century attracted newcomers and created a demand for churches. Head down Guelph Street, and you’ll come across several.
There’s St. John’s United, first built in the 1840s by local Methodists and renovated in 1902, transforming its original wooden structure into its current gothic revival form.
Next up is l’Eglise Sacré-Coeur, which used to be the Holy Cross Parish, built in 1885. Holy Cross built a new church to better serve its growing congregation, leaving the old building to the local French Catholics, who christened it Sacré-Coeur.
Finally, there’s St. George’s Anglican Church, which was built on land donated to the Church of England by the Kennedys. Like St. John’s, it started out as a wooden structure in 1833 before the sturdier stone structure replaced it in 1851.
Hopefully the ride’s worked up your appetite. Consider grabbing lunch to go because your next stop is perfect for a picnic.
Wander Dominion Gardens Park – 1:00 PM
DAY 1 – 1:00 PM: Enjoy the fresh air in Dominion Gardens Park.
There’s a splash pad and a playground, but the main attraction is the Old Seed House Garden.
The garden’s origins lay with entrepreneur William Bradley, who founded the Dominion Seed House in 1928. Business boomed within a decade, with the seeds sown from British Columbia to Newfoundland. It still exists today, and the garden remains as a tribute to its place in local history.
The gazebo at the heart of the garden is a popular space, with twin flowerbeds of tulips, daffodils, lilacs and forsythias flanking the central approach, and bronze statues of seated children by renowned English sculptor John Edward Robinson.
Visit the grounds of historic Devereaux House – 2:30 PM
DAY 1 – 2:30 PM: Cutting across town, you’ll come across this pleasant Victorian-era farmhouse.
The farmland it stands on was established in 1829, with the house built in the 1850s by Elijah Devereaux, a member of the local militia. Devereaux’s family would tend the farm until 1972.
The farmhouse eventually fell into disrepair, but in 2007, locals engaged in some serious fundraising to restore it to its former charm.
Take a Hike Through Silver Creek – 3:30 PM
DAY 1 – 3:30 PM: If you’re keen to carry on, the Silver Creek Conservation Area presents a worthy challenge.
There are high ridges, open plains, marshy lowlands, and several rivers. You may notice turkey vultures flying overhead or trout swimming through the rivers.
Exploring the area thoroughly, you might come across the remnants of old quarries and a lonely cabin on what used to be the Fallbrook Farm. The existing cabin was built in 2001, replacing the original which dated to the early-to-mid 1800s. The farmstead was abandoned because the land was more suited for mining than for agriculture, leaving it to be slowly encircled by the forest.
Chances are all this trekking has tuckered you out. You can shack up at one of the many local bed & breakfasts and rest up for tomorrow’s tour through Glen Williams.
Explore Glen Williams Park – 10:00 AM
DAY 2 – 10:00 AM: The history of the hamlet known as Glen Williams is intertwined with that of Georgetown.
In 1825, United Empire loyalist Benajah Williams arrived in the area which would become Halton Hills. Benajah was the brother-in-law of George Kennedy, and like his relation, he was industrious and established several mills.
Glen Williams, small as it was, had to be self-sufficient in many respects. If the villagers needed something, they had to make it themselves, so it was with Glen Williams Park. As with its other civic spaces, the locals recognized the need for a gathering place and they cleared the land to create the park in 1964. Now, it’s a favourite of residents in which to enjoy the fresh air and catch the occasional softball game.
Go for a Hike on the Credit Valley Footpath – 10:30 AM
DAY 2 – Up for a bit of a hike?
Glen Williams Park has easy access to the Credit Valley Footpath via the Ainley Trail access point. After a detour through the Meadows in the Glen community, you’ll explore an area around the Credit River, teeming with vegetation and wildlife.
The Wendat and Mississaugas were the first people to explore the ridges, plains, and rivers in the area, using the Credit River to facilitate rapid trade and transportation. When European settlers arrived, they tapped the river’s current to power mills for a number of industrial purposes. As you go about your hike, you’ll spot the ruins of the Barber Mill (private property, which was built in 1854 and was shuttered a century later).
For Ontario Culture Days 2019, the First Steps along the Path’ Celebration took place here. The program received a Spotlight Recognition Award for showcasing a unique set of activities capturing the themes of wellbeing, local heritage and Indigenous history. Programming highlights included an Indigenous Water Ceremony, interactive arts activities, themed trail walks and tasting traditional Indigenous cuisine.
Visit Williams Mill Art Centre – 11:00 AM
DAY 2 – The Williams Mill Creative CENTRE started out as a saw mill, built by Benajah Williams in 1825.
Rebuilt in 1852, and then repurposed several times, it became a hosiery factory, an electrical facility, and a fruit processing factory. Now, it’s a hub for artists.
The Mill is a collection of artist studios that are open to the public to visit including Glen Williams Glass where you can watch glass artists at work. The artists also run regular classes on life drawing, sculpture, music and more. Locals often rent out parts of the complex for community events and celebrations.
If you’re keen to grab a bite, you can enjoy lunch at the Copper Kettle which is a short walk away.
Heritage Tour of Town – 12:30 PM
DAY 2 – Your final leg of the journey starts at Glen Williams Town Hall.
The final leg of your journey starts at Glen Williams Town Hall. In 1871, local leaders decided a gathering place was required to meet the eclectic needs of this small, but tight-knit community, and so one was built. The newly-minted hall was often rented out for church services, concerts, and the occasional theatre production. Lucy Maude Montgomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame, lived nearby In Norval and staged a few shows here in her day.
Setting off from the town hall, you’ll be looking for heritage homes, all dating to the mid-19th century. Charles Williams House, William-Holt House, and the Williams Edge Tool Factory were all part of the Williams portfolio, and were places of business. The odd house out, Forester House, was home to a physician who practiced outside of the community. They aren’t palatial abodes or massive factories, but these buildings were the beating heart of Glen Williams at the time.
And with that, you’re done your bite-sized excursion in Glen Williams. You can explore the other towns and hamlets in the hills, or you can sit on the benches by St. Alban the Martyr Anglican Church and watch the Credit River flow.
YOUR TRIP AT A GLANCE
Halton Hills Library & Cultural Centre – haltonhills.ca/culture
Dominion Gardens Park – haltonhills.ca/parks
Devereaux House – https://www.devereauxhouse.ca/
Silver Creek Conservation Area – https://cvc.ca/enjoy-the-outdoors/conservation-areas/silver-creek-conservation-area/
Glen Williams Park – http://www.glenwilliams.org/venue/glen-williams-park/
Credit Valley Footpath – https://cvc.ca/enjoy-the-outdoors/activities/trails/credit-valley-trail/
Williams Mill Creative Art Studios – https://williamsmill.com/
The St. George Pub – http://www.thestgeorge.ca/
Hungry Hollow Smokehouse & Grille – https://www.hungryhollow.ca/
The Mess Hall Poutinerie – https://www.themesshall.ca/
The Glen Tavern – http://theglentavern.com/
The Copper Kettle – http://www.copperkettle.ca/
Stone Edge Estates – http://www.stoneedgeestate.ca/
This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.
The Town of Halton Hills provided information for the creation of this guide. All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. The guide was written by Kevin Valbonesi.