Kirkendall & Chedoke Park
Repeated and inaccurately translated Scotch names from Gaelic to English and Teutonic languages are said to have resulted in many spelling variants. Just for the name Kirkendall, I’ve come across Kirkness, Kirknes, Curkendall, Kirkendale and the Dutch version Kuykendall.
Anyone who has heard the stories of William “Braveheart” Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Robert Roy MacGregor should have an idea that the Scottish has a history of being brutalized by the English for centuries; some even being driven off of their ancient lands, if not outright killed. Some refugees made it to Ireland and Australia but most are said to have traveled to North American colonies. This is how lower (below the Niagara Escarpment) Hamilton seems to have come to have a neighbourhood with this very old name.
Where It All Began
The neighbourhood is named after prominent businessman and landowner, Samuel Kirkendall whose land actually lay around Bay Street South in what would become the Durand neighbourhood. Durand abuts Kirkendall’s eastern border. My ever so brief investigation into just who Samuel was leaves me with the following few, likely and interesting facts that I am unable to confirm.
In 1810, shortly after the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), David Kirkendall and his wife, Rhoda Smith, of New Jersey, left their Pennsylvania home and settled in Upper Canada, leaving behind six brothers. They received a large Government grant of land on Burlington Bay, also largely known as Hamilton Harbour today. David’s cabin was supposedly one of the first four standing in the center of the future City of Hamilton. David and Rhoda had three sons, William, Joseph and Samuel, and three daughters. Later in life, two of the sisters may have become known as Mrs. Walter Muirhead and Mrs. Alexander Young. This youngest son, Samuel was given the family home. William and Joseph were given large holdings on the Niagara Escarpment.
It seems to me that there is a strong probability that Samuel was married to a Euphemia L. Lawrey on January 30, 1845 by Rev. L. Warner at the Methodist Episcopal Church. A William Smiley and Margaret Taylor are likely to have been the witnesses.
It’s a little hard to imagine this heavily built-up and densely populated area as being wilderness but local history sources say that before even the rudiments of what became the City of Hamilton, this place had many ponds as a result of numerous natural springs located at the base of the Niagara Escarpment.
In 1840, Queen Street South was the western edge of the burgeoning Town of Hamilton. The area that would later become the neighbourhood of Kirkendall existed immediately beyond the limits of town and belonged to Barton Township. When Hamilton was incorporated as a city in 1846, city limits expanded westward to Paradise Road, which is now in the neighbourhood of Westdale, and the southwest frontier of the new city became what was destined to become Kirkendall. This still quite isolated area between Queen and Paradise is said to have consisted of wide open fields with small patches of trees and brush. Streams flowing from above the escarpment and down through swampy gullies of the Chedoke Valley, then called “Beasley’s Hollow”, had also cut some creeks through the area. Sensational Chedoke Falls—slightly hidden by a deep gorge, Chedoke Falls East and Denlow Falls are still flowing in Kirkendall.
I can see many of these geographic features on a limited edition fine art print of a hand-drawn 1842 map of Hamilton that was a gift to me in late 2009 from Rita Griffin-Short, a local archaeologist.
As efforts seemed to be focused on spreading the city eastward in its first thirty years after incorporation, it would take considerable time before these rugged lands to the west would be developed and populated. It was the installment of brick sewers and gas lines along macadamized Locke and Herkimer Streets in 1885 that signaled the beginning of significant growth for the Kirkendall neighbourhood.
How Far We’ve Come
This suburb is vast. It is divided into two parts; Kirkendall North and South. Kirkendall North is bounded by Main Street West in the north, Queen Street South in the east, the Chedoke Valley and Highway 403 (Chedoke Parkway) in the west and Aberdeen Avenue in the south. Kirkendall South is surrounded by Aberdeen Avenue to its north, Queen Street South, again to the east, Highway 403 again to the west and the escarpment in the south.
Most of the houses of today’s Kirkendall are said to have been built in the 1920’s. These “grand” homes, many of Edwardian and Tudor Revival styles, appear to be very well taken care of, and have beautiful character. Many of these opulent old homes originally belonged to the city’s wealthy and innovative business elite. Some still do. Others now belong to doctors, lawyers and judges. Most of Kirkendall’s residents, nevertheless, are middle class Caucasians, as with the majority of the city. The neighbourhood is well-respected.
As with any large city, there are unfamiliar places to lifelong citizens. The mere mention of the name Locke Street, however, needs no explanation for locals. No matter what person lives in this sprawling town, every Hamiltonian knows where Lock Street is.
Starting in 1875, the street seems to have grown from an old north-south trail leading from the escarpment that also formed the western edge of a horse racetrack property that was once owned by the controversial farmer, businessman and politician Richard Beasley (b. July 21, 1761 – d. February 16, 1842). Fast residential and commercial growth around Locke from this time and steadily onward seems to have been important to the development and success of Kirkendall. The neighbourhood practically became a self-supporting village by the time of World War II despite the hardships felt by The Great Depression and the war.
By 1970, Locke Street and Kirkendall saw the largest and most severe commercial downturn in the area’s history. In the following decades, major commercial and residential renewal has been achieved but reportedly not to the extent of how Kirkendall thrived in its heyday.
When I walk along Locke Street South today, its reputation of being one of Hamilton’s trendy commercial districts; the other being the art district of James Street North, is quite apparent. Small hairdressers, antique gift stores, art stores and galleries, and eat in restaurants are everywhere. Locke has remained Kirkendall’s social centre. This isn’t enough; however, to keep all of Kirkendall unblemished in our modern times.
While the neighbourhood’s property taxes are increasing, so are the costs of providing quality customer service in the area’s specialty shops. Infrastructure, especially the sewer system, desperately needs upgrading throughout all of Kirkendall as is the case with the rest of the city. Parking in the vicinity of Locke is always a considerable challenge.
Chedoke Park A and Chedoke Park B are two land surveys that appear to have been established just west of Kirkendall South back in the 1980’s. Both parcels of land are carved out of the enormous, 36-hole, city-owned Chedoke Civic Golf Course, and are considered smaller parts of a distinguished Chedoke Park neighbourhood.
Chedoke Park A is still a woodlot but Chedoke Park B, municipally known as 100 Beddoe Drive, is the only subdivision currently developed for modern residential use. The townhouses of the Chedoke Park B enclave were erected during the 90’s and early 2000’s by the United Lands Corporation Limited (ULCL) but not without opposition from City Council and the Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association (KNA).
Opposition to the ULCL’s urbanizing of the Chedoke Park B — land that they owned, was based on the assertions that:
1) A residential area there was likely to be bothered by nuisance industrial noise from the nearby, long-existing, and industrially vital Aberdeen Marshalling Yard, thereby inconveniencing the yard operators by forcing them to severely curtail their operations and abandon any of their own potential expansionist plans to the northwest of their site;
2) The ULCL’s proposal would seriously interfere with the established and accepted character of the Kirkendall-Chedoke area;
3) The area was presumed to eventually suffer from adverse environmental effects due to the existence of the yard and new residential survey together;
4) The private property with the survey would be damaged by stray golf balls driven in from the surrounding golf course;
5) The survey would be too distant from community facilities such as schools, library, retail stores, churches, hospitals and so on; and
6) There would be increased safety risks for children, women, the elderly and the physically-challenged that may cut through the rail yard to get to and from community facilities.
These were actually just some of the arguments posed to the Ontario Office of Consolidated Hearings, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Niagara Escarpment Hearing Office and Niagara Escarpment Commission. In the end, the arguments of the opposition were refuted and the ULCL was granted permission to develop their land as planned. Chedoke Park B exists today; as originally intended, as a suburban, ultra-quiet “micro-neighbourhood” physically secluded from the rest of Kirkendall.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Kirkendall-Chedoke area is that the Bruce Trail borders the neighbourhoods’ southern edge along the escarpment. This trail, maintained by the Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC), is where anyone can go to experience some of nature’s wild beauty while still being in the middle of a major city. Chedoke Falls is off of this trail, and is physically connected to Kirkendall South.
It’s been said many times, as it is quite true, that Hamilton is a city in which its people have lost their way and/or been led astray. Key to any community reviving itself is its members acting to rebuild or reinvent themselves, taking charge of their destiny. One way to achieve that is by establishing and nurturing a community association.
It’s a cynical town in a cynical world so it comes as no surprise to me that there are many citizens who are either unaware of the community associations in their midst or lack faith in them to accomplish anything of importance. People love to complain about their city, and will wait to see if someone else will make the first move to try and make changes, all the while expecting the revolutionaries; if you will, to fall flat on their faces.
Jamaican born Dub poet Klyde Broox is a resident of the Kirkendall neighbourhood, and has performed dub poetry readings for the KNA on two occasions. He was clearly well received the first time to be called back the second time. I wanted to get a sense from him if he thought that the KNA are effective. He does indeed find them open, proactive and active in their efforts to maintain or improve their section of the city, and these aspects also bring to his mind the importance of social tolerance, and even better, acceptance:
“They are supportive,” Klyde told me during an interview, “of the idea of what I call ‘Neo-Canada’, the new Canada. The new Canadians where originally . . . at first people thought that being a Canadian somehow meant you had to be Anglo. You had to be Anglo-Caucasian, and that’s the original Canadian but I’m saying due to immigration and everything now, and the fact that we are so many cultures we need to realize that the Canadian face could look like anyone from anywhere and that to me, as a poet, that’s part of a beautiful and powerful thing about Canadian culture.”
I asked Klyde to tell me about any specific successes he is aware to have come from the KNA’s agenda, and he said, “The Neighbourhood Watch; people in the neighbourhood look out for each other’s kids. We’re like a little enclave. I notice that Hamilton is developing to a level like Toronto where it is a city made up of several communities interwoven into one megacity, and Hamilton is very much like that.”
Under the Watch
The Hamilton Police Service regards the city through three patrol divisions. Kirkendall is located in Division 1, which is surrounded by Sherman Avenue, the border of the Dundas and Ancaster communities, the mountain brow and Hamilton Harbour. Division 1 is further broken down into four sectors for the police. Kirkendall occupies the southeast corner of Sector 1; also known to the HPS as simply West Town.
Monthly crime statistics used to be posted by the HPS on the Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association website for Kirkendall, Strathcona and Westdale. As it would appear from just looking, Kirkendall is definitely not a high crime area. Break and enters and thefts from automobiles are occasional each month for Kirkendall while robberies and actual auto thefts are virtually unheard of. Perhaps, many of the residents can afford electronic home security systems and cars with anti-theft features.
Assaults and con artist scams – seemingly mostly in the form of door-to-door scams, do occur but are also rare. This neighbourhood seems to enjoy a long-standing trend of having no known illegal drug houses or other narcotics trafficking activity. Hopefully that won’t change.
Most parts of Lower Hamilton are unlikely to see major changes in the foreseeable future. The areas are saturated with people and existing properties. There’s no room for introducing anything new, and the City has targeted the rural lands around the airport for expansion.
What will be Kirkendall’s future? Is there any industrial, commercial or social growth for the area? It seems this is an area in which there are some possibilities.
I believe that it was in late 2004 that the household appliance manufacturer Camco; in an industrial area on the west side of Kirkendall, closed its doors and put some 800 workers out of work.
Back in February 2006, the City adopted a Secondary Plan for the West Hamilton Innovation District (WHID) which is that western half of Kirkendall North where Camco once existed. The Plan modified the existing industrial land surveys for creating a research and development business park, stripping away the heavy industrial and commercial zoning that was felt incompatible with the surrounding neighbourhood.
This allowed for the establishment of McMaster University’s long awaited Innovation Park along Longwood Road; exactly the spot where Camco once operated for 25 years or so (Westinghouse operated from there prior to Camco).
Some of the land in the WHID appears to only have old abandoned warehouses on it. Real estate negotiations and environmental land remediation costs could be the only but potentially daunting hindrances to other modern and positive developments for the neighbourhood and city.
What do I foresee for the WHID? I see more office buildings and the expansion of the McMaster Innovation Park. That means potentially good paying jobs for many with the appropriate education. It unfortunately means that the many still around who have only high school or less will not likely find a place there.