Notice of Intention to Designate Oakville Harbour Cultural Heritage Landscape

Thursday, February 27, 2020

On February 10, 2020, Oakville Town Council resolved to pass a Notice of Intention to Designate the following property under Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.18, as amended, as a property of cultural heritage value and interest:

The Oakville Harbour Cultural Heritage Landscape (CHL) is an organically evolved and associative landscape located at the mouth of Sixteen Mile Creek in downtown Oakville. The site contains a combination of natural and built features that have shaped and been shaped by ongoing human activity for hundreds of years at least. The Oakville Harbour environment is defined by steep banks dropping to river flats on both sides of the water. The CHL is comprised of several parcels including Oakville Harbour, Lakeside Park, Erchless Estate, Market Square, the Oakville Lawn Bowling Club, the Oakville Club, Water Street Park, Lakeshore Road Bridge, Shipyard Park, Tannery Park, and part of Sixteen Mile Creek. The CHL is roughly 11 hectares in size, and is bounded generally by Lakeshore Road to north, Forsythe Street and private dwellings to the west, Lake Ontario to the south, and residential areas to the east.

Oakville Harbour was established in the late 1820s and quickly developed into a busy commercial port with industries, shipyards, warehouses and commercial schooners crowding its banks. By the 1880s, the harbour was transitioning to recreational usage characterized by water-based activities, something that continues to define the area. Comprised largely of parkland, the CHL is characterized by open spaces, both manicured and semi natural, and is intimately connected to water with trees and plantings, grass, paths and trails,slips and harbour infrastructure, historic buildings, recreational facilities, and clubhouses.

While the Erchless Estate is contained within the Oakville Harbour CHL, it has been designated as a separate CHL and is governed by its own designation by-law.

The Oakville Harbour CHL is of cultural heritage value or interest for its design, historical/associative, and contextual values. The Oakville Harbour CHL is considered an Associative Cultural Landscape for its cultural connections to the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, who value the mouth of the river as a place of traditional practices and spirituality within their ancestral territory. It is also an Associative Cultural Landscape as it represents the town of Oakville’s origins and historic town centre, and it reflects later efforts to commemorate Oakville’s early history.

As a historic harbour, it is considered an Organically Evolved Landscape (Continuing) for cultural practices in response to the natural environment, including ongoing recreational activities, that have sustained the landscape’s evolution.

The Oakville Harbour CHL has design value as a representative example of a semi-natural, river harbour (where a harbour is formed naturally along a river but requires human-made elements for protection against wind and waves). Sixteen Mile Creek winds its way from the Niagara Escarpment to Lake Ontario where it straightens out and widens to form a harbour environment. In 1828, William Chisholm was granted permission by the Upper Canada House of Assembly to construct a harbour comprised of parallel east and west piers built on cribs. This was followed by dredging of the harbour in 1830. Since then, the area has been altered, repaired and consistently dredged to ensure its viability as a harbour for commercial and then recreational use.

The Oakville Harbour CHL has historical/associative value for its direct associations with the Indigenous use of Nanzuhzaugewazon (Sixteen Mile Creek) and the surrounding area, part of Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee traditional territories. Historically documented Indigenous use of the creek dating to the early 1700s, when the Mississaugas established summer camps in the vicinity of the harbour area. Here they hunted, fished, and cultivated corn on river flats before returning to northern hunting grounds for the winter months. The Mississauga formally gave up use of the lands at the mouth of Sixteen Mile Creek with the signing of Treaty 22 in 1820. As the confluence of Sixteen Mile Creek and Lake Ontario, the area is a notable water locale and continues to hold spiritual significance for the Mississauga of the Credit First Nation.

The Oakville Harbour CHL has historical/associative value for its direct associations with the town of Oakville’s founding and development. After the harbour’s establishment, a townsite was surveyed in 1833 and Oakville grew around the booming commercial harbour to become a thriving port town with important civic institutions situated in the area. As an official Port of Entry into Canada, customs operations were based on the Erchless Estate grounds from at least the 1850s until 1910. An adjacent Market Square was planned in the original 1833 townsite and later housed the Market Building and Town Hall.

The Oakville Harbour CHL has historical/associative value for its direct associations with ship and boatbuilding. Shipbuilding began in 1827 when William Chisholm established his shipyard to construct commercial schooners to export wheat, white oak and white pine. Commercial shipbuilding continued at a number of shipyards into the 1860s after which boatbuilding for competitive racing and recreation took over. In the 1880s, Captain James Andrew established his shipyard in the harbour and produced successful racing yachts including the Aggie (1887) and Canada (1895).

The Oakville Harbour CHL has historical/ associative value for its direct associations with the industrialization of Oakville beginning in the 1830s. Located primarily on the west side of the harbour these enterprises included the John Doty sawmill that operated between the 1850s and 1870s and the Marlatt & Armstrong Tannery which operated between the 1850s and 1920s in various forms. The Oakville Harbour CHL has historical/associative value for its direct associations with recreational activities and organizations. The rise of recreation and leisure activities in the harbour began in the late 1880s when a growing middle class in Ontario had the time and resources to enjoy leisure pursuits. Oakville’s position on Lake Ontario made it a prime summer destination for day-trippers and longer term vacationers arriving by steamship and train. As commercial shipping declined in the harbour popular leisure activities included sailing, boating, paddling, swimming and fishing. This growing public use of the area led the town to purchase property along the waterfront in 1877 and formally establish Lakeside Park in 1897. Several organizations related to recreation were established including the Oakville Club (1907), the Oakville Yacht Squadron (1946) and the Oakville Power Boat Club (1953). Additionally, the harbour has direct associations with competitive paddling having produced several Olympians including Larry Cain (sprint canoeist) and Adam van Koeverden (sprint kayaker).

The Oakville Harbour CHL has historical/associative value for its direct associations with the activities of conservation, commemoration and volunteerism which began in the 1950s.

As an area associated with Oakville’s founding and development, the Oakville Harbour CHL is home to numerous relocated and restored structures, several dating to the early 1800s. These include Lyon’s Log Cabin (built c1820; moved 1966), Merrick Thomas House (built c1829; moved 1955), Post Office (built c1835; moved 1952), Oakville’s Second Lighthouse (built 1889; moved 1960).

Additional conservation initiatives recognizing area’s historical import include the Old Oakville Heritage Conservation District (1981), and restoration of the Erchless Estate by the town of Oakville. Commemorative activities include plaques, markers, memorial trees and trails acknowledging important people, events and structures in Oakville’s history. In large part, these conservation and commemorative activities are the result of ongoing volunteer activities of the Oakville Historical Society (1953) and the Oakville Lakeside Residents’ Association (1966). In addition, the Town of Oakville Water Air Rescue Force (1954) relies on a substantial body of volunteers to provide search and rescue activities.

The Oakville Harbour CHL has historical/associative value for its direct associations with several members of the Chisholm family. The Chisholm family was responsible for constructing the harbour in 1828 (William) and the Erchless Estate in 1856 (Robert Kerr), serving as local business owners and public officials (William and Robert Kerr), establishing organizations including the Oakville Club (Allan Stuart) and the Oakville Historical Society (Hazell Mathews) and for restoring the Erchless Estate and providing property for public use as Lakeside Park (Hazell Mathews).

The Oakville Harbour CHL has historical/associative value for its direct associations with the christening of the H.M.C.S. Oakville. The Oakville was an armoured submarine hunter and convoy escort and part of Canada’s World War II effort. On November 5, 1941, the Oakville anchored off shore and thousands of local citizens gathered in Lakeside Park to cheer on the ship and crew. The town presented several items to the crew including the clock from the Aggie.

The Oakville Harbour CHL has historical/associative value for archaeological potential at Lakeside, Shipyard and Tannery parks.

The Oakville Harbour CHL has contextual value for its role in defining the character of the area. Sixteen Mile Creek, with its steep banks on the east and west, define the area as a harbour with the area’s topography affording numerous views and visual connections to the creek and Lake Ontario. The Oakville Harbour CHL has contextual value as a place functionally linked to its surroundings. With its wide creek mouth and shoreline flats, it was a natural location for a harbour. Its historic function as a commercial harbour, and current function as a recreational harbour have always been related to the physical situation and conditions of the creek mouth where it meets Lake Ontario.

The Oakville Harbour CHL has contextual value as a landmark. It is a prominent feature in the town of Oakville and a well-used public amenity space.

The heritage attributes of the Oakville Harbour CHL relate to its historical/associative and contextual values. These include:

Significant views to and from Oakville Harbour CHL, including:

Any objection to this designation must be filed no later than March 30, 2020. Objections should be directed to the Town Clerk, 1225 Trafalgar Road, Oakville, Ontario L6H 0H3.

Further information respecting this proposed designation, including more details regarding the map area and/or the full legal description of each property within the Oakville Harbour Cultural Heritage Landscape, is available from the Town of Oakville. Any inquiries may be directed to Susan Schappert, heritage planner at 905-845-6601, ext. 3870 (TTY 905-338-4200), or by email at

The last date to file a notice of objection is March 30, 2020.