Mary and John Streets, June 2013

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mary-Allen Beginnings, Part II

The Grand Trunk Railway came to Berlin (Kitchener) in 1856, drawing the region to within reach of the far-flung world, and broadening its cultural, commercial and industrial potential.  

In Waterloo, the land made available by the 1855 Hoffman survey (see the Nov. 13 blog post Mary-Allen Beginnings, Part I) meant that commercial and industrial enterprise could now gain more of a foothold.  The population increased to 1,274 by 1861, and it would continue to increase steadily into the thousands during the late nineteenth century.

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Part of the 1861 Tremaine's Map of the County of Waterloo, Canada West.  By the mid-1800s, the town of Berlin and village of Waterloo had become surrounded by subdivided agricultural lots.  Showing the original size of the lots as they were created in 1805 is the nearly 450-acre, undivided lot labeled “Saml. S. Snider”.  The black and white line in the lower part of the map marks the Grand Trunk Railway (this rail right-of-way is still in place today, north of Victoria Street).  In Waterloo, King, Erb and Albert Streets are all shown, as are Mary and John Streets.  The school is indicated at Central and King Streets, and the millpond – forerunner of today’s Silver Lake – is shown near Erb and Albert Streets.  The triangular area in black along Albert and King Streets, north of Erb, marks the oldest urban development in Waterloo.  Image courtesy of Marion Roes, from a map at the Region of Waterloo Archives.

The old mill was expanded, and brewing, distilling, barrel-making, and furniture and farm implement manufacturing developed alongside other large- and small-scale industry.  Waterloo also eventually became known as a seedbed for firms dealing in insurance, which grew into a local specialty. 

Much of this fresh activity got its start on the new Hoffman Survey lots north of William Street. 

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A portion of the 1861 Tremaine's Map of the County of Waterloo, Canada West.  By the 1860s, development in Waterloo village had spread south of Erb Street (which passes left-to-right through the center of the map) along King Street.  Albert Street (at upper left) is already well lined with houses, as is upper King Street.  To the south, the public square at William Street persists to this day.  Image courtesy of the City of Waterloo Museum.

Manufacturing sites would eventually come to dominate the area south of the mill that is occupied today by Waterloo Public Square, the adjacent mall, and the newer buildings between Willis Way and William Street, while commercial buildings lined the opposite side of King Street (between Erb and William) by the 1860s.

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This 1950s aerial view looking north shows the mark that the nineteenth century left on King Street in central Waterloo.  On the west side, the empty lot near the several large trees at center is the former site of one of Waterloo’s first buildings, the Erb/Snider flour mill.  Continuing towards the bottom is the large Waterloo Manufacturing Co. complex and the Snyder Furniture factory buildings.  Across King, large and small buildings from the 1800s make for a more varied streetscape.  St. John's Lutheran Church is visible in the distance, as are the old town hall and fire hall (just to the right of the circular garden) and the “Button Factory” on Regina Street.  Of all the buildings specifically named above, only the last one still stands today.  Open fields are visible just beyond Central Street.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History; photograph G-5-7 (oversize).

With all of this growth, the development of residential neighbourhoods was inevitable.  South of the commercial district, the long strip of mostly undeveloped land on the east side of King Street that included the Hoffman home, an orchard and a pond in the 1850s (see the blog post Mary-Allen Beginnings, Part I) would undergo a dramatic change as well. 

A writer in the 1920s had remembered the hilly grove adjoining the Hoffman property as a favourite pleasure ground in the 1860s; one of Waterloo’s earliest spots for picnics, band music and social gatherings.  But soon after the Kumpf family bought the Hoffman house and property in the late 1860s, they, along with several other owners of larger tracts in the future Mary-Allen area, had more surveys completed.  These surveys enabled further subdivision.

Much of the Mary-Allen neighbourhood was surveyed as part of the Kumpf-Devitt-Snider survey of 1875.  Christian Kumpf was the town postmaster, former publisher of the Waterloo Chronicle, and future Mayor of Waterloo.  Barnabas Devitt was the adopted son of the Magdalena and Abraham Erb, and Barnabas's son, Benjamin, was also a future Waterloo mayor.  The Sniders (and Erbs) are covered in a bit more detail in the blog post Mary-Allen Beginnings, Part I.

The 1875 Kumpf-Devitt-Snider survey established most of the Mary-Allen street grid as it exists today.  George, Allen and Willow Streets were created, and the already-existing John and William Streets were extended to Willow. 

References to the nineteenth-century surveys show up occasionally, even now.  For example, today’s Mary-Allen neighbourhood property owners can look at their municipal property tax bills to find their “lot” and “plan” numbers.  The plan numbers are the original registered survey numbers.  The Kumpf-Devitt-Snider survey is registered plan number 498.  That plan number is on my property tax bill.

Later surveys between 1884 and 1890 paved the way for the eventual extension of Allen, John and Union Streets beyond Willow Street, and for Moore Avenue to be laid out through the former Devitt estate (owned at the time by George Moore).

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Part of a c. 1895 birds-eye view of the town of Waterloo, looking west.  Factories and commercial buildings crowd the center of town north of William Street, while the fledgling Mary-Allen district is residential, with a few factories and open lots at the edges.  The land between George and Allen Streets, behind the old Hoffman/Kumpf house, was undeveloped in 1855 but is full of houses in this view.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Municipal Heritage Committee.

In the wake of the land surveys, subdivisions and subsequent lot sales, the construction of new homes had begun to speed up in the Mary-Allen neighbourhood by the late 1880s.  All over Waterloo larger homes had begun sprouting up among the few smaller, earlier ones, announcing the growth and health of the town.  Many of these homes remain; some do not.

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The Queen Anne style 186 King Street South (at the corner of Allen Street) was built by the Bauer family around 1897, along with the house just behind it: 189 Mary Street.  Number 186 was recently demolished, but 189 Mary still stands in a fine state of preservation.  The Bauers operated a felt factory at King and Allen Streets beginning in 1888, and built several fine homes in the Mary-Allen neighbourhood.  Reproduced from the publication 100 Years of Progress in Waterloo County, Canada: Semi-centennial Souvenir 1856-1906.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History.  

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Allen Street near King Street, looking west towards Herbert Street, c. 1905.  St. Louis Church is visible in the distance.  The Queen Anne style house on the left may be the William G. Weichel house (see below).  Reproduced from the publication 100 Years of Progress in Waterloo County, Canada: Semi-centennial Souvenir 1856-1906.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History; photograph F-7-13

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The home of William G. Weichel, on Allen Street near King Street, c. 1905.  Several houses in this style still stand on Allen Street.  Beginning in the 1890s, Weichel operated a Waterloo hardware store.  He defeated William Lyon Mackenzie King in 1911 to win the MP seat in the North Waterloo riding.  Weichel was Mayor of Waterloo 1922-1923, and then MPP for Waterloo 1923-1929.  His civic and business interests were numerous.  Reproduced from the publication 100 Years of Progress in Waterloo County, Canada: Semi-centennial Souvenir 1856-1906.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History; photograph F-6-8

By the 1890s, the new and imposing St. Louis Roman Catholic Church on Allen Street presided from its hill over new streets lined with young trees. 

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St. Louis Roman Catholic Church, c. 1900.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History; photograph A-2-4.

A bit of the new industrial development, for the most part concentrated north of William Street, also came to border the Mary-Allen neighbourhood.  These businesses included a felt factory, a shirt collar factory and several furniture factories. 

At least one of these factories will be the subject of a future blog post.  Stay tuned…

Note: some of this article is adapted from a booklet I prepared for Bob and Margaret Nally about their house, 189 Mary Street, in 2005.  It was re-worked and reproduced here with their kind permission.


  1. Wonderful telling of local history! Thank you! Perhaps you will get remembrances of people living and working in the area -- a second Jon Fear!

  2. Here is a link to a little bit about William George Weichel who lived on Allen Street


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