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The Mary Allen neighbourhood is located within the Haldimand Tract: hundreds of thousands of acres along the length of the Grand River. The tract was defined in the 1784 treaty between the British and the Six Nations Haudenosaunee as reserved for the Six Nations and their posterity “to enjoy forever.” Non-Indigenous settlement of its northern half began c.1800, including what is now Waterloo Region. This land has been the territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples since time immemorial. The Mary Allen Stories blog acknowledges this historical context and ongoing reality. Find out more, including more about treaties, in the sidebar under INDIGENOUS LINKS.

Who Were Mary and Allen?

Part of a c.1895 birds-eye view
 of the town of Waterloo, looking NE.
Image courtesy of the Waterloo
Municipal Heritage Committee.
Who were Mary and Allen? We’re not sure, but we have a reasonably good idea who Herbert and John were.

Street names in the Mary-Allen neighbourhood seem to read like the branches of a family tree: George, Mary, Herbert, Allen, William, John, Moore… 

But for whom are these streets named?

Some of the information in this post comes from research-in-progress left by the late Waterloo historian Ellis Little, who had started a file on Waterloo street origins and land surveys.  Click on the link to read about Ellis, a thoroughly knowledgeable scholar of Waterloo history.  After his death in 2004 the Waterloo Public Library local history room was named in his honour, and it acquired his research papers for public use. 

Ellis Little’s early research on street names included few source references; more digging will be needed to verify some Mary-Allen street name origins.

However, Ellis knew that, all around our region, many streets were given the surnames of landowners who subdivided the land, or the first names of their family members.

Ellis looked at the development of the street grid of Waterloo by surveying its…well, its surveys!  Genealogies of the families who commissioned the land surveys suggest that most of Ellis’s street name attributions for the Mary-Allen neighbourhood are reasonable.  Following his lead, I have attempted to fill in one or two blanks.

Click to enlarge. Ellis Little in 1942.
Image courtesy of the Waterloo
Public Library, Ellis Little Room
of Local History
; photograph I-2-9.

A source that made it easy to check historical first names in local families was the Waterloo Region Generations website, painstakingly administered by Darryl Bonk.  It is one of the best resources for getting a quick start on researching people who lived in our region in the 1800s, and how they were related.

As always, readers, we would appreciate any insights you can provide!

John Street first appears and is named in the large 1855 survey and subdivision commissioned by John Hoffman, which included some of the future Mary-Allen neighbourhood (for the story, see the blog post Mary Allen Beginnings, Part I).  Ellis Little identified the name of John Hoffman himself as the origin of the street name. 

Considering some of the other new streets shown and named on the 1855 plan – particularly Caroline Street, on the other side of King Street from Mary-Allen – this suggestion makes sense; Caroline was the name of Hoffman’s wife.  Also, by the time John Street was created, John and Caroline Hoffman had five children, and their eldest son, born in 1836, was named John.

William Street also appears in the 1855 Hoffman Survey.  Ellis Little did not suggest an origin for the name, but the answer may be traceable to John Hoffman’s business partner and son-in-law, Isaac Weaver (originally Weber).  Weaver was Hoffman’s partner in the land subdivision and sale, as well as in other business ventures.  He was married to John and Caroline Hoffman’s eldest child, Mary Ann.  Isaac and Mary Ann’s eldest child was William, born in 1849, and he seems to be the only William in the two families that were closely associated with the 1855 survey.  

Isaac’s surname was also given to a street in the 1855 survey, and today the original course of Weaver Street is approximated by sections of Willis Way.

Click to enlarge. Part of the 1855 Hoffman Survey of Waterloo, showing William, John, Mary, Union, Caroline, Weaver, King, Queen, Pine and Park Streets.  Image courtesy of the City of Waterloo Museum, 2004.14.1.

Mary Street, the only female street name in the Mary-Allen neighbourhood, is a puzzle.  There were no Marys in the families involved in the 1855 subdivision, in which Mary Street first appears, but there was a Mary Ann Hoffman, John and Caroline’s daughter (see William Street, above).  John Hoffman’s brother, Jacob, also settled in the Waterloo area, and Jacob also had a daughter named Mary Ann.  Might Mary or Mary Ann have been a long-standing family name? Although some efforts were made to answer these questions, the answers remain a mystery to this blog.

Click to enlarge. The house at 222 Mary Street, built in 1859, was among the first houses built on the John Hoffman Survey lots in the area that would become the Mary-Allen neighbourhood.

Interestingly, included at the southern edge of the 1855 Hoffman Survey, south of Pine Street, was a proposed street named Hannah Street.  One of John and Caroline Hoffman’s five children was named Hannah, and – taking John, Caroline, Weaver and William Streets into consideration – it is possible that this proposed street was named for her.  The appearance of Hannah Street on the 1855 plan may strengthen the argument that other Hoffman and Weaver family first names were used for the earliest Mary-Allen streets.  In the end, it seems Hannah Street was never built; beginning in the 1870s the land through which it had been planned was developed as Mount Hope Cemetery.

George Street, like William, is not given a name source in Ellis Little’s notes, but here is a theory: 

George Street first appears in 1875 in a survey that subdivided much of the future Mary-Allen neighbourhood.  At the time, the Christian and Bridget Kumpf family had been living in the old Erb/Hoffman house (photo below) for about five years, and they also owned the large property attached to the house (for more about Christian Kumpf, see the blog post Mary Allen Beginnings, Part 2).  When Kumpf, Benjamin Devitt and Elias Snider had their large, adjacent properties subdivided in the 1875 survey, George Street was planned to run through the Kumpf estate, parallel to its northern edge.  And the name?  Christian’s father, George W. Kumpf, died in 1866, and the Kumpfs may have named George Street in his honour. 

Click to enlarge. Erb-Kumpf House in 2012. The rear portion was built c.1812 by the Abraham and Magdalena Erb family, and the two wings (R side of photo) along King Street, which re-oriented the house to the main street, were likely added by the Hoffmans in the 1850s. 

Prior to the 1875 survey, George Street existed as a laneway leading to the treed hills at the rear of the property, where locals sometimes gathered for picnics and relaxation.  Dating from this early period is one of the oldest houses in the neighbourhood, 28 George Street, built as servants’ quarters for the John Hoffman estate.

Within a few decades after the 1875 survey many large houses were built along the street, making it a desirable address in the neighbourhood.

Herbert Street, like George, also first appears in the 1875 Kumpf-Devitt-Snider Survey.  According to Ellis Little, it was named for Simon and Elizabeth Snyder’s first child, Herbert M. Snyder, born in 1873.  Although no source is cited, this makes some sense: Simon Snyder was one of the very first buyers of Kumpf-Devitt-Snider lots, and he bought several at the corner of the newly planned Herbert and George Streets. The Snyders then built one of the first houses in the new subdivision. It still stands at Herbert and George Streets. 
The Snyders also owned land at the north end of the new Herbert Street, near William Street, which might also explain the naming.  There is likely more to the story, waiting to be uncovered, somewhere...
Click to enlarge, and open in a new tab for full size. The 1875 Kumpf-Devitt-Snider Survey (registered plan 498 in the Ontario Land Registry Office No. 58, Kitchener).  The subdivision, bounded by King, George, Willow and Union Streets, subdivided most of the old Kumpf estate and other adjacent Kumpf property.  Also included was land owned by Benjamin Devitt, near the top of the plan, and, on the right, land owned by Elias Snider (shaded in blue).  The red numbers are 1875 lots; 1855 Hoffman Survey lots are numbered in black.

Simon Snyder was a druggist and later a furniture manufacturer, and was an active citizen who served on the town council and as Mayor of Waterloo.  He and Henry Roos acquired a local furniture manufacturing company in the 1880s, and his sons Herbert and Alfred began expanding the business around 1903.  See photo, below.

Click to enlarge. Simon Snyder, standing at far left, in front of the 1895 Labour Day parade float prepared by his furniture manufacturing and upholstering company (visible in the background).  Henry Roos, his business partner, is beside him.  They are in front of the Devitt Block, a building set well back from King Street in Waterloo, just south of Erb Street, behind where the Molson’s Bank was built in 1914.  The man in the white apron, leaning his arm on the float, is identified as Emil Schierholtz.  Perhaps the upholsterer was working for Snyder and Roos at the time of this photograph, but in 1903 he built a furniture factory at Willow and Allen Streets (see the blog post What Was Here? at Willow and Allen).  The Devitt Block stood for more than a century, and was demolished in the 1970s.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History; photograph C-2-13.

Allen Street, like Mary, seems to be a street name without an identified person attached – at least for now.  Ellis Little did not say to whom he thought Allen Street was dedicated.  Like Herbert and George, Allen was added to the neighbourhood street grid on the 1875 survey, running just outside and along the edge of the original Erb/Hoffman estate (owned at the time by the Kumpfs).  Like George Street, Allen has at least one house still standing today that is older than the section of street running past its front door.  Also like George, Allen was planned to run to the far edge of the 1875 Kumpf-Devitt-Snider Survey lands and connect with another new street in the survey: Willow Street.

On the 1875 survey map, above, note the large single lot midway between Herbert and Willow, on Allen.  This would become the site of St. Louis Catholic Church in 1890.  

Willow Street, according to Ellis Little, was named for a grove of willow trees at its north end, on the flats alongside Laurel Creek (nearby there are willows along the creek today, between Erb Street and Bridgeport Road).  Willow Street was laid out to connect Union Street with Erb Street as part of the 1875 Kumpf-Devitt-Snider Survey.  On Willow, between Erb and William Streets, several grand houses were built in the second half of the nineteenth century for the Benjamin Devitt, John B. Snider and Joseph E. Seagram families. 

Click to enlarge. This poor-quality image shows an early view towards Willow Street from King Street, c.1870s.  The three houses lined up left to right across the center belonged to the prominent Devitt, Snider and Seagram families, and they mark Willow Street’s north end.  They stood where Waterpark Place and St. John’s Lutheran Church stand today, between William and Erb Streets.  Note what appears to be thick woodlots in the background.  A bit of Queen (Regina) Street can be seen crossing the image in the foreground.  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; Local History Slide Collection.

Moore Avenue honours George D. Moore and family.  In 1884 and 1889 the Moores, whose home was at Union and Mary Streets, surveyed and subdivided large blocks of the vast acreage they owned northwest of Willow Street.  

In the 1884 survey, their land between Willow Street and the Grand Trunk Railway spur line tracks was subdivided, and Allen, John and Union Streets were extended to the tracks.  In the 1889 survey, which also included land owned by Barnabas Devitt, the new Moore and Devitt Avenues were laid out between Union and Erb Streets.  The 1889 survey also planned for Allen, John and Union Streets to be extended to Moore and Devitt.  However, a c.1895 bird’s-eye view of Waterloo suggests that not all new streets were immediately laid out as planned.  It appears that John Street, for example, did not even extend east of Herbert Street by the mid-1890s.

The Moores farmed hops on their Waterloo land to supply local breweries.  George Moore was also engaged in several other businesses, and was Mayor of Waterloo in 1890.  The Moores will be the subject of a future post in this blog.

Click to enlarge. Part of the survey completed for George Moore and Benjamin Devitt in 1889 (registered plan 517 in the Ontario Land Registry Office No. 58, Kitchener).  The areas labeled in red are part of the survey, and the lettered plots represent Moore's portion.  While the survey shows John Street stretching through to the new Devitt Avenue, by the mid-1890s it had not yet extended to Willow Street, and would ultimately stop at Moore Avenue.

Click to enlarge. Part of a c.1895 birds-eye view of the town of Waterloo, looking NE, created by the Toronto Lithographing Co. Showing the mainly open land of the Moore and Devitt properties east of the Grand Trunk Railway spur line tracks.  Moore Avenue is the road crossing from left to right in the distance.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Municipal Heritage Committee.

Union Street first appears on the 1855 John Hoffman Survey.  Ellis Little suggested that it was named for its location near the boundary between Berlin (Kitchener) and Waterloo, having one “foot” in each.  In his notes Ellis also wondered if Hoffman, in choosing the name “Union”, was suggesting that the two communities should be joined together.

Does anyone out there have more information about the people who gave their names to the Mary-Allen neighbourhood?


  1. I have taken the liberty to post a link to this post on my blog.
    Great job, Karl!

    1. Thanks, Joanna! I'll be sure to include a link to your blog in an upcoming post!


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