Galt's "Dickson's Hill": The Evolution of a Late-Victorian Neighbourhood in an Ontarian Town

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Previous research has shown that the economic growth and urban population increases which occurred in the 1880s prompted the development of many new residential neighbourhoods in central Canadian municipalities. Much of this housing was of superior quality, to meet the needs of the growing middle and upper classes, who began to segregate themselves in affluent enclaves within cities. These neighbourhoods evolved slowly, reflecting the small scale of the processes of land subdivision and housing construction which then existed. These processes, however, were in a state of transition, and by the early 20th century, housing provision had become more professional and large scale.

The present research uses the case of Dickson's Hill to explore how these and other events unfolded in a Late Victorian neighbourhood in a small Ontarian town. The social segregation which occurred here was not extreme, as the rich and poor lived on opposite sides of the same neighbourhood. The basic street pattern and most of the subdividing of land was done by one person -- Florence Dickson -- but many builders and tradesmen were involved in the provision of housing. There was much variation in house styles, even on the same block, since individual lot owners contracted for the construction of their homes, and since the pace of development was so slow that the popularity of certain architectural styles had changed. This variety, together with a number of planning decisions, explains in part the character and charm exuded by the neighbourhood.


Une etude anterieure a demontre que la croissance economique et l'augmentation de la population urbaine des annees 1880 ont precipite le developpement d'un grand nombre de nouveaux quartiers residentiels dans les municipalites du centre du Canada. Une forte proportion des nouvelles habitations etait de qualite superieure, afin de repondre aux besoins des classes moyenne et superieure, alors en plein essor, qui commencaient a se regrouper dans de riches enclaves a l'interieur meme des villes. Ces quartiers se sont developpes lentement, les operations de lotissement et la construction s'effectuant, a l'epoque, a petite echelle. Ces processus etaient toutefois en periode de transition car des le debut du 20e siecle, la construction residentielle se faisait de facon plus professionnelle et sur une plus grande echelle.

La presente etude s'appuie sur le cas de Dickson's Hill pour decouvrir comment ces evenements et divers autres ont donne naissance, dans une petite ville de l'Ontario, a un quartier de la fin de l'epoque victorienne. Nous ne pouvons parler dans ce cas de segregation sociale radicale, car riches et pauvres vivaient dos a dos, dans le meme quartier. L'etablissement des quadrilateres de base et la plus grande partie des operations de lotissement furent effectues par une seule personne, Florence Dickson, mais de nombreux constructeurs et ouvriers ont contribue au developpement des quartiers. Grande a ete la variete dans le style des maisons, dans certains cas pour le meme pate de maisons, d'abord parce que les proprietaires des lots confiaient eux-memes la construction de leur maison aux entrepreneurs et ensuite parce que le rythme de developpement etait tellement lent que certains styles architecturaux devenaient desuets. Cette diversite, associee a un certain nombre de decisions relatives a l'amenagement, explique en partie le caractere et le charme de ce quartier.

The late 19th century was an important era in the history of Canadian cities and society. An economic boom during the 1880s, coupled with the favourable effects of the federal Tories' "National Policy" of 1879, significantly increased industrial activity, urban population levels, urban construction activity, and the size of the middle and upper classes. This rapid expansion of industry occurred mainly in the urban areas of central Canada and the Maritimes, and the attraction of labourers from rural areas hastened the trend toward an urban society. …