Established in 1827, the town of Oakville was once centred on Colborne Street – now known as Lakeshore Road. Before contemporary large-scale malls, like Oakville Place, Colborne Street was filled with speciality stores such as Turner’s Butcher Shop, Palumbo’s Fruit & Vegetables Store, and Jack Fraser’s Clothing Store (image courtesy of the Oakville Historical Society). But while the town has evolved with time, Oakville has not lost its heritage, but in fact, cherishes it.
Throughout the early 1800s, Oakville’s lakeside location made it the perfect commercial port for merchants and sailors. But it didn’t take long for someone—Colonel William Chisholm in this case—to swoop up the land and begin developing the town we now know. After acquiring the land right at the opening of the Sixteen Mile Creek, Chisholm fostered a shipbuilding yard—an industry that grew and attracted more settlers.
While strolling through the streets of Oakville, historical testaments are plenty, including the founders’ own house, which overlooks both the Oakville Harbour and Sixteen Mile Creek. Chisholm’s Georgian style home, Erchless— meaning “by the stream” in Gaelic (an ode to the family’s Scottish roots)—was part of the Chisholm family for six generations and still stands.
In 1976, the town of Oakville purchased Erchless Estate to preserve it as a historical site. The property—which includes the family home, Customs House, coach house—was converted into Oakville’s Museum in 1983. The town’s first post office, established in 1835, was once a part of the property but it is now located in Lakeside Park and is open to the public.
Over the decades, Oakville watched many industries flourish (even if only for a brief time): starting with shipbuilding and timber, then a rich period of Whiskey making and breweries starting in the late 1830s, followed by strawberry growing and basket factories throughout the 1860s. In fact, you can still visit The Oakville Basket Company, which is a part of Oakville Heritage Trails.
Oakville’s past has made it the vibrant town that it is today. To celebrate its history, the community has bound together to preserve Oakville’s vivacious past. Three societies in particular that play a key role in this are Bronte Historical Society, Oakville Historical Society and Trafalgar Township Historical Society.
The Oakville Historical Society has begun to create a digital catalogue of the hundreds of historical photos and drawings within their collection, dating back tot he 1800’s. If you are interested in utilizing a photo from the Oakville Historical Society, please visit the catalogue website and submit a request. If you have an original work of art that is part of Oakville’s rich history and would like to add it to their digital catalogue, feel free to email the members (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For more of Oakville’s historical treasures, click here.