Heritage Tour of Delta (Print this page and take it with you on your next trip to Delta)
Name of Stop
11 = Philo Hicock House
10 = Richard Johnston House
9 = Delta Mill
8 = Walter Denaut House
7 = Delta Business Block
6 = William Bell Store and Residence
5 = William Bell House
4 = Joel Copland House
3 = Omer Brown House
2 = Alexander Stevens House
1 = Anglican Church
The year 1796 saw the first settlers in Stevenstown; settlers who came from Vermont with Elder Abel Stevens following the Revolutionary War. After several name changes, this community with destiny became Delta. On a rich and fertile delta beside Lower Beverley Lake, its 'raison d'etre' was the dam built on a local creek to power its mills. As a consequence, an artificial lake called Upper Beverley was created. By the early 1800s this community was a flourishing farming and industrial village. Over the decades, Delta became home to a growing number of pioneer trades and crafts including general stores, a variety of smiths, hotels, a tannery, distillery, brickyard, foundry, cheese factory, carriage works, newspaper and among others, even a hospital. Many of these early structures, the skills and talents they housed and the families they homed have been lost.
But fortunately a significant number of buildings remain to illustrate the life of a busy and prosperous community. As well, many customs remain. For example, the annual Delta Fair is a thriving tradition dating back to 1830. The 20th and 21st centuries have brought many changes to Delta as to other communities across Eastern Ontario; a shift from an agricultural to a tourist economy, from a rural to an urban way of life.
The Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee (M.H.A.C.) endeavours with this Heritage Tour of Delta to illustrate a variety of architectural influences reflected in the buildings of Delta. Amble casually with us on this tour. Imagine the ring of the mason's hammer, the whripp of the carpenter's saw, the humming of mills, the singing of choirs, the laughter and tears of family and village life as it was a century or two ago.
Stop #1 - Anglican Church, 1811 - One of the oldest continuously used churches in Ontario, this fine house of worship has served three denominations. The shell, constructed by the Baptists in 1811, was used by them with the interior remaining unfinished due to lack of funds. In 1827 this structure was purchased by the Anglicans and in a rare example of early ecumenicalism, both congregations shared the building along with the Methodists (1843 - 1862). In 1864, the Baptists left to worship in their new church in Philipsville (they later built their own church in Delta). Constructed of fieldstone, now covered with stucco and painted, this fine edifice is a typical example of early church architecture in Canada. Note its Gothic windows and the crenellations on its tower, a reflection of medieval tradition. Ask any of the local residents about the legend of its bell.
Stop #2 - Alexander Stevens House, 1882 - This substantial red brick residence is representative of a successful businessman's home in the 1880s. Alexander Stevens was a great-grandson of the founder of the community and he owned and operated the Delta Centennial Carriage Factory, a bustling business in those pre-automobile decades. A flat section of the roof is surrounded by attractive wrought-iron trim. The segmental headed windows were the latest thing in the 1870s and 80s.
Stop # 3 - Omer Brown House, 1905 - Another prominent businessman, Omer Brown was a general merchant with his store located in the Jubilee Block (see #7). He constructed this grand residence with a variety of features of Queen Anne style. This elegant home embodies the Victorian love of variety, industry and excess. By the end of the 19th century, factories were able to mass produce countless decorative details in diverse media. Look for its several unique features: the asymmetrical front door, the steeply-pitched roof broken by several cross gables of irregular shape and height, prominent bay windows, a single storey porch with second-storey balcony, spindle or turned railing posts and a facade textured with patterned shingles, decorative masonry and stained glass windows.
Stop #4 - Joel Copland House, 1862 - This spacious home of grand
size and symmetry and boasting a grand veranda was built by Joel Copeland and family who operated a pharmacy in the Jubilee Block (see #7). It might be called the House of the Three Gables, the outer ones featuring pointed Gothic-style windows. Its shiplap siding reflects a time when local forests were still abundant and local mills could make fine lumber. Perhaps even greater fame than its architecture is associated with this home as it was onee the residence and offices of Dr. Joseph Kelly, a truly legendary country doctor, famous among many legendary peers. The stories are myriad of long dedicated hours, of late nights and of travels through harrowing conditions as Dr. Kelly, for several decades ministered to the physical & emotional health of his devoted patients. In days long before modern antibiotics and MRIs, Dr. Joseph Kelly performed miracles with that greatest of all medicine, his splendid disposition and sense of humour.
Stop #5 - William Bell House, 1860 - An Irish-born merchant, William Bell constructed this fine 2 storey red brick residence, manifesting his business success in this thriving community during the mid-19th century. This elegant residence is formal, symmetrical and detailed in its Georgian style. One wonders if he drew upon memories of graceful homes in his native Erin to plan the Bell home in the New World. Note the stone quoins of the front facade, the fine brackets, wooden trim on the porch and its central doorway with multi-light transom and sidelights. On soft summer evenings, one might imagine the lilt of cotillion at fine galas hosted by the Bell family.
Stop #6 - William Bell Store and Residence, late 1850s - Constructed of locally made brick, this building is typical of a mid-19th century combined store and residence. An elaborate wooden cornice stretches across the front facade above the large display windows. Incorporated into the cornice is a door leading to the living area above the store. The second floor windows show the original 6-over-6 pane arrangement. Listen carefully and imagine the sounds and smells of goods being unloaded at the back of the store. Treasures from the outer world once came by steamboat to Mr. Bell's emporium via the Rideau Canal, Morton and Beverley Lake.
Stop #7 - Delta Business Block, 1887 - Built to replace an earlier "shopping mall" that was destroyed by fire the previous year, the Jubilee Block commemorated Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee - the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne. A century before the mall became a common fixture of Canadian cities, Bill Birch's one-stop shopping centre in Delta retains many of its original features. You can still see the original series of shops with their large display windows where the latest in tin goods, fashions and Lifebuoy soap were once displayed. Notice the wooden cornice on the first-floor facade and the wooden dentil work. The double doors and the interior tin ceilings also remain from an age of shopping basket instead of shopping cart. To the west of the Jubilee Block, you see a red brick building that originally served as a bank. To a doubting populace, the massive semi-circular arched windows and door heading on the first floor facade manifested early 20th century "bank architecture". There was a secure haven for your hard-earned pennies; a leap of faith toward more security and reward for your spare cash than in a sock under your mattress.
Stop #8 - Walter Denaut House, 1849 - Walter Denaut was a prosperous and widely renowned mill owner, (see #8), postmaster, general merchant and politician (first reeve of Bastard and South Burgess Township). Befitting his wealth and status, he built this impressive 2 storey mansion of stone complete with a wing of brick containing the servants' quarters. An unusual feature of this magnificent home is the use of the casement style of window in which the two frames or sashes holding the panes of glass opens outward from hinged attachments along the sides, like twin doors. Delta peers and Ottawa potentates were among guests welcomed at the Denaut threshold. Rumour persists that under the correct conjunction of the ethers and imagination, the ghost of Mr. Denaut returns to haunt the halls of his magnificent home.
Stop #9 - Delta Mill, circa 1810 - In those eras prior to steam and electricity, Abel Stevens, Loyalist and developer from Vermont, constructed a water-powered grist mill near this site in 1796. That prototype was replaced in 1810 with this magnificent stone mill. Now a National Historic Site (the only stone grist mill so designated in Canada), it has been restored as a museum. The Delta Mill is an excellent example of Georgian architecture of sturdy stonework and 12-over-8 paned windows. Its original "automatic" milling works were modelled on the latest in mill technology as defined by Oliver Evans (1796). In 1817, this focal point of local industry was described as "unquestionably the best (building) of its kind in Upper Canada." Water wheel and grindstone once rumbled within its structure. Later, turbines hummed a tune of prosperity within the addition at the rear.
To the south of the mill itself, a building with a first storey of stone originally provided shelter for the horses of mill patrons. A second storey, once of brick, served as a meeting place for patrons to discuss the affairs of the day, local and global. The village of Delta grew up around its mill and its mill pond (Upper Beverley Lake). Visit the museum and also the displays of early industrial technology in the "Old Town Hall".
Stop #10 - Richard Johnston House, 1850s - This is a fine example of a mid-19th century "Ontario Cottage" with its rectangular shape, 1 1/2 storeys, balanced facade, front gable casement window with semi-circular head on the second storey and with its paneled entrance complete with rectangular transom and sidelights on the first storey. Transom with sidelights were common during that time period because they were aesthetically pleasing and symmetrical. As well they were functional, allowing more natural light into a wide interior hallway in a pre-electric era. These architectural proportions, common to many mid-19th century homes in this township, are associated with the Georgian style. This was the home of another prosperous Delta merchant whose residence reflected his place in the thriving economic life of this rural community in Upper Canada.
Stop #11 - Philo Hicock House, circa 1845 - Recently and meticulously restored to its original elegance, this home is once again most impressive. Philo Hicock was the prosperous owner of a foundry which was kept busy serving the black metal needs of local industry and of those farming the Delta hinterland. The front facade on the ground floor is graced by a central doorway with transom and sidelights and providing a further touch of symmetry and class, a casement window to each side. The second storey manifests 3 dormers; the centre one with particularly elaborate wooden trim. Pause for a moment. Imagine the Hicock family enjoying the summer airs on their fine Regency-style porch as the local world beat a passing path to the Hicock Foundry and to the myriad other services and functions of 19th century Delta.
You can find farther information on heritage life and on architecturally significant buildings of the Township of Rideau Lakes at any branch of the Rideau Lakes Union Library. Ask to peruse:
"Cranworth Chronicles" by Barbara Gibson, 1994 (South Burgess)
"Hub of the Rideau" by Sue Warren, 1997 (South Crosby)
"My Own Four Walls" by Diane Haskins, 1985 (Bastard & S.Burgess)
"South Elmsley in the Making" by James Kennedy, 1984
...and the many resources illustrating heritage life in North Crosby to be found in the Westport Library and the Westport Museum.
While at the library purchase our videotape "Best Kept Secrets" for $19.95
Explore other communities of the Township of Rideau Lakes with our other Walking and Driving Tours and our Heritage Map, all published by the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee.