Witness to History – Hamilton’s Cork-Town

Witness to History - Hamilton's Cork-Town
Witness to History – Hamilton’s Cork-Town

Witness to History

Sarah Ann Santry was born in August 1862 and eventually moved to location 10 Aurora Street, now Ford Street, and one block east of Liberty. As a young girl, she remembered the day that first train traveled to Port Dover. The locomotive was called the Lucy Turner, however, I have never been able to find any records of this train, nor the exact date of the first trip: my best guess is 1878

Former Hamilton to Port Dover Railway Line – Hamilton’s Cork-Town

Former Hamilton to Port Dover Railway Line - Hamilton's Cork-Town. Photo by @erskinec
Former Hamilton to Port Dover Railway Line – Hamilton’s Cork-Town. Photo by @erskinec

Hamilton to Port Dover Railway Line

This road is the former route of the Hamilton to Port Dover Railway Line. Plans for the railway were developed in 1835, but construction never began because of an economic recession that occurred in the late 1830s.

Allan MacNab revived the project in 1853 and construction began in 1855. The costs of scaling the escapement bankrupted the company and all work had to come to a stop.

In 1869, the company was re-organized and re-named the Hamilton to Lake Erie Railway Company. After merger with another railway company in 1873, the finally reached Port Dover in 1878.

New Homes and Raising Rents – Hamilton’s Cork-Town

New Homes and Raising Rents - Hamilton's Cork-town
New Homes and Raising Rents – Hamilton’s Cork-town

54 Liberty Street

Around 1885, the four old wood frame homes at the south end of Liberty Street were torn down. The whole west side of Liberty Street got new brick housing. On the previously undeveloped land to the north, 2 story, semi-detached, brick homes were built. At the south end, by the former Hamilton to Port Dover Railway line, smaller brick cottages were erected. Unfortunately, for shoe-maker and his family, the rent was too much and they moved across the street 59 Liberty Street. This older, wood frame, house was something they could still afford. Peter’s wife would continue to live at this simply house even after his death in the 1890s. She would be surrounded by other widowers who had lived on the south end since the 1870s. Mrs. William Anderson at 47 Liberty and Mrs. Mellon at 51 Liberty.

The Rastrick House – Hamilton’s Cork-Town

1840s Rastrick House (architect home who built the Castle), Hamilton's Corktown.  Photo by @erskinec
1840s Rastrick House (architect home who built the Castle), Hamilton’s Corktown. Photo by @erskinec

The Rastrick House

The architect, who designed the Castle, built his own home on Forest Avenue in the 1840s.

Irish workers would have been used in its construction.

Like all the great houses, the daughters of Irish families would be employed as maids. These young girls incomes would have helped support their families who lived in modest wooden fame homes only a few blocks away.

The Remains of the Castle – Hamilton’s Cork-Town

The Castle, built between 1857-1860, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec
The Castle, built between 1857-1860, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec

The Remains of the Castle

In the early days of Hamilton’s economic development, business owners usually lived where they worked. However, as a few of them became very successful, and could afford to build a home separate from work.

Starting in the late 1840s and early 1850s, large estates were built just under the mountain. These included: Willows (1840s) for Judge O’Reilly; Arkeldun (1846) for R. Juson; Rock Castle (1850) for Alexander Carpenter; and Undermount (1855) for John Young. These masons required large staffs and many daughters of poor Irish families would earn extra money by working as maids and cooks.

The Castle, located at James Street South and Young barely survives as an example. The building was constructed around 1857.

The Town Market, between Hunter and Augusta – Hamilton’s Cork-Town

The Town Market, between Hunter and Augusta
The Town Market, between Hunter and Augusta

The Town Market, between Hunter and Augusta

As a condition for the granting of town status, George Hamilton had to provide for a jail, a court house and a town market. Being practical and self-interested, he donated lands for the court house and the town market neatly in the middle of his Cork-town land holdings.

The Town Market was located one block south of the court house, essentially where the Hunter Street Go Train and Bus station is today. Haymarket Street market the center of the market. Given its location off John Street, the town market had easily access to agricultural products coming from ships unloading at the docks and from farms on top of the mountain.

The Market, located in the heart of Cork-town, provided an ideal location for Irish families to make some extra money. With most of Cork-town still undeveloped, there was lots of opportunities to earn extra monies by selling fruits and vegetables. Also, many families had a cow to provide milk.

For example, in 1839, Darby O’Keef, who was married and had one son and three daughters, rented a house on James Street. Despite living on James Street and renting, he still was able to own a cow.

Peter Cronan, had a bit more money and was able to own a wood frame shanty. He also own a cow, which must have been helpful with a family of three boys and three girls.

By 1839, Town Council had decided to re-locate the farmer’s market to where the current market is today. The old market then evolved into a hay market for horses and the selling of fire wood savaged from the sides of the Mountain and the forests that laid beyond Wellington Street. This market operated until the building of the Hunter Train Station in 1933.