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Heritage Tour

The echoes of history reverberate throughout the Town of Essex. As early as 1787, soldiers and loyalists were settling on farm lots running inland from Lake Erie. During the 1800s, fugitive slaves and European settlers carried on the pioneer spirit by building small communities throughout Colchester Township, as it was then known. Villages that endure today arose at Colchester, Harrow, McGregor and Essex Centre.

Although amalgamation in 1999 merged the former Towns of Essex and Harrow with the former Townships of Colchester North and Colchester South, the unique history and cultural identity of the original communities continues to be preserved by its residents with help from the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee, Town staff and local historical societies.

Engage with our past by learning more about some of the built and cultural heritage that dots our landscape.

Black Cemetery Map

In 2018, a high school geography class from Academie Ste. Cecile International School undertook an historic black cemetery research project based in the Town of Essex. The class researched these "lost cemeteries," then produced an interactive map.

Residents can explore the map online at sites.google.com/stececile.ca/blackcemetery/map

Heritage Register

The Town's Planning Department is responsible for processing requests for heritage designation. The Town Planner works with the Heritage Committee to research properties of heritage importance and then to report to Council in this regard.

Designation under section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act, gives a property special legal status. Designation applies to real property, and helps to protect and recognize the heritage features of that property. Properties can also be listed, which allows for the protection of a culturally significant building or structure from unnecessary demolition. If a property is listed and the owner wishes to demolish or alter the structure, they must give 60 days' notice to council, who will make a decision on whether or not to issue a permit.

For information on Heritage Planning, or to find out if your property is eligible for designation under the Ontario Heritage Act or listing under our Municipal Heritage Registry, please contact our Planning Department.

Please note: Some of the following locations are privately owned
or may require an entry fee.

25 Walnut Street, Colchester

British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Cemetery

Some of the earliest settlers in Essex County were of African origin, having fought as United Empire Loyalists during America's War of Independence. Prominent Blacks rest in this cemetery, including Reverend Noah Canon, the founder of several BME churches across Ontario which served to safeguard African-Canadian religious freedoms.

 Gravestone for Reverend Noah C. Cannon

18 Gordon Avenue, Essex Centre

Carnegie Library

Opened in 1914, this building was one of 125 libraries built in Canada using grants provided by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It housed the public library for over 100 years and continues to serve the public as host to the Essex and Community Historical Research Society.

 Red brick building with wide staircase

195 Bagot Street, Colchester

Colchester Schoolhouse (listed)

Built in 1881, this was the first schoolhouse in the area built under the Public Schools Act. Its architectural style is reminiscent of schoolhouses across rural Canada during this time.

Red brick school house 

87 Station Street, Essex Centre

Essex Railway Station

Built in 1887, the station and the railway tracks laid across the Talbot Trail established Essex Centre as the shipping hub of Essex County. Despite nearby explosions in 1907 and1980, the building has been preserved and restored for ongoing community use.

 Stone train station with grain silos behind

Cornwall Beach Road

Hutchins Family Cemetery

Established before 1854, the Hutchins Family Cemetery is an excellent example of a rural 19th century pioneer family cemetery. Most of the monuments are made of white marble slabs that reflect fine art and carving techniques typical of this time. The Hutchins family was one of the original pioneer families of the area and played a prominent role in local development.

 Three headstones

Twin Gables Road, south of County Road 50

Iler Settlement Cemetery

The Ilers were among the earliest settlers in the Colchester South region. The Iler Settlement began in 1808 when Jacob Iler bought Lot 37 in Colchester's Front Concession. Throughout the years, churches, schools, farms and businesses have thrived there. The oldest headstone in this cemetery is dated 1832.

Iler Settlement headstone with history

1215 Iler Road, Harrow

Iler Wirag Home

Built in 1880, the Iler home is the last standing remnant of the Iler Settlement. The Iler settlement of the 19th century contained a church, two cemeteries, and two schools and was established around the site of where the Iler home is located. The property is also associated with the Iler family, one of the earliest pioneer families who established themselves here in 1808, when Jacob Iler purchased farm lot 37.

 Two storey house with one storey addition

915 County Road 50 East

John R. Park Homestead

Journey back in time! Built in 1842 along the banks of Lake Erie, the home of John and Amelia Park is maintained by the Essex Region Conservation Authority and serves as a living farm museum that welcomes visitors all year round.

 White wooden home on lakeshore

78 Fox Street, Essex Centre

Kowtiuk Home

Built in 1870 in close proximity to the Railway Station, this private home was at one time used as an overnight stop and for railway employees and later as a hotel. As a private residence, it has been carefully restored and has received heritage designation.

 Wooden heritage home

Dunn Road between County
Road 13 and Fox Sideroad

McCormick Family Cemetery

The McCormicks were among the earliest settlers along Lake Erie's north shore. Alexander McCormick, a fur trader and loyalist during the American Revolutionary War, moved to Upper Canada in 1794, settling near Colchester. The oldest headstone in Essex County, dated 1803, the year of McCormick's death, is found in this cemetery.

Heritage plaque in honour of Alexander McCormick

Dunn Road

Quick Family Cemetery

Among the earliest settlers in the area, the Quicks moved to Colchester in the late 1700s after the family had been abducted from their Kentucky home by Indians and reunited with help from frontiersman Simon Girty. The cemetery is located in the middle of a farm field. The oldest headstone is dated 1855.

Gravestones in snowy graveyard

872 County Road 50

Tofflemire Snider Cemetery

A collaborative effort between two of the area's earliest pioneer families, this cemetery is located on scenic County Road 50. John Snider, a Pennsylvania blacksmith, obtained a grant of land near Colchester Village in 1790 and built a house that still stands as the oldest house in Essex County.

Headstones beside a vineyard

11 King Street West

E.F Darby’s Drugstore (listed)

This commercial building once served as E.F Darby’s Drugstore. Darby was elected as the first mayor of Harrow when it became a Town in 1930.

 Image of 11 King Street West

103 King Street West

John McIntyre’s harness shop (listed)

This commercial building once served as John McIntyre’s harness shop. McIntyre was one of the most prominent harness makers in the area. The architectural style of the building is reflective of 19th century commercial buildings in Canada.

 Image of 103 King Street West

120 Talbot Street North

Grace Baptist Church (listed)

This institutional building was once used as the first high school in Essex Centre. 

 Image of 120 Talbot Street South

21 King Street East (listed)

This commercial building has historic ties to John McAffee. McAfee contributed much to the growth of Harrow. The architectural style of this building is reflective of most 19th century commercial red brick buildings. 

 Image of 21 King Street East

49 Talbot Road South

Essex United Church (listed)

This institutional building was significant to the spiritual development of Essex Centre. 

 Image of 49 Talbot Road South

4005 County Road 11

Central Grove African Episcopal Church (listed)

This institutional building has ties to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. 

 Image of 4005 County Road 11

18 Talbot Street North

Imperial Bank of Canada (listed)

This commercial building is the 11th oldest branch of the Imperial Bank of Canada. It is designed in the Art Deco Style. It was built as a credit to the Town of Essex. 

 Image of 18 Talbot Street South

15 King Street West

T.B. Adams' General Store (listed)

This commercial building once served as T.B Adam’s general store. Adams was a merchant and early President of Board of Trade.

 Image of 15 King Street West

3 King Street West (listed)

This commercial building was built by John McAffee who contributed to Harrow’s growth. This building is one of Harrow’s original building blocks.

Image of 3 King Street West

314 Queen

Station Master's Home (listed)

This home was built for the Station master, M.P O’Connor. 

Image of 314 Queen

44 King Street East

Harrow Municipal Building (listed)

This building once served as the Harrow Municipal Building. It was designed by prominent architect, James Carlisle Pennigton

Image of 44 King Street East

22 King Street West

I.O.O.F. building (listed)

This commercial building was designed by prominent Essex County architect, Thomas Jenner. 

Image of 22 King Street West

190 Bagot Street

Christ Church (listed)

This institutional building is significant t the spiritual development of Colchester. It is associated with Reverend Richard Pollard, the first ordained clergyman of the Church of England in Essex County.

Image of 190 Bagot Street

9567 Walker Road

St. Clement's Church (listed) 

This institutional building has historical and contextual value as the spiritual pillar of the community of McGregor. 

Image of St. Clement's Church

400 County Road 13 (listed)

This residential building is a good example of a Victorian era farmstead.

 Image of 400 County Road 13