Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | December 22, 2015

Historic Cornwall – Smithville

Smithville was one of the early suburbs in the former Cornwall Township that became a Cornwall neighbourhood on January 1, 1957 when the City annexed much of the Township.  The name Smithville no longer appears on Cornwall maps.

Due to the abundance of apple, crab apple, hazel nut and hickory trees, early on the area was known to some simply as The Grove.

Originally Smithville was bounded on the north by Second Street West, on the east by Cornwall Township (the Wood Farm on Lot 13), on the south by Cornwall Canal and on the west by Ottawa New York Central Railway. According to early City Directories, both sides of Second Street along the former Dickinson farm were also considered as part of Smithville.


It was named for G. Charles Smith who sold some land (south easterly part of the former Dickinson farm, known as The Grove) to Toronto Paper and became the first paymaster. Charles built the first five houses in Smithville. Charles Smith owned the south portion of the former Dickinson farm no later than 1878 and the first mill broke sod in 1881. Smithville is shown on a map ca. 1911. Vernon’s 1916 Directory lists the five Smithville households as Alex Eamer, Thomas Henry, Mrs. A Hough, Isaac Ratelle and G.C. Smith. The street names Hazel, Hickory and Wood came into use starting in 1917. At its peak of 44 houses, most of the residents had one or more family members who worked at the adjacent Howard Smith Paper Mill. The east side of Hazel Street was part of the Paper Mill property, the Mill’s early street address being 1 Hazel Avenue, rather than the later civic address of 800 Second Street West.

charlessmithlandBy the 1950s the community primarily provided nearby housing for some of the mill workers. By March 12, 1959 the most southerly homes had been removed to accommodate an expansion of the Mill (#6 and eventually #7 Paper Machines) and the excavation began. On January 18, 1960 the new Paper Machine #6 became operational. In 1964 PM#7 was also in operation. Over time the mill acquired all of the homes except for a few at the north end of Hickory Street. Hazel Street no longer exists under that name, but what remains of it is the lane into the former Mill property. Wood Street (originally called Mill Street) is long gone. A small portion of Hickory Street still remains, but without the houses. The Mill and Smithville combined stood on the southern portions of the former Loyalist Wood, Dickinson and Smith farms (Lots 13-15) and later included the balance of the Walter Wood farm (northerly portion of the west half of Lot 13).

CCVS_ads_Mirum Ad Modum_1937_Emard

Emard ad in 1937 CCVS yearbook.

emard_smithvilleFounded by Joe and George Emard in 1925, Emard Brothers Lumber got its start on two properties in Smithville (retail and wholesale divisions). The doors on this delivery vehicle indicate their 42 Hazel Street address (image from Emard Bros. website.) Luc Emard is driving with Maurice is on the passenger side.

Emard truck

Emard Brothers purchased this advertisement in the 1954 telephone directory.

Emard ph dir ad_1954 bw

Other neighbourhood employers included Ottawa New York Central Railway, Cornwall Station on the north side of Second Street West and the National Hotel (originally named Ratelle House). Other employers of neighbourhood residents included Courtauld’s silk mill, farmers and Standard Bread.

Paper Mill Roosevelt Br Fx 6 by 4 Web WM


Looking north from the canal

The homes on Hazel, Wood and Hickory Street, north of the mill, west of the administration building. Hazel and Hickory were named after trees, while Wood was the name of some of the original Loyalist settlers who once farmed in that area.Paper Mill Roosevelt Br Web WM

This home with the lovely wrap-around verandah was located on Hickory Street (image courtesy of Thom Racine.) It was the home of Thom’s great-grandparents. Elizabeth Good married Stanley Tilton on April 20, 1904; the couple moved into their white clapboard house at 20 Hickory Street on the 1st of September that same year.

Hickory St house_ggp_Thom

In 1959 the Paper Mill purchased several of the homes at a very fair price in order to demolish them for expansion. Here is a depiction of Smithville and the Paper Mill during the time that the Mill had planned the take-over of the community:

Smithville Demise bordered

Papermill_both woodrooms fx wm

In this photo from the Museum’s collection we see the Paper Mill shortly after the expansion on the northwest which obliterated Smithville.

94-10.64_Daily Coll_60 Toronto Paper Mill_web

94-10.63_Daily Coll_59 Toronto Paper Mill_web

The above two photos of the earlier Toronto Paper Company are from the Daly Collection.


This sketch from Toronto Paper Company stationery shows the entire, impressive complex.


This illustration from the December 1916 Fire Insurance Map illustrates the location of the head races and tail races used to power the original water wheels. It also identifies each of the mill buildings.


A view of the paper mill from the Cornwall Canal.


The first sod  was turned in 1881 and in April of 1883 the  mill produced its first sheet of paper. A sulphite mill was added in 1887.

In 1919 Howard Smith and Company acquired the operation and in 1966 the plant was
purchased by Domtar Fine Papers. A chlorine dioxide and pulp bleaching plant were added in 1957.



The Cornwall operation closed on March 24 of 2006. Before it closed, the original Toronto Paper cornerstone and a section of the Howard Smith totem pole, as well as several other artifacts, were donated to the Cornwall Community Museum, where they remain accessible to the community.


A modern view of the mill.


Second Street West, north of the paper mill to the Roosevelt Bridge were also part of Smithville. Edwardson’s West End Sunoco station ca. 1963 was located at 814 Second Street West near Hickory Street.

Ratelle’s Smithville residence, store and rooming/boarding house gave way to the National Hotel under the ownership of Dr. Elzear Emard. Conrad Blanchard became the National’s next owner, followed by John Mason.

Bridge Disaster0006

Cornwall’s first international bridge, The Roosevelt, was located west of the paper mill property, unlike the current bridge.

94-10.57_Daily Coll_53 Old NY Railway Bridge_web

It started out as a rail bridge, part of the Ottawa New York Central Railway before being planked to accommodate vehicular as well as rail traffic.

ONYR-Cornwall Cr FX Web WM

The bridge and the train station were considered the west edge of Smithville.


View of Paper Mill, Lock 18 & Town Pump House from International Bridge

In the above photo we see a Howard Smith pulpwood unloading conveyor, Lock 18 (the last last between Cornwall and Maple Grove) and the former pumping station for Cornwall’s water supply. Cornwall water filtration plant’s original pump house, which provided water for drinking and fire fighting purposes, was built on the south bank of the Canal opposite to the paper mill and Lock 18 and officially in  operation on May 18, 1886. It was constructed by Moffett, Hodgkin & Clarke of Watertown, NY and operated as a business. Ten years later the Town took over the operation. In addition to supplying homes and industry, the Town was then supplied with fire hydrants, a real boon to the efforts of the early volunteer fire brigade.

The original small brick pumphouse at the west end was enlarged and new pumps and other equipment added. The building at the east, constructed ca. 1918, had once served as housing for the engineer in charge and later was used to house additional pumps. Hot air heating eventually replaced the need for several stoves to heat the complex.

Steam pumps were utilized early on and two of them later retained for emergency use. Water-powered pumps had become the new standard and were so for many years in conjunction with steam powered pumps. The massive waterwheel inside the plant was powered by the drop in water from the canal to the river. In 1918 two massive centrifugal pumps were installed in an additional building, removing the need to maintain a reservoir. An less-efficient electric pump was put into action in the spring and fall when ice would interfere with the waterwheel and at anytime the water was out of the canal.

Water passed through an intake pipe to a well sunk into the canal bank. The pumps drew the water from the well, added chlorine and sent the mix into the water mains. In 1934, the operation was amply serving 18,000 residents as well as businesses of Cornwall and the Township with up to 8,000,000 gallons of water per 24 hour period. With the coming of the St. Lawrence Seaway, is was proposed that water now be piped through a cut in the dike and routed to the rear of the filtration plant on the north side of 2nd St W.


The former Town Pump House in 1959 – after being enlarged

Please follow this LINK for more images of the paper mill.

To return to our main post on Historic Cornwall neighbourhoods, please follow this LINK.

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