As mentioned last week, the main reason for Chisholm’s desire to purchase the area where Oakville sprung up was the presence of the mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek. Despite being a shallow creek, it has the potential as a natural harbour. By 1827 the Welland Canal and improvements along the St. Lawerance River had improved trade routes through Upper and Lower Canada and over to England.
The mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek was noted for a large gravel bar in the middle, splitting the planned harbour into two entrances. Chisholm directed his son Robert and son-in-law Merrick Thomas to dredge out the mouth to ensure it was deep enough to be served by the lake-based sailing and steamships of the day. Work began almost immediately after Chisholm purchased the townsite in 1827 and moved slowly, having to be done by hand. Two piers were built and extended into the lake to provide a breakwater. Docks and warehouses were constructed, and the shipyard was. The yard also included several stores and the ship chandlery. The chandlery was the hardware store where ships could get provisions such as ropes, tools, sails, oakum, and tar. The vast tracts of oak trees and Chisholm’s mills provided a steady supply of timber for the construction of ships. Both wind and steam-driven vessels of every sort were constructed. The harbour imported and exported goods starting with lumber and wheat, then fruit and coal was significant import into the harbour. As the century came to a middle, the harbour was again dredged to support the larger vessels now travelling the lakes, and a new lighthouse was installed. The collapse of the wheat trade did some damage, along with the arrival of the railway, but the shipyard continued to operate. In 1874, the harbour was transferred to the town for use as a public harbour. And the shipyard began to build personal sailing yachts for the wealthy who summered in Oakville in the late 19th century. Under the watchful eye of Captain James Andrew, the yards were renowned for their quality personal watercraft starting in the 1890s. And while the shipyard closed in the early 20th century, the Oakville Yacht Club opened in 1907 using parts of the shipyard and an old grain warehouse. The 1889 lighthouse was relocated in 1962 when the town installed modern automated lights. Today, especially in the summer, the Oakville harbour is a forest of masts, and you can easily sit in the shipyard park and watch the boats go in and out of the harbour. Only the name of the park and the original chandlery (1828, converted into a private home in 1891) are reminders of the connection Oakville has to the original harbour.
My discovery of the chandlery was accidental; today, it’s a private home tucked away on a quiet side street. Built-in 1828, it is among the oldest surviving buildings in Oakville. Photographing it is easy as there is no street parking directly in front of the building. Setting up across the road with my 150mm made work easy. I metered for the bushes next to the front door, and while I still lost a pile of shadow detail, I could keep some of the house’s texture visible. Not the best choice, but the historical plaque is visible.