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Hamilton Waterfalls - A Century Ago and Today
A Century Ago and Today
Hamilton, located in the province of Ontario in Canada is known as “The City of Waterfalls” due to it being home to more than 100 waterfalls and cascades.
This Hub is to focus on the fact that nineteen (19) of Hamilton’s falls have been featured on vintage postcards or old photographs dating back to over a century.
Pictures of these vintage postcards or old photos followed by a current photo of the same waterfall are shown on the right side of this Hub.
The following 19 articles will provide a brief outline of the changes that occurred at these waterfalls. The featured waterfalls will begin in the east end of Hamilton and carry westerly through the city.
1. DEVIL’S PUNCH BOWL
A 1906 postcard calls this waterfall Horseshoe Falls due to the round gorge into which the water flows. Note the lady dressed in a white dress, possibly a wedding dress, beside the creek at the bottom of the falls.
Today it is called Devil’s Punch Bowl due possibly to moonshine being made in this area during prohibition.
This waterfall now is located in the Devil’s Punch Bowl Conservation Area. The Devil's Punch Bowl is located in the Stoney Creek section of Hamilton.
2. ALBION FALLS
Several different vintage postcards feature this waterfall due to a mill being located adjacent to the falls. In this 1906 postcard reference is made to “The Old Mill” located at “Mount Albion”. This creek is known as the Red Hill Creek and has a constant supply of flowing water.
Today there is no mill located on this site and the waterfall is called Albion Falls.
On many weekends, hundreds of visitors can be found exploring this magnificent waterfall located on Hamilton's east "mountain" (Niagara Escarpment).
3. BUTTERMILK FALLS
This 1936 postcard shows Buttermilk Falls in a completely natural state. It is located on a branch of the Red Hill Creek on the next ravine a few hundred metres north of Albion Falls.
The current photo of Buttermilk Falls shows that a bridge and roadway have been built crossing the creek at the top of the waterfall due to urbanization above the falls.
This waterfall often runs dry in the summer and many people driving over the bridge are unaware of the waterfall below them.
4. CHEDOKE FALLS
A vintage 1900s postcard shows Chedoke Falls completely in its natural setting with the Chedoke Creek flowing nicely over the waterfall.
Today, due to urbanization on Hamilton's mountain, the Chedoke Creek above the falls has been enclosed, a bridge and roadway have been built crossing the creek at the top and the waters of the Chedoke Creek emerge from a large concrete storm sewer pipe as they tumble over the waterfall.
There is no easy public access to the base of the falls except for a strenuous trek up the creek from the Chedoke Radial Trail.
5. UPPER SANATORIUM FALLS
This vintage postcard is titled "Ravine Mountain Sanatorium".
Today it is known as Sanatorium Falls or Upper Sanatorium Falls.
The water flowing over the waterfall appears to originate from a natural creek.
Note the staircase to the left side of the ravine and waterfall. In 1908 an electric railway was built from Hamilton to Brantford along what is known today as the Chedoke Radial Trail. One of the stops was at this location and people could climb up and down the stairs to visit the Mountain Sanatorium Hospital.
In the current photo of Upper Sanatorium Falls, note that the creek above has been enclosed and the waters emerge from an ugly metal storm sewer pipe.
In addition the stairs are gone as both the railway and hospital also have gone.
The former railway line has become the Chedoke Radial Trail, a well used walking and hiking trail through the Chedoke Civic Golf Course and beyond.
6. MOUNTVIEW FALLS
This 1908 postcard is interesting in the fact that it features a waterfall with no name.
The title is "Water Fall on the Mountain, Hamilton Ont."
Can you guess why a nameless waterfall would make it to a postcard in 1908?
Well, the electric railway from Hamilton to Brantford was built in 1908, it passed by this waterfall, someone riding the train saw the waterfall, took a picture of it and it was made into a postcard!
Today this waterfall is called Mountview Falls after the community of Mountview that used to exist in this area.
Again due to urbanization, the waters flowing over the waterfall emerge from a concrete storm sewer pipe. In addition the creek channel at the bottom has been lined with a man-made concrete structure to prevent erosion.
7. STEPHANIE FALLS
This 1928 postcard refers to this waterfall as Tiffany Falls.
This waterfall is located on the Tiffany Creek and is the uppermost of three waterfalls on this creek.
Today this waterfall is known as Stephanie Falls with the lowest or third waterfall called Tiffany Falls.
Stephanie Falls is located on private property in the Ancaster area of Hamilton and currently is not available for public viewing. This current photo of Stephanie Falls shows that nothing has changed and it remains completely in its natural state.
8. WASHBOARD FALLS
This vintage black and white postcard shows Washboard Falls in its natural setting.
The current photo of Washboard Falls shows that nothing has changed and that it remains 100% in its natural state. It is located on Hamilton Conservation Authority lands and is the second waterfall on the Tiffany Creek.
9. UPPER MILL FALLS
This vintage postcard refers to this waterfall as Mill Stream Waterfall.
Note that it has a metal sluice gate at the top of the falls to control the water flow.
A mill was located beside this waterfall and waters were diverted to the mill.
Now this waterfall is known as Upper Mill Falls and the creek is called Ancaster Creek.
The mill has been converted to a high-end restaurant and no water is diverted away from the creek.
Note that the former metal sluice gate has been replaced with a concrete weir and that the adjacent sides of the waterfall have been landscaped. To the left of the waterfall (not in the photo) an outdoor patio for the restaurant has been built beside this waterfall taking advantage of this wonderful site.
10. SHERMAN FALLS
No vintage postcard has been found yet for Sherman Falls, however this 1905 photo shows it completely in its natural state.
Sherman Falls is named after the Sherman family who owned this land a century ago and were the founders of Dofasco Steel Company.
This current photo of Sherman Falls shows that it remains completely in its natural state.
Sherman Falls is on private property, however the Bruce Trail passes by this waterfall allowing for public viewing.
11. DARNLEY CASCADE or STUTT'S FALLS
This 1911 postcard refers to this waterfall as Stutt's Falls due to the Stutt's family owning the land at this time and operating a mill at this location.
In the early 1800's a mill was built at this location and it was known as the Darnley Mill.
Therefore the more common name now for this waterfall is the Darnley Cascade to reflect the first mill at this location.
The mill is gone now, however its ruins are located on the site in front of the waterfall.
12. WEBSTER'S FALLS
Webster's Falls appears to have been the most popular waterfall a century ago as it has the most number of different postcards featuring this waterfall.
The postcard shown here is from 1905 and is one of more that a dozen vintage postcards found to date.
This current photo of Webster's Falls shows that today it also is a very popular waterfall.
It is located in the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area in the Greensville area of Hamilton and managed by the Hamilton Conservation Authority.
On weekends there often are hundreds of visitors to this site as indicated by the numerous people enjoying the bottom of the falls.
13. TEWS FALLS
This 1907 winter postcard refers to this waterfall as Hopkins Falls.
The reason for this name is that the Hopkins family owned the land at this time.
Another vintage postcard (not shown here) dated 1910 refers to this waterfall as Tews Falls and it is believed that the Tews family acquired the land about this time. From about 1910, this waterfall has been known as Tews Falls.
The current photo of Tews Falls taken in winter shows that a cone of ice or an ice volcano can form around the waterfall giving it a unique appearance.
14. LOWER TEWS FALLS
This 1906 postcard refers to this as Hopkins Ravine for the same reason as above.
The Hopkins family owned the land at this time but shortly afterwards it was acquired by the Tews Falls and now is known as Lower Tews Falls.
This current photo of Lower Tews Falls shows that it remains completely in its natural state.
The reason for this is that it is difficult to reach and is located in the Spencer Gorge on Hamilton Conservation Authority lands.
15. LOWER SYDENHAM FALLS
This 1909 postcard refers to this location as Sydenham Ravine.
Today it is called Lower Sydenham Falls and is the third and lowest waterfall on the Sydenham Creek.
This postcard shows a natural creek and the photo was taken from a wooden bridge which served as a railway bridge crossing this creek.
Someone riding on the train in the early 1900s saw this lovely cascade, took a picture and it was made into a postcard.
This current photo of Lower Sydenham Falls was taken from the same wooden bridge and shows the same location on the Sydenham Creek, however this wooden bridge now serves as the Bruce Trail crossing the creek.
A new railway bridge has been constructed higher, which is supported by a concrete column built into the Sydenham Creek. To build this column, the creek bottom had to be reconstructed and in doing so, the waterfall has been changed and now appears man-made, however the water flows in the creek remain natural.
16. UPPER SYDENHAM FALLS
This 1910 postcard calls this waterfall Logie's Falls as the Logie family owned the lands at that time on which the waterfall was situated.
Today it is referred to as Sydenham Falls or Upper Sydenham Falls.
This current photo of Upper Sydenham Falls shows that the waterfall still has a natural appearance and has not been changed by man.
It is located on private property, however there is a well worn trail to its base.
Upper Sydenham Falls is the uppermost waterfall of three located on the Sydenham Creek in the Dundas section of Hamilton.
17. BORER'S FALLS
This 1907 postcard shows that there was a mill located at the top of the falls.
If you look closely you will see two men standing beside the creek above the waterfall.
The mill is gone from Borer's Falls and the waterfall is in its natural state as shown by this current photo of the waterfall.
18. GREAT FALLS
This 1929 postcard refers to the waterfall as Palmers Falls. Note the three well dressed people posing at the base of the falls.
This waterfall actually has six names to date that have been recorded:
Smokey Hollow Falls
This current photo shows how Great Falls appears today.
19. SPRING FALLS
This 1910 postcard refers to the waterfall as Arnolds Falls.
The flow over ther waterfall is immense compared to the current photo below.
Today this waterfall is known as Spring Falls or Upper Grindstone Falls.
It is located in the Waterdown section of Hamilton on private property.