Historical Walking Tours

Kemptville - Prescott Street

Although now the main street of Kemptville, before 1840 it was just a cleared area south of the river where cows grazed around the corner of Prescott and Asa Streets. From that point, the trail to Prescott ran through heavy bush, through which the mail often had to be carried on foot, the trail being too difficult at times even for horses. By 1870 the street was occupied by an impressive range of wood framed buildings containing hotels, blacksmith shops, doctors’ offices and stores. On May 13, 1872, all of this was burned away in the worst fire in Kemptville’s history. The entire street, from Asa to Water street was destroyed, as every building on both sides of the street went up in flames. Prescott Street today dates from after that dreadful catastrophe. This tour covers the oldest part of the Prescott Street area, as far south as Asa Street.

Prescott Street Historical Walking Tour

1. Bridge and Mills
1 bridges and mills

This is the core of Kemptville, the location of the first buildings and entire raison d’etre of the town. The river here was once wider and faster than it is today, and the Clothier family built grist and saw mills here that attracted settlers, businesses and visitors to the new village in the 1820's. The first bridge was a couple of planks laid across the stream. Later bridges of wood, then iron, were in constant need of repair. Over the years, the river was narrowed and ‘tamed’, its power diverted to the use of foundries, woolen mills, cheese and timber factories. George Keating’s mill above the bridge provided electric street lighting to the entire town. In 1891, he built a second mill across the river and built a second generating system that could operate by water or steam power. The age of electric street lighting had well and truly arrived and poles were erected along the main streets to carry the new wires. A concrete bridge was built in 1928, and replaced by the present structure in 1961.