Few places can boast that they “have it all” but Cambridge, Ontario sure comes close. Blending the best of urban life with the quaint and quiet rural lifestyle, it’s a small town atmosphere with just a touch of big city style. Walking trails and green spaces sit comfortably next to a fun city center while historic architecture pairs well with affordable housing. This blended family of townships will make you feel right at home.
Cambridge was born from the merger of a city (Galt), two towns (Hespeler and Preston), and the village of Blair. In 1973, these locales set aside their rivalries and joined forces to form what is now the City of Cambridge. Each area has retained its own identity within the larger composite city creating a diverse, eclectic and interesting community. Most residents will tell outsiders that Cambridge is their home but amongst themselves, they’ll identify with their original community (e.g. “I love living in Hespeler”). Each community has its own history that has been carefully recorded in the Cambridge City Archives, has its own center core and unique attitude.
The History of Galt, Hespeler, Preston, and Blair
The City of Galt
Galt was once the largest township in this area. Kitchener eventually overtook it in the early part of the 20th century but until then it served the surrounding farming communities well for a very long time. The land now home to Galt was once given to the people of the Six Nations. Six Nations set aside reserve lands and plots for sale at which time the Honorable William Dickson, who was also a developer, purchased 90,000 acres along the Grand River.
Dickson decided to name the post office and thus the community after John Galt, a Scottish novelist and the Commissioner of the Canada Company. Residents weren’t sold on the name until Mr. Galt paid them a visit personally. Somehow the name caught on well after that! The Old Post Office, built in 1886, still stands in Galt. It has been classified as a National Historic Site and a beautiful example of the architecture of the 1800s. Designed by famed architect Thomas Fuller, it incorporates elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Second Empire styles. More recently an impressive budget of $12 million has been allocated to restore The Old Post Office.
Today, Galt is a thriving community known for its stunning Victorian homes and streets lined with maple trees.
The Town of Hespeler
Richard Beasley purchased the land now under the community of Hespeler from the Six Nations people, led by Joseph Brant. The land that Beasley and his partners had for sale attracted the attention of a group of Mennonite farmers in Pennsylvania, USA. These farmers were looking for good farmland and the freedom to practice their religion, so Hespeler seemed like a haven to them.
The first settlers, Michael and Susanna Bergey, lent the town its original name, Bergeytown. This was soon replaced with the more melodic moniker New Hope. Jacob Hespeler brought his own hopes to New Hope and it later took his name. Jacob built an industrial complex that was integral to the long-term growth and economic strength the town enjoys even to this day.
The Town of Preston
Beasley and his Mennonite customers also gave birth to the town of Preston. John Erb and his wife settled on the Speed River and built a sawmill. A gristmill followed and while the sawmill has long since faded into history, the gristmill is now the oldest continuously operating industrial site in the region.
The mills were collectively called Cambridge Mills and this industrial center attracted talented people and encouraged the growth of a settlement. Since the Mennonite farmers spoke primarily German, many German immigrants were drawn to Preston. Newly arrived tradesmen and artisans set up shops and businesses in this growing community.
Word of the town’s mineral springs (or “stinky water” as the locals called it at the time) was industriously spread by some enterprising businessmen and doctors. People in poor health of various types made the trek to this small town seeking the purported curative effects of the water’s high sulfur content. Despite the influx of travelers, it wasn’t until a railway connected Preston to the surrounding towns that it truly began to flourish.
The Village of Blair
Mennonites were once again responsible for the genesis of what started off as the little village of Blair. Samuel Betzner was the first resident but perhaps not the most notable or influential. That honour would go to the Bowman and the Betchel families.
Allan Bowman built the Sheaves Tower on Bowman Creek to supply the flourmill with a boost of power. This earned it the nickname “Power Tower.” This is an early example of the type of technology that was behind the mechanical transfer of power, and set the village of Blair apart from Galt and Hespeler.
Linking the unique communities of Galt, Hespeler, and Blair was an important part of making them into a single, unified township. Since they each started as a particular settlement, they each have their own center. The communities have grown together and most of the spaces between have filled in. Commuting from one area to the other is an important part of daily life for the residents.
The communities that make up the City of Cambridge come together for its many festivals and fairs that populate the calendar. Cultures, food and art are celebrated throughout the year. Residents of Cambridge share a love of the outdoors and support many parks and recreation areas. All of this comes at a surprisingly affordable price. Homes in smaller cities like Cambridge, Ontario are far less expensive than the same square footage in a big city. Fewer bidding wars mean faster closings, too.
Cambridge is the perfect combination of old and new, big and small. The communities of Cambridge really are considered to be the perfect blend.
If you are looking to buy a home in Cambridge, let us show you around. Call The Mark Maurer Team at 310-SOLD or contact us here.