The Town of Halton Hills has a number railway related structures that date back to the mid 1850s and remarkably most of them are still in use. These structures were constructed under the direction of Colonel Sir Casimir Gzowski who was knighted by Queen Victoria and served briefly as the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. He was assisted by well-known civil engineers Walter and Francis Shanly both of whom resided in what is now Halton Hills.
Structures built for the Toronto-Guelph line (later Grand Trunk) include: the iron trestle over the Credit River, the original (still operating) Georgetown Station, the Exchange Hotel (a frame stagecoach style hotel on the station grounds), the John/McNab Street underpass & culvert, a newly discovered 1855 stone bridge in the countryside near Limehouse, and an iron and stone underpass at Crewsons Corners on Hwy #7.
The Exchange Tavern is a two storey frame structure with upper and lower front porches on the facade. Some original porch posts, which were used for hitching horses, remain intact. The structure originally had two double hung windows to the left of the main entrance door, which is accompanied by sidelights, with another door and window on the right. Directly above the centre door is another door, which originally accessed a small sunroom but now leads to the upper porch, a later addition. The upper door was flanked symmetrically by two windows. Later, two story additions were added on either side of the original façade. Some of the original clapboard is now covered with “Insulbrick”.
Situated on an irregular corner lot, the back of the structure faces King Street, while the east side faces Queen Street, which is presently an entrance to the GO station parking lot. Regardless of the King Street address, the main entrance faces the federally designated, former Grand Trunk Railroad station at 55 Queen Street.
The Exchange Tavern is a recognizable and important community landmark, which is situated opposite to, and historically associated with, the railroad station (circa 1855/1856). It is mentioned as follows in the 1994 federal designation report: “The station retains its relationship with the railway tracks, and with remnants of railway-dependent commerce and industry, including the former Railroad Exchange Hotel and the former Provincial Paper Mill complex.”
The tavern served both travelers and local residents for almost 150 years before closing its doors in 2003.
The tavern may have been built to provide lodging for workers constructing the Grand Trunk Railway line through Georgetown, which was first announced in May of 1852. Both the station and tavern were constructed in the mid 1850s and together they represent a unique and valuable legacy, which preserves the type of streetscape that typically surrounded a local railway station.
The VIA Rail/Canadian National Railways Station at Georgetown is a one-storey, stone, railway station with a corner tower. It was built between 1855 and 1856, and altered in 1892 and 1904.
The VIA Rail/Canadian National Railways Station at Georgetown reflects the architectural ambitions and changing fortunes of the Grand Trunk Railways, including the initial mid-19th-century construction phase, a second, late-19th-century construction phase and a turn-of-the-century, ‘betterments’ phase. Georgetown was a community dependent on the railway for its economic development.
The Georgetown station is a hybrid comprised of a standard, mid-19th-century, five-bay, GTR station, picturesque elements added during an 1892 enlargement and a 1904 remodelling of both interior and exterior. The Georgetown station is one of nine surviving first-generation GTR stations in Ontario.
The station retains its relationship with the railway tracks, and with remnants of railway-dependent commerce and industry, including the former Railroad Exchange Hotel and the former Provincial Paper Mill complex.
Character-defining elements of the VIA Rail/Canadian National Railways Station at Georgetown include: the massing, reflecting different phases of expansion, and characterized by a rectangular plan, five-bay façades on track (north) and street (south) sides, a picturesque, polygonal, corner tower, a projecting operator’s bay on the track elevation and a large, blind dormer on each of the track and street sides; the elements that reflect the standard, mid-19th-century Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) design for a small railway station, including the largely rectangular plan, five bays along each of the long sides, round-arched window and door openings, the regular, symmetrical placement of surviving openings and the stone gable ends extending to the original, shallow-pitched roof line; the surviving materials and detailing from the 1855-6 building, including the coursed, rock-faced stone construction of the walls and voussoirs trimmed with raised moulds; the picturesque elements which reflect the 1892 and 1904 alterations to the station, including a steeply pitched, gable roof, vertical board in the gable ends, squared soffits, blind dormers over the track-side operator’s bay and the street-side entrance, the polygonal corner tower, the projecting operator’s bay and gothic windows; the polygonal corner tower rising through the main roof, with a polygonal canopy at second-storey level continuous with the platform canopy of the main building, and capped by a steeply pitched, polygonal roof; its window and door openings, including round-arched openings on three sides of the main building, round-headed transoms, a bull’s-eye window in each gable end, a Gothic, camber-arched opening on the east gable end, the operator’s bay window and openings on all sides of the polygonal tower at both levels; its rich surface textures, including rock-faced sandstone walls, decorative timber and stucco in the dormers and the combination of stone base and wood cladding on the operator’s bay and corner tower; the 1904 interior circulation pattern, with entry through the main door on the south façade, a direct line to the ticket wicket and a convenient exit to the platform; the surviving interior finishes from the 1904 remodelling, including an intricate wood ceiling, wood wainscoting with rough stucco above, high, wood baseboards and Arts-and-Crafts-style door and window trim; the intricately boarded wood ceiling with its coved and dentilled cornices, beaded boarding, and mouldings in geometric patterns defining the form and axes of the room.
The station was constructed under the direction renowned Canadian Sir Casimir Gzowski, contractual civil engineer, under the direction of the famous civil engineers Francis and Walter Shanly, employed by T&G Railway.
John/McNab Street underpass & culvert: This underpass is an early example of nineteenth century engineering efforts to create a single arched stone masonry bridge being able to bear the weight of a steam locomotive.
It has been in continuous railway use since the railroad line was officially opened in 1856.