At the turn of the century, Brantford was an economic powerhouse; driving forward Canada’s agricultural and industrial revolution from the plants at the Greenwich – Mohawk site. The growth of the industrial economy, and much of Brantford’s early development was closely tied to Brantford’s canal system – part of the Grand River Canal System that stretched from downtown Brantford all the way Lake Erie.
Mohawk Lake was a wetland that was enlarged into a lake and built into the canal system to provide ships with a place to harbor and turn around. As the years passed and other forms of transportation emerged, this lake and the park surrounding it evolved into a community gathering place like no other.
The scenic land overlooking the lake was known as Lovejoy’s Grove, and the lake was known as Lovejoy’s Pond, named after the owner of the largest estate by the lake who sold it to the Brantford Street Railway Company. The Company created Mohawk Park, which quickly became our community’s premier destination for residents and tourists from all over Ontario. They even built a railway line that carried as many as 90 people at a time to and from the park.
Over 4,000 people were in attendance for the Park’s grand opening, and the Brantford Expositor described the scene:
"It is not too much to say that the citizens of Brantford are under a deep debt of gratitude to the Brantford Street Railway Company for developing the great natural beauties of Lovejoy's grove, until in Mohawk Park and lake we have a resort second to none in Ontario ... A more healthy and picturesque recreation ground it would be hard to parallel." (Brantford Expositor, May 1895)
The dramatic decline of manufacturing in the late 1900s left Brantford with a number of challenges, but in just over a decade, together as a community, we have made Brantford into one of the most impressive stories of urban renewal in all of Canada. Our downtown core is now beautiful and bustling, abandoned buildings have been removed or repurposed and valuable land is being restored.
Unfortunately, Mohawk Lake and the remains of the canal were left badly polluted by the industries operating at the Greenwich – Mohawk site and they remain a sad remnant of these troubling years. Restoring the lake and the canal into an asset that we as a community can benefit from and enjoy is one chapter of Brantford’s success story that has yet to be written.
It’s time that we as a community work together to bring the Mohawk Lake of yesterday back to tomorrow.