Your tour begins at The Post Office building, which you see today on the north side of St. Andrew St. It was built in 1911 on the site of the original Post Office, built in 1835 by Thomas Young. Mr. Young had a frame, one story building which he used as a store and post office. This corner was the core of the settlement in the 1830’s. The area where the Canada Trust is now located was considered “the common” or “market square” as it was the only level and cleared patch of ground on the north side of the river.
Cross Tower St. and proceed west and you will find Melville United Church on the south side of St. Andrew St. and Tower St. This church was built in 1900 to replace the old Melville Church which was located on the south side of the river on the trail to Elora.
Continue west along St. Andrew St. to Breadalbane St. On the north corner stands the Breadalbane Inn, the former home of George D. Fergusson, son of Adam Fergusson, co-founder of Fergus. George came to Fergus in 1851 to oversee his father’s business interests. A very small stone cottage at the back of the property was eventually engulfed by the present day structure in the 1870’s expanded to accommodate George’s large family of 10 children. The building was converted to the existing inn and restaurant business in the 1970’s.
Continue north on Breadalbane St. and turn east on St. Patrick St. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is located on the corner of Maiden Lane and St. Patrick St. This church started as a small frame structure and was replaced with the present day stone building in 1865. This church originally had a tall top heavy steeple, which was blown over and embedded into St. Patrick St. during a vicious storm in November 1913. Mario Landoni Sr. repaired the damage and reshaped the steeple. In the early 1900’s, after George Fergusson died, the village fathers gave permission for the hill west of the church to be used as a gravel pit, and later a village dump. This abruptly ceased when it became apparent that this was indeed the catholic burial ground.
Continue north on Maiden Lane to St. George St. and turn east. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (on the hill) was established in December 1834. The first church, a wooden structure, was replaced in 1861 by the present stone building. Behind the church, you will find the first burial ground for the village. The Auld Kirk Yard contains the remains of most of the earliest settlers. Some of the most interesting headstones have been moved into the west vestibule of the church for safekeeping. Part of the Auld Kirk Yard was set aside as the pauper’s cemetery during the Highlander’s trek of 1849-1855.
The small stone cottage to your right on the west corner of St. Patrick and Provost Lane was built for Samuel Small, Shoemaker. This one and one quarter story design is typical of the small tenant housing in some parts of Scotland. If there were no windows on the second floor, the building was taxed as a one story dwelling, even though there were rooms, or a loft above the main area. These small dwellings were inexpensive to build and easy to heat and maintain.
Continue further down Provost Lane. Just before St. Andrew St. you will come across the Weigh Scale Building (on the east side). This is one of the last remaining weigh scale buildings in Ontario. Now housing the public washroom facilities, the building is home to some interesting historical images of the area.
Retrace your steps north on Provost St. and turn east on St. Patrick St. to the municipal parking lot. Here, behind John Thomson & Son Furniture (and a little to the east), Mr. Scott built the first dwelling the settlement of “Little Falls”. James Webster and William Built lived in the log structure during the winter of 1833. A stream fed by an extensive beaver meadow north of St. Andrew’s Church, provided fresh water for the two men. This stream is now located underground, flowing under the Carnagie Library Building with the beaver meadow now in the middle of a subdivision. Built, a close friend of James Webster was the first person to purchase land in the settlement in the summer of 1833.
Walk south on St. David St. to the Olde Livery (south of St. Andrew St.) built in 1878 by James Aergo as a warehouse and livery. Today, it houses a number of small shops.
Number 160 and 170 St. David Street south (across from The Olde Livery) is the Watson Tannery Building (c. 1855) and the Abraham Groves Grist-Mill and Electric Light Plant (c. 1880). Dr. Abraham Groves provided the first electrical power to the village. A prudent man, he also ran the grist-mill from the same building.
Walk across the St. David St. Bridge to the Fergus Market Building; (at Bridge St.) the former Beatty Bros. Foundry erected in 1878. A date stone on the building states 1876. This is the date that the firm was established, not the date of the building. When the firm moved from 410 St. Andrew Street West, they brought their date stone with them and embedded it in the east wall of the new building.
Proceed west along the market and turn back north at the end of the building. Cross the parking lot to the footbridge across the river. The bridge is in the same vicinity as the old “pig bridge”. Loose pigs had the run of the old settlement streets, causing much fuss. Village fathers ordered a bridge erected to enable the pigs to walk from their pens and across the bridge each morning to a clear grazing area. The original bridge was a narrow, spidery affair with room for one pig abreast only.
Proceed across the bridge and west down the river walkway to Templin Gardens. The stone fence and archway were built for J.C. Templin, the editor of the Fergus News Record, in the late 1920’s. The gardens were planted and expanded during the 1930’s and became a showcase for flowering plants and shrubs. The Chamber of Commerce began a restoration project in the 1970’s to salvage what remained of the gardens. The footbridge spanning the gorge was put in place in May 1991 as part of the community P.R.I.D.E. project sponsored jointly by the Municipality, the Chamber of Commerce and the BIA.