Vankleek Hill, Ontario Canada

Discovering Vankleek Hill, Ontario: A Blend of History and Tourism

Vankleek Hill, a charming town nestled in Champlain Township in Eastern Ontario, is home to a population of 1,996. Named after Simeon Vankleek, a United Empire Loyalist, the town has a rich history dating back to the 18th century. Today, it is known as the gingerbread capital of Ontario, thanks to its beautifully preserved Victorian-era buildings.

The Historical Roots of Vankleek Hill, Ontario

Simeon Van Kleeck and his wife Cecilia Jaycox, both of Dutch descent, arrived in Nova Scotia from the former British Province of New York in 1783. Simeon, a demobilized officer, had supported the British crown during the American Revolution. His wife Cecilia had witnessed her brother's capture and execution for his British allegiance.

As a United Empire Loyalist, Simeon was to receive land in payment for his services. He and his son Simeon Jr. settled c.1797 on Concession IV, Lots 7,8, and 9, Hawkesbury Township. Today, this is the location of Vankleek Hill.

The prosperity of Vankleek Hill began with the VanKleeck's family inn that served travellers going to and from the Ottawa River port of L’Original to southern ports on the St. Lawrence River. Since 1998, Vankleek Hill is one of four municipalities that make up the Township of Champlain, which includes L’Original, and the townships of Longueuil and West Hawkesbury.

Vankleek Hill, Ontario: The Gingerbread Capital

In 2003, Vankleek Hill was named Ontario's Gingerbread Capital. The term "gingerbread" refers to the intricate woodwork that adds architectural detail to building exteriors and interiors. Over 250 homes in Vankleek Hill contain Victorian era decorative gingerbread elements, a testament to the town's rich architectural history.

The backdrop for the gingerbread is red brick, a hallmark of Vankleek Hill Victorian and Edwardian period buildings. The local rich clay deposits were kilned to a distinctive soft red brick by at least three local brick factories active here in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Tourism in Vankleek Hill, Ontario

Vankleek Hill is a vibrant hub of cultural and historical tourism. The town is adorned with trompe-l’oeil murals that depict early Vankleek Hill storefronts, trades, community life, and the annual Vankleek Hill Agricultural Society Fair. These murals, created by regional artists Elizabeth Skelly and Odile Têtu, feature true-life Vankleek Hill people.

The Vankleek Hill & District Historical Society threads the telling of local history through the buildings and their architecture. The town hosts several annual cultural events, including a Victorian Christmas Home Tour, the May Show Festival, and an annual Fiddling, Step-dancing and Squaredancing Competition.

Vankleek Hill is also home to the Beau's All Natural Brewing Company, an award-winning craft brewery that supplies pubs, restaurants, and vendors across Canada. The town also boasts a community garden, cross-country skiing trails, and many beautiful murals that decorate downtown buildings.

Whether you're a history buff, a lover of architecture, or simply looking for a charming place to visit, Vankleek Hill, Ontario has something to offer everyone.