Back to the...One River? Springbank Dam Environmental Assessment  Learn More

Back to the River is an initiative to revitalize a five kilometer stretch of London Ontario’s Thames River through an international design competition.

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1

Blackfriars Bridge

Constructed in 1875, Blackfriars Bridge is one of the oldest and most rare bridges in all of Canada. The Blackfriars Bridge was the first wrought-iron bridge constructed in London and now is the last remaining in London. The bridge was constructed in order to replace the failed wooden structures that had provided the city’s only northern road crossing the Thames River. The wrought-iron, through, bowstring truss or tied arch bridge spans the north branch of the Thames River, which connects Ridout Street to Blackfriars Street. The bridge is 216 feet and currently only open for cyclist and pedestrian use. The bridge is a landmark for the City of London and has been a source of inspiration to many of London’s local artists, writers, photographers, and historians for years. The bridge was designated as a Heritage Structure under the Ontario Heritage Act (Part IV) on April 21, 1992. Additionally, it is listed on the Ontario Heritage Bridge List and is included on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

Stats & Facts

  • Blackfriars Bridge was the first wrought-iron bridge constructed in London and the last remaining in London
  • Blackfriars Bridge was manufactured in Canton, Ohio by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company
  • The iron bridge was constructed due to failed wooden bridges
  • Installation of the Blackfriars Bridge pre-dates the invention of the telephone (1876), the light bulb (1879), and radio (1895)
  • Due to a relatively low volume of traffic, Blackfriars Bridge has survived and is still open for cyclist and pedestrian use
  • It is one of the oldest wrought-iron bridges in North America
2

Harris Park

Harris Park is a vast green space with beautiful trees lining the Thames River. The park is named after the Harris Family who built Eldon House in 1834, London’s oldest original home, currently a museum containing original furnishings and artifacts. Eldon House and the parklands were donated to the City for the use of all Londoners. 

Harris Park, originally known as the Kensington Flats, was used for the grazing of livestock when London was first settled. In the 1830s, Blackfriars Mill was added to the Flats with a mill race cutting through the park from end to end. The Harris’ landscaped the slope from their home to the Flats with terraces, trails and beautiful gardens. Over time, those features have been lost within the wooded eastern slope of Harris Park.

Harris Park is used for various events and is a great place to walk, bike, have a family picnic, and much more. Hosted in Harris Park is London’s Rock the Park, a vibrant festival that draws close to 10,000 people and supports Bethanys Hope Foundation. As well, located in Harris Park is the Canada Day celebration hosted by London Celebrates Canada that includes vendors and community exhibits, great entertainment and more. Harris Park is a wonderful place to connect with our waterfront and enjoy a day outdoors, for all ages.

Stats & Facts

  • Historical location that was once known as Kensington Flats and a grazing area for livestock
  • Named after Harris family who built Eldon House, London’s oldest home
  • Harris Park is the location for events such as London’s Rock the Park and London’s Canada Day celebration
  • Thirteen years ago, London’s Rock the Park was created as a music festival in the heart of downtown, supporting research for Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD)
  • Canada Day celebration festivities include; First Nations Gathering, Canada Day Ceremony, Canada's Birthday Cake, exhibits honouring Canada's Heroes, vendors and community exhibits, great entertainment and spectacular fireworks
3

Eldon House

Preserved since the nineteenth century, Eldon House is London's oldest residence containing family heirlooms, furnishings and invaluable treasures of the Harris family. Built in 1834 for John and Amelia Harris, the Eldon House was home to four generations of the Harris family. Eldon house is an excellent example of Georgian and Regency architecture and has 19th-century style gardens that are considered among the most beautiful in the city. The Harris property originally consisted of 11 acres overlooking the forks of the Thames (currently, Harris Park). The house was named after Lord Eldon, the Lord Chancellor of England (19th century) who like John Harris, was a “self-made man” and through hard work, rose to success. John Harris admired Lord Eldon and named his house in his honour. Eldon House remained in the family until 1960 when it was generously donated to the City of London. It has been open to the public since 1961 and continues to be a place filled of beauty and harmony. The home has regular tours and many special events throughout the year including the Summer Tea Program, a Canada Day dinner, Victorian Christmas and much more.

Stats & Facts

  • Built in 1834 by John and Amelia Harris
  • London's oldest residence containing family heirlooms, furnishings and treasures
  • Home to four generations of the Harris family
  • Residence is Georgian and Regency architecture and gardens are beautiful 19th-century style
  • John Harris named his residence, Eldon House after Lord Eldon, the Lord Chancellor of England in admiration and honour
  • May 1, 1960 the Eldon House was donated to the City of London
  • In 1961, the residence was opened to the public as a historic home
  • Admission to Eldon House is by donation
4

Museum London

Museum London was established in 1940 and operated from the London Public Library until 1980 when Canadian-renowned architect, Raymond Moriyama, was appointed to design its current location at the forks of the Thames River. In 1989, the London Regional Art Gallery amalgamated with the London Historical Museum and the historic Eldon House and Gardens creating what is known today as Museum London. Currently, Museum London is Southwestern Ontario’s leading establishment for the collection and presentation of visual art and material culture. With an art collection that contains over 5,000 regional and Canadian works and 45,000 artifacts that reflect the history of the City of London, Museum London is an important regional urban centre. The Museum is a proud supporter of the ongoing practice of local artists through their programming, touring exhibitions and by supporting the initiatives of local artists outside of the London community. Museum London strives to promote the knowledge and enjoyment of regional art, culture and history through public and educational programming, special events and exhibitions. 

Stats & Facts

  • Museum London was established in 1940
  • Operated from the London Public Library until 1980
  • Construction of the current location at the forks of the Thames River was designed by architect, Raymond Moriyama
  • London Regional Art Gallery amalgamated with the London Historical Museum, Eldon House and Gardens to create the current Museum London in 1989
  • Collection includes; over 5,000 regional and Canadian works and 45,000 artifacts
  • The museum presents a dynamic mix of interconnected exhibitions and programs that have both local and national relevance
5

Forks of the Thames

The City of London was founded at the Forks of the Thames by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe following a failed attempt to establish London as the capital of Upper Canada. Subsequently, settlements of newly arrived settlers from the United States and British Isles approached the Forks up to 1826.

During the war of 1812, two battles were fought at the Forks. The first, Battle of the Thames, October 5th 1813, approximately 3000 US militia defeated a British and native force of about 1000. During this battle the great chief Tecumseh was killed. The British were defeated yet again in the Battle of Longwoods in March of 1814.

Today, the Forks is at the heart of downtown London and is a site for recreation activities such as bike riding, walking, as well as a nearby splash pad for children. Many local events also take place near the Forks such as Rock the Park and Canada Day Celebrations, as well as other events and cultural activities in the downtown core. 

The Walter J. Blackburn Memorial Fountain is a landmark of the Forks. Modeled after the world famous Jet d'Eau in Geneva, Switzerland, the Walter J. Blackburn Memorial Fountain is comprised of one large jet and six smaller jets that frame the downtown when viewed from the west. Financed by a $450,000 donation from the Blackburn Family, the fountain is a symbol of community vitality.

Stats & Facts

  • The City of London was founded at the Forks by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe
  • During the war of 1812, two battles were fought at the Forks of the Thames
  • The Walter J. Blackburn Memorial Fountain, a landmark of the Forks, is a seven jet fountain that shoots water up to 30 meters into the air
  • In the heart of London’s downtown core, the Forks are the site of community activities such as recreation, events, cultural and heritage activies
6

Labatt

In 1847, a little more than a decade after arriving in London from Ireland, John Kinder Labatt purchased London’s Simcoe Street brewery in partnership with Samuel Eccles. By 1855, John Kinder Labatt became the brewery’s sole proprietor, renaming the brewery John Labatt’s Brewery. With a passion to brew beer and knowledge in business, John realized the Great Western Railway, completed in the late 1850s, was the company’s ticket to national expansion. Involved at an early age and apprenticing at a Virginia brewery, John Jr. took over the family business after his father died in 1866. Labatt Brewery continued forging ahead and by the 20th century, Labatt became a corporation. The Labatt brewery broke new grounds, including the introduction of Canada’s first light beer and the first Canadian brewery to form international licensing agreement with a major United States brewery. Involved in three mergers, starting in 1995, Labatt Brewery becomes a member of the leading global brewery, Anheuser-Busch InBev. From a single small brewery in London, Ontario to one of Canada’s largest and most successful companies, the Labatt Brewery has 3,000 employees and a profile of over 60 quality beers. “Where good things have been brewing for close to 170 years.”

Stats & Facts

  • 1847- John Kinder Labatt purchased London’s Simcoe Street brewery in partnership with Samuel Eccles
  • 1855- John Kinder Labatt became the brewery’s sole proprietor, renaming the brewery John Labatt’s Brewery
  • 1886- After the death of John Kinder, his son John Jr. took over the brewery
  • 1977- The introduction of Canada's first light beer
  • 1980- The first Canadian brewery to form an international licensing agreement with a major U.S. brewery and, as a result, the first to brew a U.S. brand under license
  • Proud member of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the global leader in beer and top five consumer products companies in the world
7

South St. Victoria Hospital

The South Street site of Victoria Hospital was created in 1875 when the barrack hospital on the future site of the Victoria Park was deemed too small and in poor condition. Because the City of London wished to create a Park in honour of Queen Victoria, the city offered a 4 acre property relocation along the Thames river and the London General Hospital was formed on Ottoway Street, now South Street 

The hospital grew and continued to serve the community as new health care trends and innovations were necessary and led the way with many firsts including the first dialysis machine, the cobalt radiation machine for cancer care, surgical innovations and in the 1970s was the largest teaching hospital is Canada. 

After many years of growing the hospital from 30 beds to over a 1000 beds, the land and buildings were deemed to be less than ideal for the new and evolving health care needs of the 21th century and the hospital acquired 350 acres on Commissioners road and wellington Road. The hospital relocated all of its acute care in 2010.

Today, the South Street Victoria Hospital lands along with some heritage buildings, are being readied for a new community development on this legacy hospital site and another community vision in this neighbourhood will evolve and grow along the river again.

Stats & Facts

  • The South Street Victoria Hospital location was created in 1875
  • The location was strategically chosen to be close to the river as nature was thought to be synonymous with heath
  • The Hospital led the way in health care innovation with many firsts including first dialysis machine, the cobalt radiation machine for cancer care, and many surgical innovations
  • South Street hospital provided 134 years of care for London and Southwestern Ontario
  • Victoria hospital was relocated to its current location at Commissioners and Wellington Road
  • Old Victoria Hospital Lands Secondary Plan approved by City Council on June 24, 2014
8

Watson Street Park

Watson Park is the site of The Flood of ’37; the highest ever recorded flood on the Thames River, and the most destructive of both life and property. In 1937, Southwestern Ontario experienced an unusually wet spring. The resulting flood was triggered by 5 inches of rain that fell from April 24th to the 26th. London was the first city to be affected by the rising water levels in the Thames River. On April 26, 1937, the waters of the Thames flooded the streets of London forcing thousands to flee their homes. The destruction in the city was so devastating that Londoners called the day, Black Monday. The surrounding area and other towns along the Thames were put on red alert and told to make necessary precautions to prevent similar destruction. Unfortunately, five deaths were attributed to the flood, an estimated 1,100 homes were ruined and property damage totaled $3,000,000. As well, residents and local houses along Front Street were relocated in order to protect both life and property from future flooding. Front Street evolved from a residential area to a garbage dump and finally, Watson Street Park. Currently, Watson Street Park is a great place for observing waterflow and birdwatching due to the allotment of trees and shrubs that have created an ideal habitat for migrating birds in the spring.

Stats & Facts

  • The Flood of ’37 was the most severe flood ever recorded on the Thames
  • Southwestern Ontario had an unusually wet spring along with 5 inches of rain that fell in 3 days, causing extreme levels of water in the Thames River and a massive flood
  • The flood resulted in thousands of Londoner’s forced to flee from their homes
  • The flood attributed to five deaths, 1,100 damaged homes and $3,000,000 of property damage
  • Front Street residents and homes were relocated to protect both life and property from future flooding
  • Front Street evolved from a residential area to a garbage dump and finally the current, Watson Street Park