Local Focus – Kitchener
In 1784, land was given to the Six Nations by the British as a gift for their allegiance during the American Revolution. From 1796 to 1798, the Six Nations sold 38,000 hectares of this land to a Loyalist by the name of Colonel Richard Beasley. The portion of land that Beasley had purchased was remote but it was of great interest to German Mennonite farming families from Pennsylvania as they wanted to live in an area that would allow them to practice their beliefs without persecution.
Eventually, the Mennonites purchased all of Beasley’s unsold land, creating 160 farm tracts. By 1800, the first buildings were built, and over the next decade several families made the difficult trip north to what was then known as the Sand Hills. One of these Mennonite families, arriving in 1807, were the Schneiders, whose restored 1816 home (the oldest building in the city) is now a museum located in the heart of Kitchener.
Much of the land, made up of moraines and swampland interspersed with rivers and streams, was converted to farmland and roads. Apple trees were introduced to the region in the 1830s, and several gristmills and sawmills were erected throughout the area.
Immigration to the town increased considerably from 1816 until the 1870s, many of the newcomers being of German (particularly Lutheran, and Mennonite) bacground. In 1833, the town was renamed Berlin because of the recent German immigration, and in 1853 Berlin became the County Seat of the newly created County of Waterloo, elevating it to the status of Village.
The extension of the Grand Trunk Railway from Sarnia to Toronto through Berlin in 1856 was a major boon to the community, helping to improve industrialization in the area. Immigrants from Germany, mostly Lutheran and Catholic, dominated the city after 1850. On June 9, 1912, Berlin was officially designated a city.
Anti-German sentiment during World War I led to the abandonment of much of the city’s German heritage. In 1916, following much debate and controversy, the name of the city was changed to Kitchener.
Kitchener is now the seat of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. The metropolitan area, which includes the neighbouring cities of Waterloo and Cambridge, has over 510,000 people, making it the tenth largest Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) in Canada and the fourth largest CMA in Ontario.
The city is adjacent to the smaller cities of Cambridge to the south, and Waterloo to the north. Kitchener and Waterloo are often referred to jointly as Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W), although they have separate municipal governments. Including Cambridge, the three cities are known as the Tri-Cities.
Kitchener is mostly made up of single-family homes. However, the condo craze has come to the area and there is a great selection of home types, from historic homes to modern townhouses and condos. But single-family homes are still the norm.
Kitchener’s economic heritage is rooted in manufacturing. While the local economy’s reliance on manufacturing has decreased in recent years, more than 20 per cent of the labour force remains employed in the manufacturing sector.
The city is home to four municipal business parks: the Bridgeport Business Park, Grand River West Business Park, Huron Business Park and Lancaster Corporate Centre. The largest, the Huron Business Park, is home to a number of industries, from seat manufacturers to furniture components.
In recent years, Kitchener’s economy has diversified to include high-value economic clusters. In addition to Kitchener’s internationally recognized finance and insurance and manufacturing clusters, digital media and health science clusters are emerging within the city.
In 2007, Cadan Inc., a Toronto-based real estate development company, bought what was formerly the Lang Tannery. Supported by the local government, Cadan repurposed the building as a space for commercial firms. Since its refurbishment, the Tannery has become a hub for digital media companies, both large and small. In 2011, Communitech moved into the Tannery. Communitech is a hub for innovative high-tech companies in the fields of information technology, digital media, biomedical, aerospace, environmental technology and advanced manufacturing. Also in 2011, high-tech giant Google Inc. became a tenant of the Tannery, furthering its reputation as a home for leading high-tech companies.
Kitchener has a lot of cultural venues and events, including the Contemporary Art Forum, The Open Ears Festival, IMPACT theatre festival, the Multicultural Festival, the Kitchener Blues Festival, and KidsPark.
And, of course, Kitchener-Waterloo is home to Oktoberfest, an annual nine-day event that started in 1969. It is billed as Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival and is the largest Bavarian festival in the world outside Germany. While its bestknown draws are the beer, other family and cultural events also fill the week. The bestknown is the Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Kitchener is also home to many sports teams, including the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, the Kitchener Panthers of the Intercounty Baseball League, the Kitchener Dutchmen of the Ontario Hockey Association and the K-W Braves Jr. A team of the Ontario Lacrosse Association.
Parks & Rec
Kitchener’s oldest outdoor park is Victoria Park in the heart of downtown Kitchener. A cast-bronze statue of Queen Victoria, which was unveiled on Victoria Day in 1911, is the centrepiece of the park.
Another significant park is Rockway Gardens. Adjacent to the Rockway golf course, the gardens occupy a long narrow strip of land alongside King Street. Here there are many fountains, ponds, waterfalls and rock grottoes.
Kitchener has an extensive and safe community trail system controlled and run by the city. Due to Kitchener’s close proximity to the Grand River, several community trails and paths border the river’s shores. This convenient access to the Grand River has drawn nature seeking tourists to the city.
In 2011, a bike park located at the newly constructed McLennan Park was hailed as one of the best city-run bike parks in Southern Ontario by BMX and mountain biking enthusiasts. McLennan Park also features an accessible play area, a splash pad, basketball courts, beach volleyball courts, a leash-free dog area and a toboggan hill.
Chicopee Ski Club — which offers four seasons of activities — is also located inside city limit.
The Grand River Conservation Authority operates 11 conservation areas along the Grand River. In Waterloo, the Laurel Creek Conservation is a popular place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Swimming, windsurfing, camping, hiking and birdwatching are just some of the activities you can do there.
Kitchener-Waterloo is served by three hospitals: the Grand River Hospital, St. Mary’s General Hospital and Cambridge Memorial. Long-term rehabilitation and physiotherapy, as well as mental health services, are addressed at the Freeport Health Centre, which is a part of the Grand River Hospital. Policing is provided by Waterloo Region Police Service and firefighting by the Kitchener Fire Service.
The Conestoga Parkway is the area’s main highway, connecting with Highway 401. Public Transit throughout the Region of Waterloo is provided by Grand River Transit, which was created by a merger of Cambridge Transit and Kitchener Transit. GRT operates a number of bus routes in Kitchener, with many running into Waterloo and two connecting to Cambridge.
Currently under construction, Phase 1 of ION will provide LRT service from the Conestoga Mall transit terminal in Waterloo to the Fairview Park Mall transit terminal in Kitchener. It also features 17 kilometres of Bus Rapid Transit from the Ainslie Street transit terminal in Cambridge to the Fairview Park Mall.
The closest airport to Kitchener is the Region of Waterloo International Airport in Breslau. Most air travellers use Toronto’s Pearson International Airport or the international airport in Hamilton.
Kitchener’s downtown offers some very stylish and forward-thinking retailers, as well as restaurants, cafés, salons and spas. Fairview Park Mall is Kitchener’s largest shopping mall, while Conestoga Mall in Waterloo is also home to the Galaxy Cinemas.
The University of Waterloo and Conestoga College offer post-secondary education, while McMaster University has opened a satellite campus for its Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.