Scenic Lake Ontario, marinas and affordable beach houses - llittle wonder commuters are heading for Stoney Creek
JIM STONEY, AN EARLY trapper and storekeeper, is credited with lending his name to the creek that runs through the community. As early as 1827, a post office was designated Stony Creek and, five years later, the spelling was changed to ‘Stoney.’
THE BATTLE OF STONEY Creek, on June 6, 1813, was a turning point in the War of 1812, when British regulars and Canadian militia, outnumbered four-to-one by the Americans, defeated the invaders.
ALL THE MUNICIPALITIES of the former Wentworth County, including the city of Stoney Creek, were folded into the City of Hamilton in 2001.
The creation of the new Hamilton in 2001 might have ended Stoney Creek’s life as a separate city, but it did nothing to snuff out its community spirit.
Situated at Hamilton’s east end at the gateway to the Niagara Peninsula, Stoney Creek stretches from the shining blue waters of Lake Ontario, across the fertile flat land of the Niagara Fruit Belt, up the face of the Niagara Escarpment and then back through farmland of dairy herds, cash crops and graperies.
The community has grown quickly in recent years, as many people who work in the GTA looked farther afield for real estate deals and found prices more reasonable here. Stoney Creek’s current population is about 63,000.
Longtime residents have seen to it that newcomers learn to appreciate the heritage of their community. In 1969, the citizens established the Canada Flag Day parade, to focus not only on their pride in the Maple Leaf flag, but to promote civic pride and spirit. The event is held a month before the traditional July 1 Canada Day festivities, just before the date that marks the Battle of Stoney Creek, on June 6.
Home of beloved Stoney Creek Dairy
Growing up in the shadow of Hamilton (see separate profile on Hamilton
), Stoney Creek cannot boast a traditional downtown that would suggest a community of its size. Its Old Town, which runs along King Street past where the War of 1812 battle took place, is dwarfed by linear retail zones and malls, but it retains a quaintness one would associate with the small, 1950s-era town Stoney Creek once was.
One of the most-loved landmarks in the Old Town core is the Stoney Creek Dairy. Created in 1929, the dairy opened an ice cream shop in 1941, and it’s been scooping up its product to customers at the same King Street location ever since, through several ownership changes.
In recent years, Stoney Creek’s waterfront has developed around the sizable Newport community and Fifty Point Conservation Area, both of which have marinas.
Fifty Point is located in the former Saltfleet Township, which was consumed by Stoney Creek, before it in turn was amalgamated into the new City of Hamilton. It has camping and a small-craft harbour and marina with 320 docking spaces. The conservation area covers 80 hectares and features swimming and picnic spots. In fact, Fifty Point boasts that its beach is one of the warmest and cleanest on western Lake Ontario.
Fifty Point offers dining with a view
Fifty Point’s promenade is a great spot to come to enjoy views of the water. Large shade trees afford protection from the sizzling summer sun. Visitors can catch rainbow trout and largemouth bass in the conservation area’s stocked pond, or else fish for salmon in Lake Ontario. Lake charters can be booked at the marina.
The conservation area offers lots of casual recreational space and has become a popular spot for enthusiasts of outdoor ball hockey. The marina has a full-service restaurant that is a combination of casual and elegant: You can enjoy your meal out on the patio, or inside, in the dining room.
West of the conservation area is the Newport waterfront community. It has no officially defined boundaries, but this collection of single-family homes and townhouses stretches from Lake Ontario to the Queen Elizabeth Way and between Fruitland Road and Jones Road. It also contains the 240-slip Newport Yacht Club and Marina.
Take a drive along the lakefront and you’ll find single-family homes, some built on large estate-sized lots – some new, some older. Stoney Creek’s waterfront has been attracting people for decades.
Love waterfalls? Don't miss Devil's Punchbowl
Stoney Creek — the creek — is one of several streams that tumble over the edge of the escarpment as they course their way to the lake. In fact, someone who keeps tabs on these sorts of things has counted 16 waterfalls in the former municipality of Stoney Creek.
The grandest and most famous of the waterfalls is at the Devil’s Punchbowl. The Bruce Trail, which runs from Niagara Falls to Tobermory on the northern tip of the Bruce Penunsula, crosses the Punchbowl area, which is marked by a 33-metre drop over the side of the escarpment. You can drive to the upper observation area, or hike down to the bottom of the falls and marvel at the millions of years of rock-formation history the multi-coloured strata represent.
The lookout is a breathtaking vantage point from which to observe Stoney Creek, Hamilton, Burlington Bay and beyond. On a clear day, you can see the buildings in downtown Toronto across Lake Ontario.
A 15-metre illuminated cross was erected next to the Punchbowl in the 1960s. The cross frame is an old hydro tower that was erected at the site of where area residents used to adorn an old pine tree, and later a wooden cross, with Christmas lights. Today, the cross is lit every night and can be observed for miles. The Punchbowl area and the cross were featured in the 2006 film, Silent Hill. The area was also used in the 1998 film, The Big Hit.
Where did the Devil’s Punchbowl get its name? Some say it’s from the moonshiners who used to frequent the area, doing “the devil’s work.”
Learn about area's history at Battlefield House
Beyond the lakefront conservation area, Stoney Creek is rightfully proud of Battlefield Park, site of the famous battle of 1813. On the sprawling park grounds is Battlefield House, which contains a museum where you can learn about the area’s history, a monument to the battle and plenty of greenspace.
The area has been declared a National Historic Site and you can drop in to hear costumed interpreters explain all facets of its significance and the events that took place there. Parts of Gage House, which sits on the battlefield, date from 1796. Above the battlefield on top of the escarpment, you’ll find Erland Lee House.
Originally named Edgemont, the house is the spot where, in 1897, the constitution was drawn up for the creation of the Women’s Institute. The Federation of Women’s Institutes of Ontario purchased Erland Lee House in 1972, to preserve it as an important historic memorial to their formation. It, too, is now a National Historic Site.
The portion of Stoney Creek that lies below the escarpment exploded as a suburb in the 1970s and 1980s. Nevertheless, much of the community above the escarpment remains agricultural, as well as quite a bit below.
Where that delicious jam got its start
There is no more fitting tribute to the area’s agricultural heritage than the E.D. Smith and Sons jams and condiments company, located in Stoney Creek’s Winona neighbourhood. E.D. Smith has been producing food products since 1882. Near it sits a boutique winery, one of only a few in the region, since most of the wineries are located farther east. Stoney Creek boasts many farm-gate markets.
Another salute to the area’s farming history sits above the escarpment at a Vinemount farm. The Celtic Dream Garden is open to the public as an attraction that offers three acres of gardens and a wide variety of plants. Visitors will find castles, sculptures, willow structures and standing stones. Garden tours are available.
Just before Stoney Creek lost its independence in 2001, the city had opened a multimillion-dollar City Hall. What to do with a perfectly fine new municipal building, when you’re no longer a city? Turn it into a library, was the answer, and the Hamilton Public Library system was happy to oblige.
Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology is located in Hamilton’s West Mountain neighbourhood, but it has opened satellite campuses, including one in Stoney Creek that offers a skilled trades and apprenticeship program.
Have we got furniture for you ...
If you’re in the market for a new house and are looking for furniture, you might be interested in the largest collection of furniture in the country, much of which is set up in more than 250 “rooms” throughout the showroom at Stoney Creek Furniture. The showroom has become a popular destination for those from as far away as Toronto who want to see what a particular piece might look like in a fully furnished room.
And speaking of finding a new place to call home, recently listed waterfront property in Stoney Creek included an apartment condo, featuring two bedrooms plus den and awesome sunrises over Lake Ontario, for $205,000. An older home, renovated to a modern open-concept style, sitting on a larger lot on the lake with views of Toronto’s skyline, was on offer for $424,888. And at the higher end of the budget, a newly built executive waterfront bungalow on the lake was selling for $999,999.