City launches new heritage walking tour for Walkerville neighbourhood

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Windsor Star/Lindsay Charlton

Every neighbourhood has a story. The city’s latest interactive walking tour will allow people to explore the rich history of old whisky town — Walkerville.
The City of Windsor officially launched the Walkerville Heritage Walking Tour Friday morning at the Walkerville Brewery — the second neighbourhood in its series of self-guided interactive walkabouts.
“The exciting part is that you now have an opportunity that’s stitched together with all those authentic pieces that people in our city can go see for themselves and understand how the city came to be,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.
The mobile-friendly website features nearly 50 points of interest for people to dive into. The history of the former town founded by American industrial entrepreneur and founder of the Hiram Walker and Sons distillery, Hiram Walker, touches on booze. Walker moved his business from Detroit to Canada and established a distillery in 1858 in what would become Walkerville, before it was eventually annexed by Windsor.
“If you unpack the entire story and watch how it all unfolded you realize how important Hiram Walker was to the history of the city of Windsor which is why we continue to celebrate him today,” Dilkens said.
The website offers an interactive map with the history behind each point of interest. The tour stops can also be printed out for those without internet on their phones.
He said both Windsorites and visitors will have something to gain from these tours. A Sandwich Towne tour was launched in 2017 and Ford City will be next. 
“This is one of those authentic, interesting things that you can do,” the mayor said. “But it’s also important residents who live here understand the history and that all that history is around them.”
The tour stops showcase architecture old and new like the Walkerville Brewery, also started by Walker in 1885. The brewery showcased its own pieces of history through the new “Bill Marentette Historical Brewery Exhibit.” 
The exhibit features artifacts from past local breweries including original bottles and labels, serving trays, and government-issued certificates, donated by Bill Marentette who worked as a driver at the brewery in 1943. 
Marentette said his collection started with an ashtray he picked up featuring the old Walkerville Brewery logo.
“It’s just something you like to do. Some people collect stamps,” he said. “To go back and find the history of how these guys started — that’s what I was interested in.”
Marentette has since moved to Sarnia with his wife to be closer to family. He said he lives walking distance from the local library where he does his research.
The history buff collected artifacts from various breweries and is a member of Collectors of Canadian Brewers Advertising. He has researched and written stories on the Walkerville Brewing Company and the British American Brewery — another former Windsor staple.
“You’ve got to find somebody who’s interested to carry it on,” Marentette said. “Otherwise it’s distributed across the country and somebody’s got one part and another guy has some other part. It’s nice that it’s all one location.”
Walkerville Brewery president Mike Brkovich believes the collection will be an asset to the tour, allowing people the chance to come inside the building for a peek at the brewery’s past.
“Like the mayor, I share the same interest in history,” he said. “Knowing where you’re going you should look at where you’ve been.”