This town marks the halfway point on the Rideau Canal, and was an important early trading centre as well as a railway town. Smith’s Falls has 9,000 residents who earn their living serving the recreational tourist industry based on the 60 lakes within a 60 kilometre radius of the community.
History of Smith’s Falls
Originally settled in 1784 and named Smyth’s Falls, after Thomas Smyth, the little village began to take shape by 1840.
The Rideau Canal was formerly opened in 1832 after construction was started in 1826. A 36-foot (11 m) drop in less than a quarter of a mile posed an obstacle to navigation at Smiths Falls. A natural depression to the south of the river was used to create a flight of three locks.
In the 1850s the major railway companies (Canadian Pacific Railway and the Grand Trunk Railway) built trunk lines linking Toronto, Kingston and Montreal. The two major companies were joined by an upstart third national railway, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) along the busy Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor. CP bought the Brockbville and Ottawa Railway, which went through SMith’s Falls and also Arprior to the north of Ottawa.
Smiths Falls was incorporated first as a village in 1854, and then as a town in 1882. In 1920 the town council voted to change the name from Smyth’s Falls to Smiths Falls, and this spelling entered general use
Smiths Falls Attractions
Heritage House Museum
Box 695, 11 Old Slys Rd, K7A 4T6
2 km SE via Jasper Ave
613-283-8560 fax: 613-283-4764
This museum is housed in the 1867 Victorian era home of Truman Ward, a prominent land wealthy local mill owner who lived in the house until 1893. Seven rooms are period furnished, and include local history displays, and travelling art shows. Picnic area adjoins the Victorian garden by the Rideau Canal. Allow 30 minutes. Open May 1 to Dec 19 daily 11 am to 4L30 pm; Jan 2 to April 30, Mon-Fri 11am – 4:30 pm . Admission $$.
Lockmaster’s House Museum
1 Jasper Ave, Smiths Falls, ON K7A 4B5
A museum located in a historic lockmaster’s house, offering exhibits on the local history and the Rideau Canal system. Built in 1844 as a low cost substitute for a blockhouse to defend the canal against American-based raiders, the Chaffey’s Lockmaster’s house was originally a one-storey limestone building. A tin roof protected it in case of fire and two stone porches and gun-slits provided extra defense in case of attack.
Rideau Canal Visitor Centre and Museum
34 Beckwith St S, Smiths Falls, K8A 2A8
613-284-0505 fax: 613-283-4763
This museum is housed in the historic former Woods Mill, and showcases the history of the Rideau Canal including details of its construction from 1826 to 1832. Connecting Ottawa and Kingston using the Rideau and Cataraqui River systems to avid the St Lawrence Seaway in case of another war with the United States. Displays include artifacts, photos, dioramas, watercolours and multimedia. Housed in a 19th century stone mill, the Rideau Canal Visitor Centre is the flagship interpretation centre for the historic Rideau Canal system — a National Historic Site of Canada, a designated Canadian Heritage River, and a UNESCO World Heritage destination Allow 30 minutes. Open May 1 to Labour Day daily 9 am to 5 pm; daily 10 am – 4:30 pm until Thanksgiving; rest of year by appointment. Admission $$.
Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario
90 William St W, Smiths Falls, ON K7A 5A5
This former 1914 Canadian Northern Railway station contains rolling stock, steam and diesel locomotives, cabooses and a 1947 Cadillac (converted to railway use), and a Wickham track car (which you can ride). Locatied in a former CNoR station, stands on the abandoned right-of-way of a Canadian Northern Railway line which once led southwest toward Napanee. Weekend train rides, too. Allow 30 minutes. Open July & August 10 am to 4 pm; rest of year by appointment. Admission $$.