It first became a definite corporation in 1797, when Messrs. Smith and Walton laid out a village plot beside the creek. Its name then and for several years subsequent thereto, was Smith’s Creek and under that designation a post office was established in 1817. But meantime the use of the name Toronto had begun to creep in, especially in legal documents and there was considerable confusion over the dual nomenclature. The difficulty was settled at a public meeting held in 1819, whereat Mr. G. S. Boulton’s suggestion of the name ” Port Hope ” was unanimously accepted. All these years the village figured as part of the Township of Hope and was governed by means of ” township meetings ” held every New Year. One assessor looked after both village and township and valued each village lot the same as one-fourth of an acre of cleared land.
In 1834 Port Hope was duly incorporated as a town by an Act of Parliament of the 6th of March, which defined the limits of the corporation and provided for the establishment of a police and a public market therein. The form of government was to be by means of a President and Board of Police. For electoral purposes, the town was divided into four wards each of which returned one member. (Ward I. included all land south of Walton Street and west of the Creek : Ward II. all south of a line drawn east from the foot of Walton Street and east of the Creek : Ward III. all north of the afore-mentioned line and east of the Creek : and Ward IV. all north of Walton Street and west of the Creek.) The four members so elected chose a fifth colleague and the five appointed a President from among their own number.
The first Board which met in May, 1834, was composed of President M. F. Whitehead and Members John D. Smith, Wm. Henderson, John Brown and Erasmus Fowke. For four years Mr. Whitehead ably filled the President’s chair and was then succeeded by Mr. John Brown.
The Municipal Institutions Act of 1849 did away with the Police Board and established a Mayor and Town Council in its room. The present ward system was introduced and each ward was required to elect three councillors. The assembled councillors appointed their own Mayor and that was the mode of selection of the chief magistrate until 1859 when he was appointed by popular suffrage as now.
On January 21st, 185o the first Town Council met at Strong’s Hotel. Its members were J. W. Barrett, F. W. Metcalfe, W. B. Butterfield, W. M. Smith, W. Mitchell, J. Hatton, J. Lynn, A. Porter and J. T. Williams. The last-named gentleman became the first Mayor.
Until 1860 when Port Hope withdrew from the United Counties, a Reeve and Deputy-Reeve were also selected from among the councillors to represent the Town in the Counties’ Council. After 1860 the separation continued until the end of the year 1893 when it was considered advisable to again join the Town to the Counties. From the year 1894 to 1898 inclusive a Reeve and two Deputy Reeves were annually chosen by the people. These with nine aldermen made such a very large and unwieldy body that in 1896 the number of councillors was reduced to six. Two years later a new County representation was introduced doing away with the old double system by means of Reeves. The election of 1899 was run on new lines. Five town councillors were appointed without any reference to wards but, as might have been expected, a deadlock occurred in 1900 which necessitated a change to six aldermen in the present year.
Prior to the occupancy of the Town Hall in 1853, Port Hope’s legislators had no permanent meeting-place. The Board of Police seem to have had a partiality for the Exchange Coffee House, situated where the Queen’s Hotel now stands and latterly known as Thomson’s Hotel. The first Town Council secured a room in Gillett’s building on the south-east corner of Queen and Walton Streets, where they met until the Town Hall was ready for them. The contract for the Town Hall was let in the year 1851 to Mr. Philip Fox for ten thousand dollars and the structure was completed two years later. Its outward appearance was almost identical with the present edifice and it only differed in internal arrangements. By the time it was altogether completed it cost double the amount anticipated in the contract and completely ruined Mr. Fox. A fine cloc k and bell were added in 1855, the clock being put in by H. S. Perry & Co. of New York for
After witnessing many historic events transpire within its walls, the old building was gutted by fire early on the morning of February 3rd, 1893. The Town Council immediately set about its restoration. The plans of Architect Curry of Toronto, a worthy son of the Town, were accepted and building-contracts let to several local firms. The result of an expenditure of very little over ten thousand dollars is a most compact and serviceable Town Hall, reflecting much credit on architect and builders. The new building was reoccupied by the Town Council on February 26th, 1894. A new Town Bell and Clock were subsequently put in, the former costing $207 and the latter $785.
Up to November 5th, 1883, Port Hope had its own standard of time which was about thirty minutes slower than Montreal time. It is true an attempt had been made in 1857 to put the Town Clock ahead half an hour but so violent were the resulting protests that it was hurriedly put back and so remained until standard time was everywhere introduced.
One important public work on which Port Hope is to be congratulated is her splendid water-works system, the result of many years of experience and effort. The earliest account of any movement in the direction of water-supply for the Town is an order of the Town Council of December 26th., 1854, authorizing the Committee on Sewers and Water, ” to procure an accurate survey and estimate of the costs of establishing water-works for the use of the town upon the preliminary examination and report made by T. A. Stewart, Esq. , C. E. ” Evidently nothing came of this attempt nor for many years did the Committee on Sewers and Water bestir itself. About 1869, however, an ingenious proposal was presented, to convey water from a dam on the west side of Cavan Street near the Brewery, along Cavan Street to Walton Street, to be used for fire purposes. Difficulties with the owners of the water-supply prevented this scheme from ever being carried out.
Two years later a special committee was appointed which advocated a system very similar to the present one but again without avail. Next year a new committee was appointed and the services of Engineer Keefer were secured. The result of this agitation was that in May 1873 the Committee reported in favor of a rotary pump system, to be built and operated by John Helm, Esq. at his dam on Queen Street.
This plan was matured during the ensuing winter and next year Port Hope’s first water-works were installed, under the supervision of Messrs. McLenann, Hayden and Garnett. The system was a fourteen-hydrant affair, for fire purposes only, and cost about $16,500, though much more was spent in extensions in later years. The whole was leased to the corporation for twenty years from its completion in November 1874.
After the destruction by fire of Trinity College School in 1895, the absolute necessity for better fire protection was keenly felt and the inadequacy of the existing system realized. With very little waste of time it was decided to secure water from a filtering basin situated on the beach west of the harbour, to pump this to a tank at the top of Dorset Street and from thence to fill extended mains through-out the Town. McQuillan & Co. of Toronto were given the contract and about $30,000 were expended in 1895. The completed works were then vested in a Board of Commissioners, elected by the people and appointed for the first time in 896. Since 1896 the Commissioners have expended in the neighborhood of $25,000, providing two new filtering-basins, new pump, new boiler and a splendid steel water-tower, seventy-seven feet in height and capable of holding 230,000 gallons of water. With this improved plant both domestic and fire purposes are efficiently served. The Board of Commissioners consists of three members and the mayor, ex-officio. R. Deyell, Esq. has presided over its deliberations since its inauguration and R. Gray, Esq. has been the efficient Secretary-Treasurer.
One other public possession of the Town, which should be mentioned in this connection is the large Park to the east of the Town. The greater part of this property was purchased in 1871 from the College authorities in Toronto for $3,000 and the remainder was secured from the Smith Family. An attempt had been made to buy the land in 1856 and some arrangement had been come to but for some reason the bargain was cancelled by the Council of 1861.