I opted for the neighbourhood known as Olde Dundas, a historical area immediately adjacent to King Street, its main business hub. This was the neighbourhood settled by its first inhabitants as the town began to grow. I purchased a small house on a short, quiet street built over what was once, eons ago, an old riverbed right against the escarpment. During the town’s early beginnings, it was a working class neighbourhood, with small, cottage-like houses, many of which have been extensively renovated over the past few years. These homes housed the factory workers who provided the labour for the factories that thrived in the town long before it lost its industry and became a bedroom community.
Almost directly east of my street, still in Olde Dundas, there are several upscale streets lined with the stately homes of the former business tycoons and factory owners who ran the lucrative manufacturing enterprises. King Street, the business centre of the town, currently boasting of more than 100 shops, dissects the town’s old core and remains a vibrant, attractive shopping area. It draws local residents, tourists, and visitors to its boutique stores and quaint restaurants with carefully maintained, old-fashioned facades from a bygone era.
Olde Dundas has a unique charm not found anywhere else in the town. Many of the residences, especially those in the old money part were built more than 150 years ago. They are architecturally-beautiful, one-of-kind structures on large lots spread out along wide, tree-lined streets. The numerous subdivisions elsewhere in the newer sections of Dundas do not possess the same interesting mix of housing or romantic allure as Olde Dundas. Although neat, tidy, and well-kept, they are mostly run-of-the mill neighbourhoods similar to others that were built about the same time throughout southern Ontario. They vary from low-income to high-end neighbourhoods. Some are lined with tiny war-time bungalows. Others are 1960-style subdivisions packed with cookie-cutter homes on ordinary streets. A few very modern subdivisions offer spacious upscale houses on tiny lots. Still fewer take advantage of the many ravines to accommodate very attractive, impressive houses.
When I decided to move to Dundas, the real estate agent praised the friendliness of the small town, and especially the Olde Dundas neighbourhood. My ears perked up, but as a long-time home owner in other Ontario communities I wasn’t so naive as to believe that these neighbours were all close friends. A whole neighbourhood of close friends would be exceptional, but without doubt they do exist somewhere.
I chose Olde Dundas partly because it didn’t have the “feel” of ordinary Ontario subdivisions where I had previously lived. The fact that each house on the street was uniquely different greatly appealed to me. Even more appealing was the realization that my newly adopted street, hugging the escarpment, could pass for a rural subdivision in cottage country. Traffic during the day is lively on the main street, but minimal on my street, and at night, almost non-existent. Occasionally the low rumble of a freight train snaking along the side of the escarpment breaks the silence. In springtime I am often awakened, at dawn, not by speeding vehicles, but by the by the loud singing of birds in the treetops outside my window.