ABOUT SMITHS FALLS
Smiths Falls is a full service community, located about halfway between Ottawa and Kingston. With a population of 9,000, it is the largest community in the Rideau Corridor. Smiths Falls offers a full range of services for the visitor including restaurants (including most "brand name" fast food outlets), a wide variety of stores, and much more. There are many available accommodations in Smiths Falls including Inns, motels and B&Bs. Boaters will find ample dockage at Victoria Park, just a few minutes walk away from the centre of town.
There are lots of interesting sites to see in Smiths Falls. Prominent among these are the Rideau Canal Visitor Information Centre, the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario and the Heritage House Museum.
Another favourite pastime is watching the boats lock through the Rideau Canal locks. Smiths Falls hosts 3 lockstations, Smiths Falls Detached (1 lock), Smiths Falls Combined (1 lock) and Old Slys (2 locks). The central lockstation, the Smiths Falls Combined Lock, was built in 1972-73, replacing a flight of three, now unused, locks. It boasts the greatest single lock lift on the Rideau Canal system, 7.9 metres (26 feet).
Smiths Falls provides the opportunity for many local recreation activities. There are several parks located in the town and two nearby golf courses. The town also has two arenas, a squash/curling club, tennis courts and more.
There is an event taking place in Smiths Falls almost every weekend throughout the summer months. Follow the link to Smiths Falls from the links page for a full list of these events.
Originally known as Smyth's Falls, it was named after Thomas Smyth, a United Empire Loyalist who received a 400 acre land grant in the area in 1786. Smyth did nothing with the land and in 1810 he mortgaged it to a man in Boston. In 1823, Smyth built a saw mill at Smyth's Falls, but he never lived there, choosing to stay in Elizabethtown Township on the St. Lawrence and also at Burritts Rapids. Apparently the mortgage, which Smyth thought had been paid, had not, and in 1824 his ownership of the land was contested. Smyth lost the court case and the land was sold in 1825 to Charles Jones (of Jones Falls fame) who immediately sold it at a profit to Abel Russell Ward.
It was Ward who in 1826 was the first to move into the area and actively start to build a settlement. The building of the Rideau Canal, completed in 1832, greatly expanded the settlement. Now called Wardsville, it became the hub of commerce in the region. In 1836 the name of St. Francis was proposed, but most residents had reverted to using the original name of Smyth's Falls, or Smiths Falls as it was now known.
In 1882 the village council wanted a new name. Rideau City and Atironda were put forward but the residents resisted, preferring the commonly used "Smiths Falls". The town was incorporated in 1883. A clerical error at that time in Toronto resulted in the registration of the name as Smith's Falls. That error was rectified in 1968, officially recognizing the long-standing use of the town's name as Smiths Falls.
In the late 1800s, the railroad came to town. Rail transportation was taking over from water transportation and Smiths Falls benefited by becoming the hub of rail traffic in the region. A direct rail link was made from Smiths Falls to Montreal. The Canadian Northern Railway station, built in 1914, is now the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario. The last passenger train to stop at that station was in 1979. Today there is a small VIA Rail station at the north end of town. The town also hosts a C.P.R. rail yard. Smiths Falls is a divisional point of CP Rail's main line from Montreal to Toronto. C.P.R. used to have a train station here, but it was closed in 2011 and re-purposed as the Station Theatre.
One of the historic buildings in town is the Heritage House Museum. It was built in 1862 by Joshua Bates, a prominent miller and merchant. In 1977 the building was purchased by the town of Smiths Falls and returned to its 19th century glory. The Rideau Canal Visitor Information Centre is housed in an interesting building, part of the Woods Mill complex, established on Wards Island in the 1840s. The current stone buildings were built in 1887. Purchased by Parks Canada in 1981, the complex underwent extensive renovations. In 1991 the eastern half of the complex became the Rideau Canal Office of Parks Canada and the granary section became the Rideau Canal Museum. The museum was changed into the Rideau Canal Visitor Information Centre in 2012.
For the complete history of Smiths Falls read, "Smiths Falls: A Social History of the Men and Women in a Rideau Canal Community, 1794-1994" by Glenn J Lockwood.