Between the boundaries of Victoria St., East Lancaster, Krug and the Conestoga Parkway, you will find one of Kitchener-Waterloo’s most active neighbourhoods: Central Frederick. In recent years, young families have been flocking to the neighbourhood, and are becoming known for their welcoming atmosphere and open porch-parties.
Historically, Central Frederick has been a largely residential area. In the late 1800s, when the city was still named Berlin, it was closer to the outskirts of town. There were houses filled with families, similarly to today, but some properties also bordered farmland. One of the more notable properties at the time was the Waterloo County House of Industry and Refuge, which used to stand directly behind today’s Frederick Street Mall.
The House of Industry and Refuge opened in 1869 and housed 100 people: those of lower classes, the elderly, orphans and mentally ill who had nowhere else to go. If residents died while living there, and their bodies were not claimed, they were buried in nearby fields. After years of neglect the field was largely forgotten, and it was eventually built over and redeveloped as the city expanded. Now, it’s believed that many of these unmarked graves are underneath peoples homes, backyards, public buildings and parks. Researchers believe there are roughly 260 of these unmarked graves throughout Central Frederick, and in other nearby areas.
According to James Howe, a resident of Central Frederick who has lead a Jane’s Walk through the neighbourhood, residents are aware of the old poorhouse, especially since it has been recently reported on.
“[There has been] consideration of possibly recognizing people who died there, although there are some lost graves and that could affect some of the people living in Central Frederick,” he explained. “So we [the Central Frederick Neighbourhood Association] also want to make sure that if they have concerns or questions they get heard.”
Over time, the need for a poor-house became outdated as new social services became available. And with Kitchener becoming a growing city, and the need for residential areas growing, the original building was torn down and replaced with new infrastructure.
Central Frederick, however, kept up with the tradition of caring for those who needed a little extra help. In the 1950s, Kitchener resident Anna Kaljas purchased houses on the corner of Frederick and Simeon Streets.
“She would take in people who basically had no where else to live, people with mental illness and so-forth, and she just cared for them on her own,” said Howes. “The houses are still used for that purpose.”
The histories and legacies of Central Frederick can also be seen today in the names of the streets, as many were named after prominent people or families when the neighbourhood was establishing itself in the mid-1800s.
Brubacher Street, for example, was named for a family that owned farm-land nearby. Lydia and Simeon Streets were named after individuals within the Brubacher family.
Newer buildings within the area also help show the neighbourhood’s transition as Kitchener has grown
and expanded. The current Frederick Street Mall, when originally built in the 1950s, was considered to be on the edge of town. Over time, the area has remained largely residential, and older buildings are being renovated to help expand. On the corner of Chestnut and Mansion streets is an old factory building that has recently been converted into condos.
Being a residential area, Central Frederick draws many families. In the past five to ten years, there has been a surge of young families with children. Being a family-centric area, coupled with unique history, is a drawing factor for many new residents. Sarah McQueen, a new resident of Central Frederick, moved to Kitchener from Toronto three years ago and insisted on living in the neighbourhood.
“I knew that it was a very family-centric area. I knew it would be a great place that we could kind of could settle down and raise our son,” she explained with enthusiasm.
“A lot of the houses are unique, which, if you look in some of the newer neighbourhoods, a lot of the houses look very similar; I would find it hard to tell my house from the next, so a lot of the houses look very different, they all have well-established gardens, and I just like the feel of an older home, that there is history.”
Like McQueen, Laura McBride, another fairly new Central Frederick resident, looked into the area and did a bit of research before moving there. While McBride was aware of some of the more prominent events that hap- pen in the neighbourhood, such as the annual Frederick Street Art Walk, she didn’t realize just how active people in the neighbourhood actually are.
“It turns out there’s so much more going on than we ever imagined,” she said. “We moved here intentionally because we were looking for people who were active, and it felt like the neighbourhood already had an active community.”
She was also one of the individuals who helped organize and execute the first Hohner Ave. Porch Party three years ago. May 30, 2015 saw the third annual porch party, with 33 local artists playing in four hours. For the event, the entire street is closed off, and the bands rotate between porches so the venues change. The event fosters a very open atmosphere where people can easily walk between each band and mingle with neighbours and friends.
“We always wanted to have a music festival of some kind,” McBride explained; there are many artists living in the neighbourhood, since it is in close proximity to both Centre in the Square and the KW Symphony.
“The neighbourhood is supportive of it.”
The front porches that adorn many of the homes throughout Central Frederick hostso much than local musicians. They also help create the welcoming, open atmosphere that many residents and newcomers to Central Frederick note as one of the neighborhood’s most charming factors. Brad Watson, the president of the CFNA, immediately noted the neighborhood’s front porches when his family moved to the area three years ago.
“It’s sort of a different feel,” he explained. “You’re outside and you’re approachable; that’s a huge part of why this neighbourhood is so close.”
The front porches help fuel the vibrant atmosphere of Central Frederick, and help neighbours connect with each other and with those who are simply passing through.
Central Frederick has held onto the connectedness that many new, more modern neighbourhoods have lost. Many of its residents are active, whether through CFNA-organized events, or more grassroots charm.
Faerie doors, tiny, house-side entrances fit for the forest spirits of your dreams, have been placed throughout the neighbourhood by residents looking to add a little more imagination and creativity for children and adults alike. All of them are visible from sidewalks, and help create a shared communal experience.
Residents of Central Frederick know each other, and continue to strive for and create an open neighbourhood where all residents can feel free to get involved in activities, events and programs. Its proximity to the downtown core is also pulling more people in, and with Kitchener’s inevitable growth, more and more families may soon flock to Central Frederick.