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(Posted 11:30 p.m., Jan. 14)
Queenswood Heights marks 50th anniversary in 2012

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Before there was Springridge, Avalon, Chapel Hill and Fallingbrook. Before there was Chatelaine Village, Convent Glen North, or even Orleans Wood, there was Queenswood Heights.

The community`s history actually goes as far back as 1957 when the Duford family sold 385 acres of farmland to a group of developers from Ottawa and Montreal for the kingly sum of $52,500.

Parks and Garden Home Develop.m.ent Ltd. planned to turn the farmland into a $17 million "satellite town" with more than 1,000 homes, schools, churches and a large shopping centre.

The name "Queenswood" was the brainchild of Morris Kertzer, who was a young lawyer for the Parks and Garden Home Develop.m.ent Ltd. During one of his many trips along the Queensway to Cumberland Township he thought about his own family-run business named "Trentwood". He simply put the two names together and came up with "Queenswood" for the new sub-division.

The community was to be built in three phases. Construction of the first phase on the escarp.m.ent overlooking the present day Orleans Town Centre, began in the fall of 1961. That year the official population of Queenswood was eight. The following spring a group of 12 residents joined together to form the Queenswood Homeowners Association.

According to local historian and author Lori Nash, the streets in Queenswood Heights were to be originally named after various cities in France. In fact, Duford Street was originally named Valenciennes Street.

The names were changed to their present day monikers in 1963 on the suggestion of Marling Estates salesperson Boris Blanchard who thought naming the streets after local settlers would make it easier to sell the homes.

As a result a bylaw was passed on March 22, 1963 to rename Jamison, Duford, Major, Sault, Chartrand, Charlebois, Tompkins, Lacroix, Fraser Park and Kennedy Lane which was originally supposed to be called Mirabeau Street..

While most people assume Kennedy Lane was named after John F. Kennedy following his assassination in Nov. 22, it was actually named after the Kennedy family which first settled in Cumberland Township in the late 1800s.

For the first several years the only road into the new sub-division was Duford, which at that time was extremely steep. Former residents recall taking turns trying to make it up the hill during the winter.

In October 1965, a massive landslide blocked Duford and St. Joseph Blvd. for several days. Hundreds of truckloads of dirt had to be moved before the road could be reopened. The following year, Duford was redesigned to reduce the grade.

By 1966, the population of Queenswood Heights had grown to 496. The Queenswood Homeowners Association began publishing the Gleaner Newsletter in 1965, but it would be four more years before they would have their own public school.

When Queenswood Public School officially opened in 1969, the population of Queenswood Heights had grown to more than 900 people. By 1971, it had doubled to nearly 2,000.

At that time the community was still a suburban oasis in the middle of farm country. Long time resident Al Tweddle recalls his daughter running into the house and excitedly telling him there was a monster in the backyard. It turned out to be a stray cow.

There was no OC Traspo service at the time. Residents left without the use of a car had to rely on something called dial-a-bus. The first storm sewers weren't built until the early 1980s and the ditches would often flood, enabling at least one enterprising resident to make use of his canoe.

Between 1971 and 1976, the population nearly doubled to 3,800 people. With the addition of Queenswood Village in the mid- to late 70s, the community grew by an additional 1,500 residents.

Thanks to the leadership of residents like Al Tweddle, the Queenswood Community Centre was built in 1974 and a number of parks were developed and linked together by an extensive pathway system.

Queenswood Heights expanded further south to Des Espinettes during the early 80s and from 1981 to 1986 the population grew to nealt 12,000 residents. The population finally peaked at 13,499 residents in 1996 and has slowly declined ever since.

Today, Queenswood Heights is a mix of empty-nesters and young families looking to establish down their roots in a mature community.

Many new homeowners are the sons and daughters of some of the original residents who have decided to move back to the neighbourhood to start their own families.

While there are no plans for an official commemoration of the community's 50th anniversary, some residents have been talking about organizing a possible event in the spring or coinciding it with a community fun day.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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