Museums and History
Take a glimpse into Smiths Falls’ heritage by visiting our museums.
The Town’s name is derived from the original owner of the land, Thomas Smyth, and the once-magnificent falls that were diverted in order to create the Rideau Canal and the three lock stations.
The history of Smiths Falls dates back to the American Revolutionary War between the Americans and the British when land grants were issued to United Empire Loyalists who lost the lands they owned in the United States as punishment for supporting the crown. The area now known as Smiths Falls was granted to Lieutenant Thomas Smyth in 1786, a total of 400 acres. Rights to his land and mill were contested in 1824, and Smyth lost his land for having defaulted on mortgage payments. The area was then purchased by Abel Russell Ward, a self-proclaimed United Empire Loyalist, in 1825.
When Lieutenant-Colonel John By, a member of the Royal Engineering Corp., was charged with constructing a navigable canal linking Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River; he included the Rideau River running through Smiths Falls. The opening of the canal in 1832 is seen as a milestone for the area since it allowed for economic growth.
The true economic boom came after 1884 when the Canadian Pacific Railway constructed part of its line through the area. This provided a direct trade route to Montreal and its shipping lines. The population of the region increased rapidly.
Due to those early ventures, Smiths Falls has a diverse history of important industries, such as Frost and Wood Co. Ltd., Coca-Cola, RCA Victor Ltd., Rideau Regional Centre and Hershey’s Canada Inc.
In 2007 the Rideau Canal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first in Ontario. The Rideau Canal still plays an important role for the town, since Smiths Falls is the Heart of the Rideau Canal.
11 Old Sly's Rd
The Heritage House Museum is an elegant Victorian dwelling offering a look into the lifestyle of a wealthy mill owner. It was built in 1867 and has eight nicely decorated period rooms. The museum offers changing exhibitions, art shows, day camps, educational programs, gift shop, gardens, picnic area and special events though out the year.
For more information, please contact the museum by calling 613-283-6311.
34 Beckwith St., South
The Rideau Canal Visitor Information Center is the Flagship interpretation and orientation center for the entire Rideau Canal system. Five floors hold a unique blend of historic displays, artifacts and modern technology. Learn about this true engineering marvel with hands on exhibits. Explore the Tunnel of History or test your skill as a Canal Captain. From the lookout, enjoy an aerial view of the Canal and Smiths Falls. Please call 613-283-5170 for more information.
90 William St., West
While visiting the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario, you’ll find rail heritage comes alive at this National Historic Site. Visitors can climb up into the cupola of a caboose or inspect the track in a Speeder Car. New exhibits, events and programs take place all season. Don’t miss their fantastic events! Rail-fest takes place on August 27th and 28th. Please contact the curator for more information by calling 613-283-5696.
1 Hershey Drive
Located in an abandoned Hershey’s factory in Smiths Falls, the Tweed Visitor Centre is more than a window into the world of cannabis – it’s a fascinating look into the past, present and future of the plant. From the moment you arrive, to peeking into working grow rooms, your senses will be engaged and your minds opened as you explore the history, science and culture of cannabis. An educational theatre experience challenges preconceptions and highlights society’s changing relationship over 10,000 years. Discover the complexities of the cannabis plant and learn about the role of terpenes, and witness our bean to bar artisanal chocolate production. Finish off your tour with a cup of coffee, browse through the collection of books, and stop by the gift shop.