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Brantford’s Public Art: A Walking History Lesson

Brantford’s Public Art: A Walking History Lesson

Most of us are feeling a bit cooped up these days and are often heading out for a daily stroll or some exercise to beat the boredom of our unusually free schedules.  Perhaps you’re seeking new trails or areas of Brantford to explore, following current social distancing guidelines, of course.  Did you know that the City of Brantford has seventeen pieces in its public art collection, all rich in community culture and history?  You’ve likely seen them in passing, whether walking the streets downtown or driving by in further reaching areas of our grand city, but have you really seen them? Have you admired their intricacy or learned the stories behind those they honour? Fine citizens of Brantford, now is your chance!

A full gamut of the City of Brantford’s Public Art Collection is available online, but read on to submerge yourself in a little local history of the three featured here.

Joseph Brant Monument – Victoria Park, 65 Market Street
Located in the heart of downtown, Victoria Park is home to Percy Wood’s masterpiece, the Joseph Brant Monument.  The man’s whose identity inspired the name of our city (“Brant” in honour of Joseph Brant, and “ford” meaning a shallow place with good footing to cross a river or stream) was a Mohawk military and political leader who was closely associated with Great Britain during and after the American Revolution. Perhaps, without Joseph Brant’s valiant endeavours, the land we all call home would have become American territory.

While not born into hereditary leadership, Brant rose to prominence due to his education, abilities and his connections to British officials and was a fierce advocate for the Six Nations Confederacy. He is positioned at the pinnacle of this granite and bronze monument, with four bronze reliefs at the base and six figures located at the midpoint representing each of the Six Nations. A limestone tablet identifies numerous contributors to the project, including that the bronze used in the statue came from cannons donated by the British Crown. It was dedicated on October 13, 1886 and re-dedicated on September 16, 2000.

The Bell Memorial – Bell Memorial Park, 41 West Street
Crafted by Walter S. Allward, Alexander Graham Bell is commemorated in ascended granite and bronze for his ground-breaking invention of the first practical telephone in 1876. After emigrating from Europe, Bell taught deaf students and continued his studies in the science of sound, so enraptured by the human ear that he dissected a severed cadaver for many weeks. He assembled his workshop in the carriage house at the Bell Homestead on Tutela Heights Road, very near to his “dreaming place” along the Grand River. 

An outstanding sculptor of some of Canada's finest public monuments, Walter S. Allward is best known for his masterpiece, the Vimy war memorial in France. The Bell Memorial, unveiled in 1917, is seen as the finest example of his early works and was rededicated to Bell’s residential city in 2017.  Alexander Graham Bell’s global historical significance is still as relevant today as ever and the companies he established in 1877 and 1885 respectively, The Bell Telephone Company (commonly known simply as Bell), and The American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), are still in operation today.

Brant War Memorial - Location: War Memorial Park, 6 Dalhousie Street
From 1914 to 1918 many men from Brantford and Brant County enlisted in the war effort. Of a total 5,571 who enlisted, 701 lost their lives. In 1921, the Brant War Memorial Association was formed to develop a suitable tribute to the valorous deeds of those who served in the Great War.

The initial commission was awarded to Walter S. Allward, and the monument was dedicated in 1933. The design of the monument bears similarities to Allward's most famous piece, the Vimy war memorial in France.

The bronze sculptures intended in Allward's initial design were not included in the final monument; therefore the War Memorial Committee initiated the addition of seven bronze figures by artist Helen Granger Young, which were unveiled in 1992. These figures represent the men and women of the armed forces. In 1954, the memorial was expanded to by the addition of a granite Memorial Gallery designed by local architect Charles Brooks, which includes the names of those who gave their lives during World War II, the Korean War, and in Afghanistan.

The City’s Public Art Collection is intended to create quality places, enhance social cohesion and allow our citizens equal opportunity to engage with the depth our local history. Broaden your usual walking horizons and wander around the crowning jewels of our downtown parks or integrate a visit to see these pieces with your child(ren), checking off both a reading exercise and recommended daily physical activity! Let us know which is your favourite piece of public art on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by tagging @TourismBrantford and take a quiet moment to admire these fascinating tributes to the achievements of Brantfordians that came before us.

To slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community, the City of Brantford has closed all City facilities and prohibited use of all outdoor amenities including playground structures, benches, picnic tables, public exercise equipment, etc. While people who are not providing frontline essential services are urged to stay home, we recognize that people will occasionally need outdoor exercise breaks. The City’s parks and trails remain open for walking, jogging and biking (on applicable trails), however, strict physical distancing guidelines (remaining 6 ft apart from others) MUST be practiced at all times in public.

For more information, please visit the City of Brantford’s Public Art and The Grand Exhibit pages.


City of Brantford , Public Art , Joseph Brant Monument , The Bell Memorial , Brant War Memorial


Outdoor Adventure, Arts and Culture


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