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Tweed’s fire hydrants: The history and the hunt

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If you’ve driven through Tweed, chances are you’ve noticed the brightly painted fire hydrants lining the village’s streets. Some are splashed with animated characters like snakes and dragons and Sylvester the Cat. Others show local businesses, heritage buildings, and even Elvis Presley.

When I was a little kid, I remember cruising down Victoria Street with my family, trying to find as many of the dozen or so hydrants as we could. “There’s one!” we’d yell. “There’s another!” The winner was whoever spotted the most.

Today, you can find about 40 of the colourful spigots all over Tweed, and together they show off the artistic leanings of a community that’s been here since the 1830s.

Those painted hydrants didn’t start showing up until 1987, though. That’s when Canada World Youth hosted a Pakistan-Ontario exchange program. Some of the young people stayed in Tweed, and before leaving they came up with the idea of painting fire hydrants along Victoria Street as a lasting legacy.

It’s certainly lasted. What started as an artistic project on the main drag quickly spread to almost all of Tweed’s fire hydrants. Over the years, community groups, the municipality, artists, and non-artists have picked up their paint brushes to turn the otherwise ignored fixtures into vivid canvasses that have helped put this quaint riverside village on the map.

Of course, paint doesn’t last forever. That’s why you’ll often see new designs — and why you should head out on a hydrant tour if it’s been a few years.

Here are some helpful maps.

This map was created by the Municipality of Tweed to guide your journey. Google My Map

This map was created by Hastings County GIS – GIS Map with Photos

Here are a few hydrants you definitely shouldn’t miss:

#6: North America’s Smallest Jailhouse

230 River Street West

This intricately painted beauty depicts Tweed’s famous tiny jailhouse, which is a couple of blocks away. Built in 1898, the jail measures just 4.8 metres wide by 6 metres deep and originally held three cells and a lobby.

#27: Farm to Table

44 Metcalf Street

You’ll have to get up close to see all of the details of this food-themed hydrant that pays homage to Tweed’s farm-to-table community dinners and its rich agricultural roots.   

#39: Front Porch Ruckus

453 Victoria Street North

By car, it’s tough to miss the bright purple hydrant on the outskirts of town. But if you don’t stop, you might miss the guitar, musical notes and deck that portray Tweed’s annual Front Porch Ruckus.

#53: Tweed & Area Heritage Centre

40 Victoria Street North

You’ll find this locomotive of a fire hydrant outside the Tweed & Area Heritage Centre. A railroad once passed through the village, and you can find out all about it — along with a ton of other facts about the community — at the centre.

#61: The Fisherman

211 River Street East

The area in and around Tweed is a popular sport-fishing destination, so it makes sense there’s a fisherman hydrant. And it makes sense that it’s here near Stoco Lake, a hotspot for anglers.  

#64: Tweed Music Festivals

136 Colborne Street

The village loves its tunes, and Tweed Music Festivals is the non-profit at the centre of organizing some of its biggest music events. This hydrant, with its kaleidoscopic splash of colours and notation, is the perfect tribute.

Elvis

213 Alexander Street

Decades ago, there was a rumour going around that Elvis Presley hadn’t died but was living in Tweed. Ever since, the village has become somewhat synonymous with The King. Now there is a wildly popular Tweed Elvis Festival every summer, which happens near where you’ll find this likeness of the Jailhouse Rocker.   

Check out Tweed’s tourism web page, Our Backyard, for way more things to do in and around the community.

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