History, Heritage & Archives - Town of Ajax

Ajax History, Heritage and Archives banner

History, Heritage & Archives

Town of Ajax celebrates 60 years 

To conclude our 60th Anniversary, the Town has released  a special infographic chronicling  the Town's top 25 milestones. A limited amount of hard copies will be available in all Town facilities starting December 4.

Download Infographic Now

Town of Ajax History

Ajax History BookAjax was incorporated as a Town in 1955, but long before that, several small settlements and farms were found in the area. In 1941, the largest shell filling plant in the British Commonwealth was located in this area to provide supplies for the Allies in World War II. The founding of Defence Industries Limited (DIL) was really the start of Ajax as we know it. As thousands of workers and their families settled in the immediate area, a community developed and a post office was needed, which meant the area needed a name. A competition among DIL employees resulted in the name Ajax being chosen in honour of one of the three ships that, in 1939, had engaged and defeated the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate near Uruguay.

After the War, the University of Toronto leased many of the DIL buildings for a new flood of engineering students, and a new population base was added to the area. The community continued to grow and by the early 1950's it was clear that it was time for incorporation as a municipality. Twenty years later, the small community of Pickering Village and parts of Pickering Township were amalgamated with Ajax, forming the Town's current boundaries.

Continue on the historical journey of the Town of Ajax:

Ajax heritage homes

Town of Ajax Heritage

While our "history" accounts for all of the events that have happened in our past, "heritage" refers to the objects and traditions that have been passed down from previous generations. Our heritage includes everything of value that we have inherited from our past and that we wish to preserve for the future. It is a living legacy assembled from the treasures of our past that provides context for the present and direction for our future.

Designated Heritage Properties

In 1975, the Province of Ontario enacted the Ontario Heritage Act to help facilitate preservation of our heritage through the protection of heritage properties and archaeological sites. The Act gives municipalities and the provincial government the powers required designate individual properties (Part IV) and collections of properties (Part V), known as heritage conservation districts.

The Town of Ajax has designated 29 individual properties under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. This list of designated properties includes residences, places of worship, cemeteries, and other community landmarks that possess historical, architectural and/or contextual value or interest. In 2013, the Town designated the urban centre of Pickering Village as its first Heritage Conservation District under Part V of the Act. To help ensure the conservation of the district's heritage resources and enhance the area's special character, the Town developed a comprehensive document of policies and guidelines known as the Pickering Village Heritage Conservation District Plan.

Heritage Permits

The owner of any property designated under the Ontario Heritage Act is required to seek the permission of the Town prior to altering, demolishing or removing any designated structure on the property. Permission from the Town must be sought through the submission of a Heritage Permit application. A Heritage Permit General Information document is available to assist property owners in completing a heritage permit application.

For additional information relating to Heritage, such as the Town's Heritage Inventory, Heritage Property Tax Rebate Program, and walking tour brochures, please visit the Historical Ajax webpage.

DIL workers

Town of Ajax Archives

In February 2010, Ajax Council formally established the Ajax Archives, to collect and preserve archival materials which illustrate or document the growth and development of the Town of Ajax. The history of the community that has become the Town of Ajax is as unique as it is diverse. The photos, artifacts and records which document the inception, growth and development of the municipality are a legacy to future generations. The preservation and conservation of the items in the Ajax Archives is an important step to ensuring this history is kept safe, and is accessible to the community.

The Ajax Archives collaborated with the Ajax Public Library to digitize many of the photos, documents and history books in the collection. These are available through the OurOntario website http://images.ourontario.ca/ajax/search which is managed by the Ajax Public Library.

The Ajax Archives is located at Town Hall, 65 Harwood Ave., S., and access is by appointment only. The display case in Town Hall is changed on an annual basis, providing the public with an opportunity to see the photos and artifacts relevant to the community history.

For further information on the Ajax Archives, please contact HistoryAndArchives@ajax.ca.

Additional Resources

The Ajax Public Library has developed a local history website that provides digital access to local history, historical documents and photographs about Ajax, found in the collection of the Ajax Archives. This information is available by visiting OurOntario's website.

Ajax has a unique street naming policy, in that the majority of streets have been named after those that served on HMS Ajax, HMS Exeter and HMS Achilles during the Battle of the River Plate, the first naval victory of the Allied forces in WWII. Several streets have also been named after individuals who played an important role in the creation of our community.

To learn more about the individuals that have had streets in Ajax named after them, visit "Biographies - The People Behind the Street Names" at http://images.ourontario.ca/ajax/search.

The new history book "Snapshots of Ajax", dedicated to our founding citizens, was published in 2015 by the Town of Ajax to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its incorporation. It is available for purchase at the Legislative & Information Services Department in Town Hall.

Though "Snapshots of Ajax" is the only book still in print, the history of Ajax has been well documented.

The following out of print publications are available through the Ajax Public Library:

  • A Town Called Ajax, The Ajax Historical Board, 1995
  • The Pictorial History of Ajax, 1941/1972, Ajax Historical Board, 1972
  • Ajax the War Years 1939-1945, Ken Smith, Oshawa, 1989
  • Past Years in Pickering, William R. Wood, Toronto, 1911
  • The Village of Pickering 1800-1970, Corporation of the Village of Pickering, 1970
  • The Pickering Story, William A. McKay, 1961

Contact Us

For more information on Town of Ajax history, Ajax Archives or street names, please email HistoryAndArchives@ajax.ca.