Much of the early development was along the banks of the Grand and the Speed rivers, who's waters powered area grist mills and early industry. In 1816, the Government of Upper Canada elevated the German Company Tract to the Township of Waterloo. The area's Mennonites and their tolerance for other religions and cultures attracted many Germans, ensuring fast growth until the 1870s. The hamlet named Berlin in 1833, which in 1853 became the county seat of the newly created County of Waterloo.
Guelph was founded in 1827 as one of the first planned towns in Canada, and headquarters of a British development firm known as the "Canada Company". The Company's Superintendent in Canada, a popular Scottish novelist named John Galt, selected the location and designed the town to attract settlers. The plan had a series of streets radiating from a focal point at the Speed River, and resembles a European city centre, complete with squares and broad main streets and narrow side streets. Galt chose the name "Guelph" as t was one of the British royal family names (leading to the nickname "The Royal City" of Guelph).
In 1856 the Grand Trunk Railway was extended to Guelph & Berlin, opening up the area completely to Upper Canada society and to future industrialization. Large factories and the homes of industrialists and labourers replaced many of the buildings from Berlin's pioneer era. Many of Guelph's prominent buildings were erected, a number of which were designed by high profile Toronto-based architects.
More history of Kitchener-Waterloo