“The development of Batawa illustrates the transfer of architectural ideas back and forth across the Atlantic during the early 20th century, and how the concepts of universal standardization developed at the Bata headquarters in Zlin, Czechoslovakia, were transmuted by time and place in Canada.”
Batawa is a former industrial town near Trenton that was created by the Bata family for shoe manufacturing. It is a cultural heritage landscape that has evolved under the leadership of the Bata family since 1939.
Batawa is one of twenty industrial towns that were built in whole or in part by the Bata Shoe Company originally based in Zlin, in what is now the Czech Republic. This was a decentralization strategy for the company in response to a climate of economic and political uncertainty in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.
The town is associated with its founders Thomas J. Bata Jr., “shoemaker to the world,” and Sonya Bata, founder of Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum (1995). It was initially in Batawa that the Czech émigrés rebuilt their manufacturing empire.
Batawa is situated on 243 hectares of land 10km north of Trenton on the west bank of the Trent River, near Lock 4 of the Trent-Severn Waterway, now a National Historic Site of Canada. The site was chosen for its access to a navigable waterway, a major rail line, a supply of electricity, and proximity to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.
As a modern cultural landscape, its natural resources include the drumlin and deciduous forest. The garden city planning principles are evident in the layout of the town, with zones for manufacturing, community facilities, worship, education, and housing; as well as the low density and abundance of green space. Industrial heritage resources include the original factory building, the largest structure in the town. Built heritage resources include the community centre, commercial facilities, the two places of worship, the two schools and the single-family housing. There is a major sculpture by artist Sorel Etrog, a gift from Sonja Bata, within the public green space at the center of the community. In addition, the Bata family commissioned an exquisite single-storey house for themselves, and it was designed by John C. Parkin, 1960. Finally, the ski hill is recreational resource that has been in continuous use for decades.
Batawa remains an important place for Czech and Slovak heritage in Canada. The town continues to evolve under the direction of Sonja Bata with a future-oriented focus on sustainability.