October, 2017:

Orillia, Ontario – My Top 5 Picks

Orillia, Ontario – My Top 5 Picks

Orillia is located in Central Ontario between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe, 135 kilometers (84 miles) north of Toronto.  Both lakes are part of the Trent-Severn Waterway. Travel north on Lake Couchiching, then through three locks and the only marine railway in North America leads to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron.  Traveling south-east across Lake Simcoe, through many locks (including two of the highest hydraulic lift locks in the world) eventually leads to Lake Ontario.  From either of these Great Lakes one can connect to the St. Lawrence and then to the Atlantic Ocean.

Due to logging and rail links with Toronto and Georgian Bay, Orillia became a commercial center and summer resort in the mid-1800s. William Tudhope opened a blacksmith shop in 1864 at Andrew and Colborne Streets.  By the end of the century, William’s son James headed the Tudhope Carriage Company as part of a conglomerate of businesses. In 1866, Thomas Mulcahy launched his mercantile career in dry goods with the opening of his California Store. Mulcahy and his sons were responsible for the construction of many of Orillia’s dwellings and commercial buildings. Andrew Tait was the President of the Huntsville Lumber Company. Tait was a major employer and said to be Orillia’s first millionaire.

Across Lake Couchiching, John Thomson opened his Longford saw milling operation in 1868, using Orillia as a shipping base. By 1900, Orillia was one of the most bustling towns in Ontario. Many of the commercial and residential buildings erected and still standing used red brick trimmed with limestone quarried from Longford.

The town boasted the best Opera House north of Toronto and industrial growth almost unparalleled in the province. With the expansion of the railways, thousands arrived each summer for picnics and holidaying at Couchiching Park.

In 1912, Orillia was the first municipality in North America to introduce daylight saving time and had the first municipal hydro electric transmission plant in North America. This energy powered an industrial boom with sawmills, iron foundries, and a host of manufacturing companies producing farm implements, carriages, and automobiles and shipping these products across Canada.

In Stephen Leacok’s 1912 book Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Orillia was used as the basis for the fictional town known as “Mariposa”. The book was based on Leacock’s experiences in the town and the city has since the book’s release attempted to mimic the fictional location in as many ways as possible.  Orillia is known as the “Sunshine City”. The Stephen Leacock Museum is a National Historic Site in Orillia.

William E. Bell’s 1989 novel Five Days of the Ghost was set in Orillia with many readers recognizing popular local spots, including the Guardian Angels Catholic Church, the Samuel de Champlain statue in Couchiching Beach Park and Big Chief Island in the middle of Lake Couchiching. Orillia is also known as the birthplace of Gordon Lightfoot.

Architectural Photos, Orillia, Ontario

24 Penetang Street – St. Joseph House – Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County

Architectural Photos, Orillia, Ontario

Gothic Revival, verge board trim, corner quoins

Architectural Photos, Orillia, Ontario

84 Brant Street East – E.J. McCrohan, Harness Maker c. 1880 – Second Empire style, mansard roof, iron cresting around roof, finials on dormers, second floor balcony, corner quoins

Architectural Photos, Orillia, Ontario

Dormer in attic, pediment above wraparound verandah, second floor bay window

Architectural Photos, Orillia, Ontario

#106 – Gothic Revival, cornice brackets

 

Acton, Ontario – My Top 8 Picks

Acton, Ontario – My Top 8 Picks

Acton is located at the intersection of Highway 7 and Halton Regional Road 25. Methodist preachers Ezra and Zenas Adams and their brother Rufus settled on the west branch of the Credit River in the 1820s. A community of pioneer families grew around the Adams family farms. Nicklin’s saw and grist mill and Nelles’ tannery operated here by the early 1840s.

Acton was first named Danville when Settler Wheeler Green opened a dry-goods store in 1828. It was later called Adamsville, after the early settlers. In 1846, the postmaster named the community after the area of Acton in West London, England.

Tanning was an important industry in Acton from 1844 when the first tannery was established. The area was attractive to the leather industry because of the large numbers of trees. Acton was known as the leather capital of Canada. At the turn of the century, it was the largest tanning center in the British Empire. The tannery continued in operation until its closure in September 1986.

The town’s location was chosen because of the good source of waterpower from the Black Creek, and the flour mill established at the beginning is still in operation today, although its source of power has changed. Acton is near the watershed between the Credit River and the Grand River which is just west of the urban area where the Blue Springs Creek begins.

Architectural Photos, Acton, Ontario

Queen Anne style, three-storey turret, architraves with keystones, verge board trim on gables, fretwork, ionic pillars

Architectural Photos, Acton, Ontario

39 Willow Street – Knox Manse established 1889 – Italianate with two-and-a-half storey tower-like bay, pediment above pillared porch, fretwork and verge board on gable

Architectural Photos, Acton, Ontario

55 Mill Street East was built in 1879 by William H. Storey who came to Canada as a child in 1845 and came to Acton in 1856 as a saddle apprentice. He branched out on his own and eventually owned the Storey Glove Factory which was located on Bower Avenue (where the Post Office is now). He built this beautiful Victorian Home at 55 Mill Street East for his family. It was called “The Sunderland Villa”. His carriage house was located at 7 John Street and he heated the carriage house and his home via underground steam pipes from the factory. Mr. Storey died in 1898. After the First World War the building was used to house soldiers and then sat derelict for a number of years until Victor Rumley purchased it in 1937 and moved The MacKinnon Family Funeral Home with Shoemaker Chapel to this location.

Architectural Photos, Acton, Ontario

105 Mill Street – Italianate, hipped roof, corner quoins, banding

Architectural Photos, Acton, Ontario

129 Mill Street – Gothic Revival, dichromatic brickwork, corner quoins

Architectural Photos, Acton, Ontario

98 Church Street – Moorecroft c. 1896 – Italianate, Doric pillars, dormer in attic, wraparound verandah on lower level, pillared balcony on second floor

Architectural Photos, Acton, Ontario

19 Willow Street North – Acton Town Hall opened in 1883 with a grand ball and remained the hub of Acton’s social life for over 80 years. The upstairs auditorium was used for meetings, dances, concerts, Sunday School plays, amateur dramatics, and minstrel shows. The police station, council chambers, library, and practice room for the Acton Citizens’ Band were housed downstairs. In 1974 the regional government moved out of Acton to Georgetown. It is in the Italianate style, cornice brackets, cupola, arched voussoirs with keystones over the windows, cornice return on the gable of the two-and-a-half storey frontispiece; sidelights and transom windows around the front door.

Architectural Photos, Acton, Ontario

69-71 Bower Street – Syndicate Houses built 1882 – Five double houses were built by the Acton Building Association as tenements for workers. Each is remarkable for its distinctive brick pattern

Rockwood, Ontario – My Top 4 Picks

Rockwood, Ontario – My Top 4 Picks

Rockwood is located on Highway 7 between Acton and the city of Guelph.  The Eramosa River runs through the center of the village.

Early settlers to this area were Quakers. John Harris, the first settler, erected a shanty in 1821. In 1840 Colonel Henry Strange settled and brought further development to the area which became known as Strange’s Mills. Strange was the Deputy Provincial Surveyor and he opened a lime quarry which provided stone for building mills.  In the 1850s the community became known as Rockwood which reflected the lovely river valley, mixed forest, high rocky hills, and geological potholes. The Eramosa River provided power for John Gamble’s sawmill which was the first in Wellington County. Grist, flour, oatmeal, stave, and woolen mills followed. A post office was opened in 1853 and the Grand Trunk Railway opened a station in 1855.

Architectural Photos, Rockwood, Ontario

149 Main Street – limestone house, cobblestone architecture

Architectural Photos, Rockwood, Ontario

477 Main Street – Rockwood Academy – Georgian style – three-storey stone building with limestone walls, rough-cut quoins, symmetrical five-bay façade with double-hung six-over-six wood sash windows with a central door with a portico and a transom window and sidelights. It has a low-pitched cedar-shingle gable roof with many small brick and stone chimneys. The owner’s bedrooms still exist on the second floor, as do the students’ bedrooms on the third floor. The south wing still has the classroom below the student bedrooms. The west wing remains unaltered and contains a carriage house on the ground floor with a gymnasium above.

Architectural Photos, Rockwood, Ontario

130 Guelph Street – Gothic Revival, verge board trim on gables, corner quoins, arched voussoirs, two-storey tower-like bay

Architectural Photos, Rockwood, Ontario

125 Richardson Street – Italianate, hipped roof, dormer in attic

Arthur, Ontario – My Top 9 Picks

Arthur, Ontario – My Top 9 Picks

(There are so many beautiful old homes in Arthur that it was difficult to choose only a few.)

Arthur is located just north of Highway 6 and Wellington Road 109 in the township of Wellington North.

Arthur, named for Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was the southern terminus of the Garafraxa “colonization road” to Owen Sound.  Settlers arrived in 1840 with the town site being officially surveyed in 1846.  The establishment of saw and grist mills hastened growth in the community which was also the natural market center for the area’s agricultural production.

In 1851 a post office was opened and the first church and school were organized.  A weekly newspaper, The Arthur Enterprise News, began publication in 1863 and a Division Court met at Arthur.  In 1872, a station of the Toronto Grey and Bruce Railway was opened in the community.

In 1897, Arthur was one of the first villages in Ontario to be served by a power transmission line. There were no meters, but people were charged ten cents for each light bulb used. Power was available in the evenings and was cut off at midnight.

James Morrison, an influential activist in farmers’ causes, lived two kilometers south of Arthur.  He entered politics in the early 1900s, a time when many farmers felt ignored in an increasingly urban and industrial society.  Morrison helped form the United Farmers of Ontario (UFO) and the United Farmers’ Cooperative in 1914.  Morrison advocated cooperative effort among farmers.

Architectural Photos, Arthur, Ontario

Gothic Revival, corner quoins

Architectural Photos, Arthur, Ontario

131 Frederick Street West – Gothic Revival, stone architecture, cornice brackets, cornice return on gables

Architectural Photos, Arthur, Ontario

111 Frederick Street West – Gothic Revival, verge board trim on gables, corner quoins

Architectural Photos, Arthur, Ontario

135 Frederick Street West – Gothic Revival, dichromatic brickwork, corner quoins

Architectural Photos, Arthur, Ontario

261 Tucker Street – Second Empire – mansard roof, dormers, cornice brackets

Architectural Photos, Arthur, Ontario

171 Tucker Street – Italianate, hipped roof, balcony on second floor

Architectural Photos, Arthur, Ontario

220 Smith Street – corner quoins, 3½ storey tower-like bays

Architectural Photos, Arthur, Ontario

240 Smith Street – Bellview – A.D. 1887 – stone architecture, bay windows, dormer on roof, paired cornice brackets

Architectural Photos, Arthur, Ontario

271 Smith Street – Gothic Revival, verge board trim and finial on gables, stone architecture, bay windows, cornice brackets

Tillsonburg, Ontario – My Top 5 Picks

Tillsonburg, Ontario – My Top 5 Picks

Tillsonburg is a town in Oxford County located about 50 kilometers southeast of London on Highway 3 at the junction of Highway 19 which connects to Highway 401.

The area was settled in 1825 by George Tillson and other immigrants from Massachusetts. A forge and sawmill were erected and roads built which led to the establishment of a settlement on the Big Otter Creek originally called Dereham Forge.

In 1836 the village was renamed Tillsonburg in honor of its founder. It was also in this year that the main street, Broadway, was laid out to its full 100-foot (30 meter) width. Because the village was predominantly a logging and wood product center, the street width was to accommodate the turning of three-team logging wagons. This width has become a benefit toward handling the pressures of modern-day traffic by providing angled parking. The extension of Broadway north was called Plank Line and is now known as Highway 19.

The water system supplied pure water for domestic use, and provided water power to such industries as a sawmill, planing mill, grist mill, spinning mill, pottery and a tannery. Many of these new establishments were owned, started, or financed by George Tillson.

In 1915, a Public Library was built with funds provided by the Carnegie Foundation, and the town’s Memorial Hospital was constructed in 1925. In the 1920s, major enterprises included milk production, manufacture of shoes, tractors, textiles and tobacco.

Architectural Photos, Tillsonburg, Ontario

38 Ridout Street West – Casa di Luca Restaurant – Queen Anne style, verge board trim on gable, turret

Architectural Photos, Tillsonburg, Ontario

299 Broadway Street – two-storey bay windows, cornice brackets, verge board trim

Architectural Photos, Tillsonburg, Ontario

276 Broadway Street – Queen Anne, turret

Architectural Photos, Tillsonburg, Ontario

300 Broadway Street – verge board trim

Architectural Photos, Tillsonburg, Ontario

30 Tillson Avenue – Annandale National Historic Site – Constructed in seven years in the 1880s, this was the farm house for E.D. Tillson’s 600 acre Model Farm. The interior of the house exemplifies the Victorian style of design known as the “Aesthetic Art Movement” which was popularized by Oscar Wilde, and encouraged the use of color and decorative detailing. There are hand-painted ceilings, elaborate inlaid floors, ornate mantles, and stained glass throughout.