Owen Sound, Ontario – My Top 6 Picks

Owen Sound, Ontario

Owen Sound is located on the southern shores of Georgian Bay in a valley below the sheer rock cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment.  The city is located at the mouths of the Pottawatomi and Sydenham Rivers.  It has tree-lined streets, many parks, and tree-covered hillsides and ravines.

In 1814-1818, the first Admiralty Survey of Lake Ontario and the coastal waters of Georgian Bay was undertaken by Captain William Fitzwilliam Owen, Royal Naval Officer, surveyor, land-owner, politician, author and justice of the peace.  He named the bay and the future site of Owen Sound after his family.  His successor, Admiral Henry Wolsey Bayfield, completed the first survey of lakes Erie, Huron, and Superior in 1817-1825.  The work of these officers rendered great service to Canada by increasing the safety of navigation.

The city was first known as Sydenham when it was settled in 1840 by Charles Rankin.  Prior to his arrival, the area was inhabited by the Ojibway people.  In 1851 the name was changed to Owen Sound.  For much of its history, it was a major port city known as the “Chicago of the North.”

Owen Sound Bay is a valley in the Niagara Escarpment formed by rivers that cut through the escarpment limestone.  The valley begins where the Sydenham River cuts down through the escarpment at Inglis Falls and extends out through the bay beyond Bayview Point for a total distance of 16 kilometers.

As the Niagara Escarpment winds its way across southern Ontario, it is interrupted by many deep valleys carved out by the erosive forces of water and ice. Like Colpoys Bay to the north, Owen Sound Bay is a drowned valley partially hidden under Georgian Bay.  Other escarpment valleys like the Dundas Valley are buried under glacial sediments, while the Beaver and Bighead Valleys are occupied by rivers.

Today the Niagara Escarpment continues to slowly erode back from its present position.

John Harrison, born in Staffordshire England, emigrated to Canada at the age of six with his widowed father, three sisters and three brothers.  It was 1830 and they settled in Puslinch Township near Guelph.  Eighteen years later, John and two brothers, William and Robert, arrived in the Village of Sydenham (now Owen Sound).  They acquired the mill dam site on the Sydenham River and operated waterpower grist, woolen and saw mills.  In 1866, John moved his sawmill to the Pottawatomi River and established the steam powered Owen Sound Saw Mills. He prospered and expanded the saw and planning mills and the range of products offered.  In 1861 he married Emma Hart and they raised their family of six children in a white roughcast house beside his mills.  In 1875-76 they purchased the land now known as Harrison Park.  The mill operation included horses.  When the mills were slack in depressed times, John sent the men to work and exercise the teams on this land.  They built roads, bridges, paths and buildings, gradually bringing his vision for the parkland to life.  John and his family and employees transformed this land and created Harrison Pleasure Grounds where everyone was welcome.  Between 1909-1911 while John’s eldest son Frederick served as Mayor of Owen Sound, the parkland was transferred to the town for half the value of the land as long as it remained a public park forever.

The park today includes picnic facilities, basketball courts, heated twin swimming pools, canoe and paddle boat rentals for use on the river, a bird sanctuary, a mini-putt golf course, playground, campsites, cycling and walking trails, and the black history cairn and Freedom Trail.

Architectural Photos, Owen Sound, Ontario
1000 First Avenue West – Queen Anne Revival style, built in 1893-94 – turret, Palladian window – Owen Sound Book 1
Architectural Photos, Owen Sound, Ontario
Edwardian style – Owen Sound Book 1
Architectural Photos, Owen Sound, Ontario
#629 – Gothic Revival, corner quoins – Owen Sound Book 1
Architectural Photos, Owen Sound, Ontario
932 3rd Avenue West – Former U.S. Consulate – 1890 – Vernacular example with Italianate influence, tower – Owen Sound Book 1
Architectural Photos, Owen Sound, Ontario
Tudor Revival – Owen Sound Book 2
Architectural Photos, Owen Sound, Ontario
Old Post Office – 1907 – Beaux Arts style featuring harmony and balance; positioning of windows, Ionic columns, pediments project vertical and horizontal symmetry; shapes and materials echo across all three floors in pleasing proportions; varied texture of stone graduates from rough and solid rock face limestone to slightly inset and smoother stone above, providing a lighter feel the higher the building climbs; window sills are continuous cut stone, walls are lined with brick; a brick vault was constructed on each of the first and second floors; mansard roof with dormers; voussoirs and keystones over windows and doors on first floor – Owen Sound Book 2