York Mills

Yonge Street at York Mills in 1936 and 2013

Yonge Street at York Mills in 1936 and 2013

I never had this problem while blogging about the any of the communities from Rainy River through to maybe Richmond Hill.  For those communities, it was simple.

But as this blog started making its way into Toronto, a new issue arose –how do you title a blog post about a relatively amorphous and randomly selected portion of a big city?

What’s in a name?  Some neighbourhoods get named after their first settler.  Or are titled by their original developer.   Some names get adopted organically over time.  Or are imposed, directly or accidentally, by the powers that be.

And I think that’s the case here.  The local TTC subway station is named York Mills, but I’m not sure that everyone who lives in this area would actually say that they live in York Mills.  (Certainly not those that live close to Lawrence Avenue.)York Mills - North Yonge Street Neighbourhood MapYonge Street between Highway 401 and Lawrence Avenue is a confluence of different neighbourhoods.  But when you’re blogging the world’s longest street, you can’t have a separate entry on every intersection.

When the even the “wrong” side of the tracks is still really really good

Driving north up Yonge Street, once you hit Lawrence Avenue building heights drop and empty spaces widen.  Lawrence is the signal that you’ve made it into some of Toronto’s first suburbs.

The story of this part of Yonge Street is one of west vs. east.

The area west of Yonge was developed in the early 1900s with the intent of attracting middle-class families whose breadwinners were professionals that used the Yonge streetcar (and later subway) to go to work downtown.  Take York Mills west (York Mills becomes Wilson Ave once you cross its bleak intersection with Yonge Street) and things will become less fancy as you approach Avenue Road and very working class once you hit Bathurst.

The east side of Yonge Street, however, had plans for big things.  Early developers set out to attract Toronto’s rich and wealthy, and boy did they ever succeed.

This is a house in York Mills on Old Toronto Road.  It's so expensive that they don't even list the price in the listing!

This is a house in York Mills on Old Toronto Road. It’s so expensive that they don’t even list the price in the listing!

The area is chock full of private schools like Havergal, Crescent, and Toronto French, and is home to both the Rosedale and the ultra-private Granite Country Clubs.  There’s a specialty York University Campus and the Canadian Film Centre nearby.

Despite Hearst’s claims, this stretch of Highway 11 likely has the most millionaires per capita.  There is a stretch of road east of Yonge Street called Millionaire’s Row and the average family income in York Mills hovers around $657 000.  The not-exorbitantly-wealthy-but-still-pretty-wealthy parts of York Mills have boomed – house prices have risen nearly 100 percent since 2001.  Local neighbourhoods have become synonymous with money, like Lawrence Park, the Bridle Path and Hoggs Hollow.

And no, Hoggs Hollow is not a derisive political or populist commentary on the rich and wealthy gathering in one place, as has happened in the neighbourhoods east of Yonge Street, just south of the 401.  It’s named after Joseph Hogg who first settled the area in 1824 and set up a distillery.

The part of Yonge Street near Lawrence started off much more middle class than it is today.  With middling rents and lots of space, some of the art deco apartment buildings are great places to rent near Lawrence.

The part of Yonge Street near Lawrence started off much more middle class than it is today. With middling rents and lots of space, some of the art deco apartment buildings are great places to rent near Lawrence.

Despite its more downmarket beginnings, however, the west side of Yonge Street rapidly gentrified and is now home to one of Toronto’s most solidly upper-upper-middle class neighbourhoods.  (I’m not sure if there is such a thing as an upper-upper-middle class.  Maybe people with big salaries and hefty RRSPs but are still a few missed paycheques away from poverty like the rest of us?)

A neighbourhood dominated by detached houses and really nice semis, Yonge Street north of Lawrence Avenue is one of those neighbourhoods where you wouldn’t expect homes to nearly reach the million dollar mark.

Unless you live in Toronto.  If you do, you immediately understand the appeal of a place like Yonge and Lawrence, even if you’re not keen on living amongst the almost-rich and not-so-famous.

Park at Yonge and Lawrence

Park at Yonge and Lawrence

“I don’t’ get it…what’s so great about this place?”

Walkable access to the Yonge subway has made getting downtown quick and easy.  The housing stock is well kept and just a bit more spaced-out than communities further downtown.  It’s not dominated by rental apartments like Yonge and St. Clair.  Condos have squeezed in, but they are not as ubiquitous or as imposing as they are at Yonge and Eglinton. There’s a community feel to the main drag along Yonge Street north of Lawrence, in the sense that although some of the stores up here are fancy, by and large they’re still pretty useful.

And it’s that last point that is such a big deal.  Because if you live in Toronto, you’ll know that the main drags of residential neighbourhoods fall into one of four categories.

  1. Grotty, storefronts either empty or full of things like cash for gold places and flea markets.
  2. Grotty, but full of useful stores that you need to run your everyday life like cleaners, fruit stands, drugstores, hardware stores, flower shops, etc. (I need the latter to get out of trouble.)
  3. Gentrified, but full of useful stores like above.
  4. Gentrified, and full of useless crap like art galleries and copper-plated kitchenware stores and gluten-free cupcakeries and $45-a-chicken butchers.

I know this, because right now I live in an area that’s a solid Stage 2.  And you wouldn’t believe how quick things can change in a place like Toronto.  I know this, because I used to rent in an area that went from Stage 3 to Stage 4 in less than two years.

Yonge and Lawrence

Homey, everyday but upscale retail along Yonge just north of Lawrence

Some of the city’s most desirable residential neighbourhoods are served by a main streets that are downright beautiful but, unless you find yourself needing an eco-friendly feminist pharmacy once a week, are absolutely useless and require the worst of both worlds – car-based living in the big city.

So the people that live north of Lawrence have it very very good.  Particularly when compared to those who live just seven or eight kilometres east of west on Lawrence – out in Weston or in Scarborough – where neighbourhoods around Lawrence are some of Toronto’s poorest.

Toronto.  Ontario.  Both are always a land of contrasts.

Dog park just south of the 401 at Yonge and York Mills / Wilson

Dog park just south of the 401 at Yonge and York Mills / Wilson

A beacon of modern design amongst the parks, ravine and gas station at Yonge and York Mills, the Blue BUilding has a subway stop, a GO bus terminal, and a small and lonely main-level mall

The sleek glass office complex at York Mills and Yonge Street is the most noticeable part of this windswept, lonely intersection. Even inside the building feels well-kept but forlorn – the GO Bus terminal, the York Mills subway station and the mini mall on the main floor nearly are always nearly vacant unless it is rushhour or lunch time.

Five Italian workers were killed in a tunnel fire in 1960 at York Mills.  They are commemorated in this tapestry on display in the York Mills subway station.

Five Italian workers were killed in a tunnel fire in 1960 at York Mills. They are commemorated in this tapestry on display in the York Mills subway station.

 

 

Willowdale

Willowdale.  Riverdale.  Rosedale.  Bracondale.  Parkdale.  Rexdale.  Armadale.  Bendale.  Keelesdale.  Bloordale.  Erindale.

I was hanging out at the Pacific Hotel in Wiarton one rangy Halloween night, when one of the locals we were talking to mentioned that he had grown up in Willowdale.  “Oh, that’s the part of Toronto that had a soap-opera named after it?”  I said.  No, that was Riverdale.  “Or is that in Mississauga?”  Still no.  “Is that that Rexdale?” another non-Torontonian amongst us asked.  No.

“Is it kinda grotty?”  someone else chipped in?  No, that was Parkdale.  “Is it really fancy?”  I asked.  No, that was Rosedale.  We gave up.

There are so many ‘ales’ in the Toronto area that I get mixed up.  To be clear, Willowdale is the one at the north-central end of Toronto.  For the purposes of this website, I’m going to define Willowdale as everything north of the 401 up to the border with York Region at Steeles.

(Oh wait, there is Maryvale.  And Cedarvale.  And Meadowvale.  Ale.  Ale.  Ale.  Hank Snow could do a whole song just using GTA neighbourhoods. )

Willowdale settler cemetery, Yonge Street, Highway 11

Juxaposition of the old and new in Willowdale. Settler cemetery surrounded by glass and concrete. (Credit: Simon P, Wiki Commons.)

From carriages to condos

Lansing was the first community developed in this area of Yonge Street whilst Willowdale, if I am correct, was actually located a bit to the east.  The first person to settle Willowdale was Joseph Cummer, the son of a Loyalist Germans from Pennsylvania.  Another returnee from America, David Gibson, helped develop Willow Dale village after he was pardoned by the Upper Canada government for his role in the 1837 Rebellion.  Gibson House still stands on Yonge Street to this day.  It is a museum now.

Willowdale-Yonge 1920 leona driveOne of Toronto’s inner burbs, Willowdale was once a pretty sleepy bedroom community just north of the limits of the Old City.  People moved to Willowdale because they didn’t want to live downtown, or in a semi-detached, and/or couldn’t afford Don Mills.  Willowdale from 1950-1970 was your pretty standard family suburb: a bastion of single-family homes, relatively anglo-saxon with a smattering of Jews and Italians.  David Clayton-Thomas and two-thirds of Rush are from Willowdale, as are comedians Howie Mandel and Gerry Dee.  Dee, the son of Scottish immigrants, has a great bit on growing up in Willowdale next door to an Italian family.  (I’m not normally into ethnic comedy.  It is not terribly hard to mine stereotypes for worn-out laughs.  But some comedians have the talent and analytical ability to poke fun at different groups in an inoffensive but still critical manner.  Gerry Dee does this.  That clip is great because it is funny yet respectful, and there is a subtle critique underlying its kernel of truth that is hard to miss.)

Today, Willowdale is drastically different.  Yonge and Sheppard has boomed upwards.   First came the institutional development – The Toronto District School Board and the City of North York built head offices there.  Today, Mel Lastman Square (named by the former mayor after the former mayor) is home to a theatre, offices and a pile of public events.  The plazas and strip malls of Yonge street have been replaced by condos north of the 401.   The side-streets have not escaped unscathed; the old ranches, bungalows and sidesplits are being bought up for their large lots and replaced with massive infill homes covered in stucco and fake stone.  Just east of Yonge on Leslie big box stores have gone in, like IKEA, Home Depot, and a massive Canadian Tire.

Mel Lastman Square, Yonge Street, Ontario

Rob Ford makes Mel Lastman look like a statesman. But who goes to Mel Lastman Square? Nooooooooooobody! (That’s not true, but I had to do it.)

Willowdale home transformation, highway 11 yonge street

Out goes brick veneer, in goes another floor and textured concrete veneer. (Credit: Simon P at Wiki Commons.)

Part of this change is due to changes in local governance.  Like most Toronto neighbourhoods, Willowdale has been shunted around a bit between different municipal administrations.  In 1922 it was incorporated into the Borough of North York, in 1953 North York was integrated into the Metro Toronto, in the 1970s North York became a city, and in 1998 North York ceased to exist thanks to the forced municipal amalgamation program pioneered by Premier Mike Harris.  This has opened some communities to greater influence from central planning, and reduced the influence of to plan according to the wishes/needs of local residents.

The Stubway

But the biggest part of it is the subway.  The TTC expanded to Sheppard and Finch in 1974.  North York Centre was added in 1987.  More stations were planned, but were never built.  And then came the subway to suburbia.  The line to nowhere.  The stubway.  Aka – the Sheppard Subway.

The Sheppard Subway line was one of four lines proposed by the government in 1995.  When it fell, the Conservatives took over and cancelled all but Sheppard – which was strange, since it was the least useful of all the lines, but not-so-strange, given that the local area was Conservative-voting and Conservative-inclined North York mayor Mel Lastman was elected the first mayor of the megacity.  The Sheppard Line was so unpopular that they even filled the existing tunnelling underway for the Eglinton line, because the Conservatives knew that the City would vote to continue building Eglinton if it wasn’t filled with rubble.

Today, Sheppard is the least used subway line in the city, with a lower ridership than some bus or streetcar routes, so much so that in 2008 there was a proposal made by the city to shut it down entirely.  One can only imagine how different the city would have been if the Eglinton line had proceed instead of Sheppard.  Hi-rise development has followed the subway all throughout Toronto, and the Sheppard line is no exception.  Sure, house values went up as developers sought land for condos and residents sought subway-accessible lots to build megahouses, but driving a subway through a suburban neighbourhood has essentially fractured the nature of the area.  The Leona Drive Project documents this.  As one website puts it, Willowdale is uptown living at downtown prices.

Sheppard Line, Highway 11 Yonge Street highway11.ca

Honestly, what were they thinking? That they were playing Sim City?

Highway 11 subway Sheppard, Yonge street

Platform at the Sheppard subway station, beneath Yonge Street / Highway 11

Yonge Street, Condos, Willowdale Ontario Yonge Highway 11

Condos in Willowdale on Yonge Street

 

 

Thornhill

Moxy Fruvous Thornhill highway 11 yonge streetMore than just “north of Steeles” or the name of a Moxy Fruvous album, Thornhill is the first in a number of suburbs that straddle Yonge Street as you move north of the City of Toronto.

Thornhill is pretty old for a town on Highway 11.  First settled in 1794, the development of Yonge Street up to Holland Landing helped fuel growth to include the usual industries associated with a colonial stagecoach stop, including a mill, a hotel, a tannery, weigh scales, and coopering and wagon-making facilities.  Eventually, there was even a water bottling plant and an opera house.  But it wasn’t until the Toronto and York Electric Railway expanded up to Newmarket in the late 1800s that Thornhill found its modern purpose – as a home for Toronto commuters.Thornhill, Ontario, Highway 11 Yonge Street highway11.ca

Thonhill continued on as a separate village until it was cleaved by the province in 1971.  West of Yonge Street became part of Vaughan, and east of Yonge Street went to Markham.  Today, approximately 100 000 people live in Thornhill, with more on the Vaughan side than Markham Side.  Condos and other higher-density developments are starting to creep up Thornhill due to its proximity to last stop on the Yonge Subway Line.

This is where I learned to pronounce Manischewitz

Though less diverse than Richmond Hill, its neighbour to the north, Thornhill’s ethnic mix is pretty notable.  There are about 15 000 speakers of Chinese-related languages in Thornhill, largely on the Markham side.  Thornhill’s not super whitebread.  If you had to classify it, you could Thornhill say it’s a bit matzomeal.

Thornhill, power centre, condo, highway 11 yonge street

Power centres and condos, coming to every community near you

Toronto’s Jewish immigrants were pretty much the first non-anglosaxon group to settle heavily in Toronto.  The next group to arrive, Toronto’s Italians, worked their way north by settling east-west streets like College and St. Clair and Eglinton before hopping up to Woodbridge.  That’s largely because Toronto’s Jewish community had already started their move upward through the city by hugging the north-south streets like Spadina and Bathurst.

A drive up Bathurst (often considered Yonge’s twin) north from St. Clair all the way to Thornhill will be notable for the sheer number of Jewish or Kosher or Hebrew or Judaica related-buildings.  That Jewishness continues up into Thornhill, which is home to a Hebrew newspaper, 10 private day-schools, almost 20 synagogues or shuls, and about 40 000 people that profess to be Jewish.  It’s so prevalent that you easily forget that outside of Toronto, Montréal and maybe Winnipeg the Jewish population of Canada isn’t really that large.  There are more Jews in Boston or Buenos Aires than in Toronto but you’d never guess that when you frequent this area.  It’s kind of neat.

In the last twenty years Thornhill has increasingly become a destination for Russians, so much so that there is Russian-Canada Club, a Russian Martial Arts Centre, a Russian Library and about 15 000 Russian speakers in town.

Thornhill, Odessa Restaurant, Restaurant Melody, Yonge Street, Highway 11

Chef Igor vs. Sonya the Sailorwoman? The Melody and Odessa websites make it hard to choose…

And of course, like any good Highway 11 / Yonge Street town, there is a local restaurant rivalry afoot.  In Gravenhurst, you’re either an Uptown Diner or a Rombo’s person.  Timmins, you take your poutine from Chez Vous or Chez Nous, but not both.  In Toronto, you like your Hungarian from the old hippie place (The Coffee Mill), the old ethnicky place (Country Style), the new upstart (The Europe Bar and Grill Hungarian Kitchen), or the hole-in-the-wall (Paprika).  In Thornhill, it’s the same story.  Either you like your Russian food from Restaurant Melody, or you like it from Restaurant Odessa.  People who like one always swear the other is inedible.

Beware the Seder Supper Traffic

Otherwise, Thornhill is one of these places that’s hard to write about without making this travel blog sound like a wikipedia entry.   If you’re driving up Yonge Street through Thornhill the chances are good that you’re not on a pleasurable Sunday drive or a crazy road trip with friends.

Maybe you’re headed to Cayne’s, hands-down the best kitchen, small appliance and housewares store in the Toronto area.   You may be headed to the Promenade or Centrepoint Malls.

Or you’re stuck in Friday-night Yonge Street traffic.  If that’s the case, you’re screwed, as you’ll be inching along for ages with what seems to be every other Jewish family in Toronto driving up Yonge (or Bathurst) to get to their seder supper before sundown.  I once got caught in Friday-night traffic on Yonge headed to Thornhill driving a very insistent distant-step-grandfather up there for a supper with some once-removed in-laws.  Let me tell you it was one of the longest drives of my life.  And this from a guy who has driven almost all of Highway 11.  Multiple times.

Cayne's, Thornhill, Ontario, Yonge Street, Highway 11

Cayne’s Housewares – maybe better known for its ads featuring cheesey hand-drawn portraits of people’s pets

Thonhill is the home of Milos Raonic, Canada’s top male tennis pro ever, as well as Steve Moore, the Colorado Avalanche player whose career was ended by Todd Betuzzi’s attack from behind.

Highway 11 Yonge Street Judy and DavidSoul group The Philosopher Kings, Toronto indie-rock legends By Divine Right, and Hayden, my favourite musician, all come from Thornhill.  As did Moxy Fruvous, the acapella group that long did topical news-related shorts for local radio stations.  CBC host and yuppie darling Jian Ghomeshi was once in that band.  But, most importantly to the son of a kindergarten teacher whose job it was to cue his mom’s cassette tapes each night for her classes the next day, Thornhill is home to Judy and David, children’s musicians with albums like MathJam 2 and my favourite Rock n’ Roll Matzah Ball.

That’s all I really have to say.  I’m not trying to give Thornhill short-shrift but once you get north of Lawrence in Toronto everything becomes very suburban until you hit Holland Landing in the north.

Richmond Hill

I was into maps as a kid.  Anytime I came across place that I hadn’t heard of before, I always took time to find it on a map.  But I remember this one place that I could never find, long before the time of Google Maps or GPS.  I subscribed to a magazine whose offices were in this town, or was it a hamlet, or a village, or whatever it was?  I could never find it.  It was Gormley.

Now I understand why.  Because, like so many southern Ontario municipalities, Richmond Hill is more of an agglomeration of former communities rather than a town gone big.  R.I.P. Gormley.  And Langstaff, Dollar, Carville, Headford, Elgin Mills, Jefferson, Bond Lake, Lake Wilcox, Temperanceville, and Richvale.  While I’m sure there are some that continue to self-identify as residents of those former hamlets, today they’re all part of Richmond Hill, a city of almost 200 000 people in the Region of York.Richmond Hill on Yonge Street / Highway 11Not your average suburb

Another in a string of wealthy suburbs that straddle Yonge Street north of Toronto, Richmond Hill is a largely suburban bedroom community.  Fueled by reasonable house prices, pretty big lots, and the GO Train, Richmond Hill was Canada’s fastest-growing community in the 1990s.  (They passed the crown to Barrie in the 2000s.)  Today, Richmond Hill is having to grow up a bit, figuratively and literally.

Figuratively, as Richmond Hill isn’t the brand-spankin’-new suburb that it used to be.  Nothing stays new forever.  Richmond Hill’s had to deal with the decline of some of its more urban areas in ways that other GTA towns haven’t.  For a while there the main drag started to get a little grotty, with Richmond Hill being the home to the first strips clubs on appearing on Yonge Street north of the famous ripper’s-strip in Toronto.  The presence of adult businesses on the main drag can really empty out an area, particularly when coupled with the rise of the suburban mall and later the suburban power centre.  One strip club burned down, and the other(s) eventually packed up and hid elsewhere.  Today, Richmond Hill is revitalizing the streetscape, including new residential development and a fancy arts and entertainment centre.

Richmond Hill, Emerald Isle MOtel, Highway 11 Yonge Street

The Emerald Isle Motel puts the old in ‘old school’, harkenening back to the Yonge Street of auld. So much so that they’ve filmed movies here. (I got these photos from the internet.)

Richmond Hill has also had to grow up and deal with a decline in homogeneity.  Those affordable houses aren’t so affordable anymore.  A friend of ours bought a house in Richmond Hill in 2007 and we couldn’t believe how much she paid.  Now, we can’t believe how much she’d get if she sold it but even if she did, she wouldn’t be able to afford anything else in the area.  Though the average household income is 34 percent higher Richmond Hill versus the province at large, 15 percent of Richmond Hillers qualify as low income, more in-line with the provincial average than with communities to the north, where that rate is half.

And most notably, Richmond Hill is the most ethnically diverse community north of Toronto on Highway 11 / Yonge Street.  Whereas 85 percent of residents in Newmarket and Aurora are white, in Richmond Hill, one community to the south, this number is 53 percent.

And this means that, if you can get past the sprawl, Richmond Hill is kinda cool.  Twenty-five percent of residents are Asian.  More than fifteen percent are either Jewish or Muslim. Richmond Hill is still home to a smattering of Italians that left Toronto’s three Little Italies in the 1960s and 70s before all the Italians decided that Woodbridge was the place to be.  Ten percent of the population speaks Farsi.  Five percent speaks Russian.  Places like Richmond Hill can easily look homogenous to outsiders.  Considering the tendency of Toronto suburbs to take on a very ethnic-specific bent (I’m looking at you, Woodbridge and Brampton) there is a level of diversity here that’s not replicated in other Toronto sattelite towns.

Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, Chinese Food, Highway 11 yonge street

There is normal Chinese food, there is Northern Ontario Chinese Food, and there is real Chinese food. Richmond Hill has some of the best real Chinese food in the country, with restaurants from all regions of China.

Richmond Hill is also having to grow up – literally, up – as the community approaches build-out.  Much like Willowdale and Thornhill before it, Richmond Hill is not immune to the pressure to find places for residents both fleeing Toronto house prices and coming from elsewhere.  Condos are being built on Yonge Street in Richmond Hill, and can be found dotting other areas of a community largely known for its plethora of single family houses.

Except Richmond Hill has it a bit different.  Willowdale is part of the City of Toronto and Thornhill is split in two between Markham and Vaughan.  Richmond Hill, on the other hand, is its own municipality.  This means that Richmond Hill has pretty unique opportunity to make some decisions as to how they’re going to handle the onslaught of hi-rise residential development that’s now jumping off the Toronto subway lines and into the first ring of outer suburbs.

Observatory, David Dunlap, Richmond Hill, Yonge Street

If the Observatory becomes a condo they’ll have a bunch of out-of-this-world names to choose from.  Maybe they can ship it to Moonbeam or Nipigon?  (Photo taken from spacing.ca.)

Despite these developments, Richmond Hill is still very much dependent on Toronto for employment.  It was once known as a flower town like Brampton (the greenhouse industry left Richmond Hill in the 1970s and 80s for the Niagara region where land is cheaper and development pressures slightly more subdued) and later for the David Dunlap Observatory, at a time the largest telescope in the world, recently shuttered and sold by the University of Toronto.

These are a few of my favourite things

Today Richmond Hill is home to Apotex, one of Canada’s largest drug companies, and the head office of my favourite store in the world, The Bulk Barn.  If you’ve ever worked at the Bulk Barn, please accept my apologies.  I’m one of those customers that buys about twelve grams of sixteen different candies.  I really don’t mean to make life hard for the staff, but I just can’t help it.  I can’t make up my mind when presented with a selection like that.

Harvey's burger Richmond Hill, Ontairo, Highway 11 Yonge Street

Mayo?  This ain’t a sub.  All you need is ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onions, banana peppers and extra-extra pickles, plus a few more pickles on the side if they’re willing.

Richmond Hill is also home of the first ever Harvey’s restaurant.  If you have been navigating this site for a while, you’ll realize that I’m a fan of Harvey’s.  Well, of any fast-food, particularly the second- and third-tier restaurants that aren’t available in every mall or plaza.  Sadly, the first-ever Harvey’s no longer stands.  Like seemingly everything in Toronto, it’s been razed for a condo development.

I’ve never understood why chains don’t develop their “first stores” into tourist locations.  I’d been to the Tim Horton’s on the corner of Ottawa and King in Hamilton probably twenty times before I realized that this was the first-ever Tim Horton’s.  Why not make it a tourist trap?  Why not make it a restaurant-slash-museum?

Why not restore it to make it look like it did when it first opened in 1960-whatever?  It’s not like having one store deviate from the bland overarching brand design will get everyone all confused.  Who wouldn’t want to sip a coffee sitting at one of those super-low counters on a tangerine-cushioned stool from a Tim Horton’s circa 1983?  I mean, think back to those terrible photos of teens, awkwardly staged hanging out on the woods or a tire-swing that every Harvey’s used to have on the walls?

Harvey's, Ontario, Highway 11 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill

Now this is an old school Harvey’s. I can only imagine what they looked like when they were founded in 1959.

Newmarket / Aurora

Newmarket, Ontario from Yonge Street Highway 11 looking south, highway11.ca…oh, this may not go over too well.  Yes, despite having webpages for places that aren’t settlements (The Temiskaming Ottawa Highland Trail), or that no longer exist (Lowther), or that I thought no longer existed (Kitigan), I’m going to profile the communities of Newmarket and Aurora, total population around 130 000, all in one go.

I have nothing against either town.  One of my favourite coworkers lives in Newmarket.  Or is it Aurora?

But that’s just it.  It is not that towns like Newmarket and Aurora aren’t important.  Quite the opposite, Aurora is home to the head offices of State Farm Insurance and Frank Stronach’s autoparts giant Magna.  Newmarket seems to have produced so many pro athletes that it’s giving Thunder Bay aka The Staal Family a run for its money.  It’s not that the towns aren’t nice.  More people live in these two communities than live along the 700 kilometres of Highway 11 that arches through Ontario from Matheson to Nipigon.  They both seem like great places to live.  Newmarket was ranked the 10th best place to live in all of Canada in 2013.

But in the context of profiling the quirks of Yonge Street / Highway 11, it’s more difficult to uncover the unique and the memorable when you’re dealing with a place the size and type of Newmarket or Aurora.

Yonge Street motel, Newmarket, Ontario, Highway 11

To think that all regional highways used to be dotted with mom-and-pop motels like this one, found at the north end of Newmarket on Highway 11 / Yonge Street

I’ll come clean – though I’ve driven Yonge Street in both of these communities, I’ve never completed any drive of Yonge Street between Barrie and the Toronto city limits all in one go.  Each time that I give it a try I end up giving up and heading to one of the 400-series highways on either side of both towns.  It’s not their fault that these towns hug the northernmost edge of Toronto’s sprawl, however, suburb fatigue starts to hit once you’ve left Thornhill.

This part of Yonge Street is messy urban driving.  It’s chock-full of stoplights.  You get stuck behind every third car turning right into a plaza or power centre.  It’s hard to stop to take photos, or to know what to take photos of.  It’s impossible to make u-turns.  In sum, it’s not conducive to exploration and discovery.  Ok, that sounds cheesy, but I think you know what I mean.

Aurora, Ontario, Yonge Street, Highway 11 train station GO

Aurora’s Old train station is now a GO Transit station

Newmarket was first settled by Quakers from Vermont and Pennsylvania.  Surprisingly, the local community was a hotbed of political discontent, eventually serving as the starting point for the ill-fated 1837 Rebellion march down Yonge Street.  Aurora’s beginning was as Machell’s Corners, an intersection on the newly extended Yonge Street, that eventually grew into a small industrial town.  The railway brought prosperity to both rural towns, but even back then their focus was largely southward.  Both were served by the Toronto and York Radial Railway up to the 1930s, which provided service with something like a big slow streetcar.  In the 1950s highways and the 1970s GO Trains cemented their status as bedroom communities of Toronto.

HIllary House, Ontario, Highway 11 Yonge Street, Aurora, historic

Historic Hillary House in Aurora, home to the area’s first doctors (Credit: User Fralambert at Wiki Commons.)

Both are affluent, with household incomes approximately 20 percent higher than the provincial average.  Both have arts, culture, entertainment, and sports facilities and all the services you could need, including the Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket.  Both towns have kept some of the built heritage alive.  Newmarket’s can be found on Main Street South, while Aurora has the Northeast Old Aurora Heritage District and the historic Hillary House at 15372 Yonge Street.  Both have produced their fair share of Canadian hockey players and other celebrities.  Canadian soccer player Jim Brennan, Indycar driver Scott Goodyear, comedian John Candy and bands Glass Tiger and Tokyo Police Club are all from Newmarket.  In addition to the Stronachs, former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, Olympic skiier Brian Stemmle, the guy who oversaw the construction of the Empire State Building, and China’s most famous western television personality are all from Aurora.

I hope I haven’t done either community an injustice.  But with towns like these, anything you need is right at hand, anything you wanted to see you’ve probably already seen, and anything you wanted to know you could find easily online or in Wikipedia.  I’d be happy to live in either one of these communities – I grew up in one just like it – and I think that’s the best thing anyone can say about any place.

Yonge Street Highway 11 Town Hall Newmarket, Ontario highway11.ca

Historic Newmarket town hall (Credit: User P199 at Wiki Commons.)

Barrie

London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Philadelphia, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Moscow, and Barrie.

…wait a second.

Barrie, Ontario Live 8

Live 8 in Barrie.

How does Barrie fit into a list of world class international cities?

Barrie hosted Canada’s Live 8 concert at Molson Park, when Toronto couldn’t handle the last minute capacity due to other festivals and events.  And Barrie was sufficiently far enough away from the Big Smoke that putting “Toronto” down on the list would have been misleading.

That must have felt good, Barrie.  Real good.

Barrie is a suburban community of about 150 000 135 000 (175 000 if you count the greater area) that has the potential to be the next Brampton.

For the geographically challenged, or very narrow-minded, Barrie is considered the start of northern Ontario.  But for everyone else on the planet, it’s completely clear that Barrie is in southern Ontario.  So they’re at a bit of a crossroads.  Barrie is also where Yonge Street ends and the real Highway 11 begins on its route across Ontario.

Barrie waterfront highway 11

Barrie’s waterfront

Barrie used to be a farming, industrial, and brewery town.  But they developed much of the land and Molson’s closed up its operations so now Barrie is a regional centre and a suburb for those who work in Toronto’s suburbs or who are willing to do the commute all the way into the big city.  This means that while it used to have more in common with towns like Sarnia or Stratford, some might say it now has more in common with Brampton.  Barrie is Canada’s fastest growing city, at a whopping 25 percent between 2000 and 2005.

Barrie, Spririt Statue, Kempenfelt Bay Highway 11

Spirit statue near Kempenfelt Bay

Highway 400 to Toronto is congested, busy, and used above capacity.  This is especially true during cottage season and on long weekends.  So be warned.  While they say it only takes 50 minutes to go from Toronto to Barrie it’s usually about an hour and a half.  Barrie has commuter train service via the GO Network, but if I recall correctly the station isn’t downtown.  The government has introduced legislation to keep a belt of land between Toronto and Barrie essentially undeveloped, it is very likely that sprawl will simply hop this area, called the “greenbelt”, and continue to develop it on both sides.

Barrie also gained international notoriety for having one of Canada’s largest drug busts.  Someone had converted part of the old Molson’s brewery into a secret pot operation and it apparently flourished until getting busted.  Everyone was really surprised.

Barrie's "Arch", Highway 11

This is no St. Louis Arch, that’s for sure

To me, a product of the southern Ontario suburbs, Barrie isn’t particularly different…it is a lot like home.  Its population is large enough to give you some stuff to do.  The Barrie Colts are the local junior hockey team.  There are two ski hills in the area (Blue Mountain and Horseshoe Valley), and there are many beaches on Lake Simcoe.  Barrie has a nice waterfront along Kempenfelt Bay, with boating, swimming, and other recreational opportunities.  There are many cottages nearby as Lake Simcoe is a cottagey area. For those who like Art there is the Maclaren Art Centre and the annual Kempenfelt Arts Festival.

The Downtown offers good waterfront access, a fish and chip shop, and a few nice walks along Lake Simcoe.  And there is a Pita Pit.  Any town with a Pita Pit gets points from me. Barrie has made an effort to keep its downtown alive despite the box stores and these new outdoor mall plaza things that have taken over outskirts of every suburban city these days, including their own.  Like any other city of this size, there are the usual indoor attractions, including miniputt, movies, and bowling.

I’ve received a fair amount of emails (okay, six) complaining that I painted Barrie as dry, uneventful and homogenous.  In a sense, it is.  That’s not a criticism; that’s the point of the suburbs, including the one I called home for more than 20 years.  Barrie doesn’t fit into the molds (e.g. rural, or northern, or isolated, or tiny, or non-existent) that apply to most of the towns on this site. So if anyone is from Barrie and thinks this doesn’t do the town justice, I’m sorry.  That was never my intention.  Please add to this – send me an email with your thoughts and tips:  info (at) highway11 (dot) ca

Orillia

Orillia is an interesting town.

A bit of a mix of blue-collar rural town-dwellers, working-class provincial employees, and left-leaning urban-escapee folkies, Orillia is a strange brew – the kind of place where you’ll see a lineup at both the spelt-flour bread stall and the Dairy Queen.  Imagine Guelph without the university.Orillia, Ontario Highway 11My first substantial visit to Orillia came in March. And I must say, even in the drab, dreary days that aren’t quite winter but aren’t quite spring, I was pretty impressed.

Orillia has enacted by-laws to try to keep its downtown quaint and small-towny. And they’ve succeeded.  Downtown Orillia is pretty cute.

There are many independent and specialty stores. We visited a specialty kid clothier. A store that sold upscale pet accessories. Apple Annie’s bakery and breakfast that sold french desserts alongside pancakes and waffles. Hudson’s kitchen store that sold everything from fancy La Creuset enameled cookware to cat-themed soap dishes, where I finally found myself a plastic thing to help scoop chopped and diced vegetables. The main street was pretty full, for a good three blocks. I can only imagine that it is cuter, busier, and even nicer in the summer.

Downtown Orillia, Highway 11

Downtown Orillia is cuter when it’s not winter and when I’m not the photographer

Home of the Ontario Provincial Police, Orillia is a town of 32 000 people about 45 minutes north of Barrie on Highway 11.  One hundred and thirty five kilometres north of Toronto, Orillia has waterfront on both Lakes Couchiching and Simcoe.  Home to the Stephen Leacock Museum, the Orillia Opera House, and the Orillia Museum of Art and History, Orillia also has a nice waterfront park with a boat launch, walking trails, and a boardwalk.

Orillia was founded in 1867 and has been home to eminent Canadians such as author Stephen Leacock and musician Gordon Lightfoot.  It was the first North American municipality to adopt daylight saving time.  Today Orillia is a retirement and casino community, as nearby Casino Rama draws both gamblers and seniors.  It has almost 20 doughnut shops.  ___Insert OPP police joke here___

The Orillia Opera House is a pretty impressive building. With two turrets, it stands out in downtown Orillia, and is pretty much unmissable. The Orillia Opera House hosts plays, concerts, and even comedy. In the back, the Opera House hosts a farmer’s market every Saturday morning, that runs through winter (we bought some jam.) The morning we were there, there were about five older men and women standing outside the opera house, protesting against war. For no particular reason, as far as I could tell, except that it seemed like something they probably did every Saturday morning since they moved there in the 1960s. Wrapped in wollen blankets, ready with pamphlets, rainbow flags, and thermoses, these grown-old hippies showed pure dedication, even if they were small in numbers.

Opera House, Orillia, Ontario

Every Saturday Orillia’s Opera House hosts a farmer’s market and a protest for peace

Orillia is well known for the Mariposa Folk Festival and less well known for its annual perch fishing derby. There is also a store across from the Opera House that sells bongs, and only bongs. I know that Orillia has the leftover hippie element from its folk music days, but a store specializing in selling technicolour, skull-and-crossbones, flaming ninja bongs? The woman in the store was nice enough to let me take a photo. And this is only one half of the store.

Other than Opera, hippies, folk music and maybe the bong store, Orillia is also known for is Weber’s Hamburgers.  This place is so popular that it built its own pedestrian overpass over Highway 11.  Sometimes the lineup stretches over Highway 11.  This is a popular stopping spot for people on their way to cottage country.  I’ve heard of many people who swear by their burgers but with a big lineup and a Harvey’s in Orillia, I’ve never stopped.

Highway 11 overpass, pedestrian, Orillia, webers

Pedestrian overpass on Highway 11 built to serve customers of Weber’s Hamburgers, near Orillia, Ontario

Best bong store ever, Orillia, Highway 11 Ontario

I’m guessing this bong store serves the folk music crowd more than the opera crowd in Orillia, Ontario.  They told me that people come from as far as Huntsville and that I wasn’t the first to ask to take a photo.

Gravenhurst

If you’re coming up Yonge Street / Highway 11 from the south, Gravenhurst is the first real town north of Orillia.

And Gravenhurst is one of the first towns to truly straddle the northern-southern divide.Being in cottage country, Gravenhurst is home to all sorts of little things you’d not find in a northern town – a tea shop, two independent cafés, an upscale pub, a resort restaurant.  There is a small arts community – the downtown is littered with murals – and there is even the Gravenhurst Opera House, built in 1901.  The Muskoka Gallery By the Bay displays art near Gravenhurst’s cute waterfront.  The town hosts an annual Music on the Barge festival at Gull Lake Park, with many musicians playing in a picturesque setting.

But you can tell that there’s a bit of north in this town too.  It’s evident in the nature statues and the goofy motels and that one of its best-rated restaurants is a truck-stop.  It’s in the tacky miniputts and the ageing tourist traps and the way a community that essentially hugs a single main road tries to brand itself into two distinct districts (Downtown vs. Uptown).

And it is in the local restaurant rivalries that split long-time residents – the stone hearth knotty-pine rustic welcome of the China House versus the more run-down but all-day dim sum of the Rickshaw, and the Greek-Canadian combo at the Uptown Diner pitted against the Greek-Canadian-Italian of Rombo’s Family Restaurant.

Gravenhurst on Yonge St, Highway 11 Ontario

I’m a little bit country – Fish-and-bear statues, strange motel-restaurant combos, big weird cottage chairs (watch out Callander and Fort Frances), and more bear sculptures…Gravenhurst has touches of northern Ontario

It's not every Muskoka town that has an Opera House and a statue of a communist doctor

And I’m a little bit rock and roll – It’s not every Highway 11 town that has an Opera House and a statue of a communist doctor – Gravenhurst is still a bit southern, too.

Gravenhurst was named after a village in England which is mentioned in Washington Irving’s book Bracebridge Hall.  Between 1940 and 1943 it was known as “Little Norway” due to its proximity to the Norwegian Air Force’s temporary training base in Canada.  Today Gravenhurst is a retirement and cottage community.

With a permanent population of 10 000, Gravenhurst is the smallest of the towns that make up the cottage country triangle (Bracebridge and Huntsville being larger) but it is still big enough and touristy enough to have the main food and lodging franchises, as well as other tourist amenities.   Muskoka steamships operate three different ships that give tours of the many picturesque lakes in the area, with dinner and music cruises available.

But what struck me most about Gravenhurst was the pace.

Cars sauntering down the road, none hitting more than maybe 30 kilometres an hour.

Moms chatting along the main street, enjoying a sundrenched May weekday before their kids get released from school in six weeks.

A young family resting in the shadow of the statue of Dr. Norman Bethune, likely oblivious to the fact that he’s the only westerner to have a statue in China (and probably the only communist to have a statue on Yonge Street) taking in the fresh air whilst retrieving the shoes that their toddler had kicked off.

Local kids out for lunch, meandering in their flip flops having jumped at the chance to wear summer clothing in the decidedly spring weather, full of the listlessness of near-freedom in the face of limited opportunity brings after a tiring, cold winter.

Everyone enjoying the space that becomes so competed-for once the cottagers come in, yet likely all-too-aware that none of this would be possible without the annual invasion of busy and bustling out-of-towners that trample this vibe for twelve weeks each and every year.

Gravenhurst Ontario chinese food

Even after all of these years eating at northern Ontario Chinese food restaurants, I have never ordered the “Canadian” food

Downtown Gravenhurst on a warm and sunny May morning

Downtown Gravenhurst on a warm and sunny May morning

More AdirondackoopsImeanMuskoka chairs on Highway 11

More Adirondack oops I mean Muskoka chairs on Highway 11…and another inexplicable Yonge Street / Highway 11 dinosaur sighting.

Bracebridge

I never actually meant to visit Bracebridge.

I was heading for Muskoka Falls when I had my head turned by a highway sign advertising a McDonald’s, a Harvey’s and a Subway just a couple of kilometres from my intended destination.  I didn’t need food – I had a sandwich packed from home.  I didn’t need coffee – I’d already had one extra large one-cream-two-sugar and one small one-cream-two-sugar from Tim Horton’s.  I didn’t need anything sweet – I was saving that treat for a milkshake somewhere along the way back.

But I really had to pee.

Bracebridge, Ontario, off Highway 11 highway11.ca

Bracebridge, Ontario and North Falls, off Highway 11 (Credit: User P199 from Wiki Commons.)

So instead of turning right to Muskoka Falls I turned left, following the instructions of the sign.  I’m sure it really didn’t take as long as it felt, but when you have to pee as bad as that kid in the Robert Munsch book, one minute feels like 10.

I followed a winding road through old farm land, a short bit of bush, past a cement plant, past a conveyor belt factory.  I don’t know what I might have missed or where I missed it, but I never saw another sign for any of those fast food joints.  I passed dinosaur, and a strangely placed totem pole and statue of a nurse, until I was faced by Marty’s World Famous restaurant, an ice cream parlour, and a couple of stores that sold cottagey stuff.

Somehow I had ended up on Manitoba Street.  I was smack-dab in the cutesy cottage country downtown of Bracebridge.

Bracebridge is a town of 13 000 right smack dab in the middle of cottage country.  It is one of the three main towns of Muskoka, the other two being Gravenhurst and Huntsville.  It is not directly on Highway 11 – just a smidge west of it.

Downtown Bracebridge, Ontario, just west of Highway 11 / Yonge Street

Downtown Bracebridge, Ontario, just west of Highway 11 / Yonge Street

Named after the book Bracebridge Hall by Washington Irving.  I believe the local postmaster was reading it at the time the town was to be named.  Gravenhurst also had the same postmaster, and was also named after something in the same book.  Bracebridge is exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole.

Bracebridge was founded on the backs of a number of different industries, including furs, agriculture, brewing, logging, milling, and hydroelectricity.  In fact, Bracebridge was the first town in Ontario to have its own hydroelectric generation due to North Falls (see the falls tour).  There is still some hydro generation, and there is still a brewery too.

Today Bracebridge, being in the heart of the Muskokas, is all about tourism – as evidenced by another random dinosaur, a distinctly aubergine-painted bike shop and a store advertising the largest selection of Muskoka tshirts in the country (I knew that Muskoka had appropriated the Adirondack chair, but I didn’t know Muskoka it had laid claim to its own style of clothing.)

SANTA! I KNOW HIM! HE LIVES IN BRACEBRIDGE

Oh man I wanted to go here so bad when I was a ten five year old

Being a tourist town, Bracebridge is relatively full of places to eat, drink, and sleep and have fun.  You’ll have no problem finding accommodation.  I mean, book ahead of course (especially during the summer!) and don’t just show up expecting to find something.  But you don’t need me to tell you where to go in cottage country because places abound.

The main tourist attraction in Bracebridde, aside from cottages, is Santa’s Village.  I have a friend who is 37 years old and he can’t stop telling me how magical it is.  Whatever.  Maybe because it is relatively cheap.  He also likes that it’s in off the highway and in the bush.  It’s low key and kid oriented, but supposedly inexpensive and not too touristy.  And it’s full of men with bad beards, if you’re into that kinda thing.

Bracebridge is home to Woodchester Villa, one of the finest octagonal houses in Canada.  As well, Guha’s Lions and Tigers is a little lion and tiger zoo in Bracebridge and is another one for the kids to see.  There is also golf, boating, art, parks, cottaging, camping, snowmobiling, a water park, a movie theatre, a little film festival put on by the highschool, and the Festival of the Falls which celebrates the 22 waterfalls within Bracebridge’s fairly expansive town limits (one of them is even referred to as the north’s Niagara Falls – someone should tell that to Kakabeka.)   I arrived in town about a month after the floods of 2013 – which shut down Highway 11 in a few spots – and the waterfalls were still running high.

Bracebridge has all of the hallmarks of rural/northern Ontario touristiness - the tacky shops, the hokey Canadiana, and big weird random big things for the kids.

Bracebridge has all of the hallmarks of rural/northern Ontario touristiness – the tacky shops, the hokey Canadiana, and big weird random big things for the kids.

This was kinda neat - a statue commemorating a local midwife whose naturopathic discoveries, based on knowledge from local First Nations

This was kinda neat – a statue commemorating a local midwife for her naturopathic remedies based on knowledge from local First Nations

On my last visit, volunteers were repainting Bracebridge's old hydro station - it's going to be a town museum.

On my last visit, volunteers were repainting Bracebridge’s old hydro station – it’s going to be a town museum.

This tree location makes no sense.  Come on Bracebridge!

This tree location makes no sense. Come on Bracebridge!  Way to ruin a great photo spot.

So this Ontario Public Health sign was up in the washroom of the visitor's centre, where I parked in Bracebridge.  And I got to reading it.  Does anyone truly wash their hands for a full 15 seconds?  This was news to me.  So I followed their advice - and re-washed my hands whilst humming "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" aloud to myself...only to be interrupted by a knock at the washroom door - the staff attendant had heard me humming, and wanted to check on me to see if I was alright.

So this Ontario Public Health sign was up in the washroom of the visitor’s centre, where I parked in Bracebridge. And I got to reading it. Does anyone truly wash their hands for a full 15 seconds? This was news to me. So I followed their advice – and proceeded to thoroughly wash my hands … only to be interrupted by a knock on the washroom door.  The staff attendant wanted to check on me to see if I was alright – apparently I had been mindlessly singing “Row Row Row Your Boat” just a little too loudly.

Haileybury

Which northern Ontario town had its own street cars, was home to the guy who wrote the Hardy Boys, had the most millionaires in Canada, was the first home of the team that would become the Montréal Canadiens, and then promptly had its prosperity wiped out by a massive fire?

Streetcar Norhtern Ontario, Haileybury, Highway 11

Back off St. Clair Avenue West…Haileybury has had streetcars too!

The thing that makes Haileybury really northern is its history.  The rise and fall and apparent rebuilding is really interesting and, in my opinion, totally characteristic of northern Ontario.

Lumber boat in Haileybury, ontario

After Longlac and Opasatika, let me guess this is a lumber boat?

Once known as Humphrey’s Depot, Haileybury was founded in the early 1900s by a former fur trader on the shores of Lake Temiskaming.  He named the town after the school he attended in England.  He tried to attract settlers with the usual propaganda leaflets, but as northern Ontarians know, there’s no better way to get the country settled than a gold rush.  And that’s what it took to get Haileybury off the ground.

Haileybury, downtown, Highway 11 Ontario Lake

Haileybury road leading into Lake Temiskaming. (Credit; User P199 at Wiki Commons.)

Despite being named after a place in England where wealthy parents got rid of their kids, Haileybury is the start of francophone north-eastern/central Ontario.  (Or it is the end, depending on which way you’re traveling on Highway 11.)  Approximately 80 percent of Haileyburians are French-first, which is interesting given that their neighbours are primarily anglophone, particularly in New Liskeard (70 percent) and Cobalt (almost completely unilingual.)  As you go north after Haileybury, the towns almost alternate – anglo, franco, etc.

The discovery of silver in Cobalt in 1903 started a population explosion in Haileybury, as the town became a bedroom community for prospectors and mine owners.  So successful were some that a street in Haileybury was dubbed Millionaire’s Row for the wealthy people it housed.

Haileybury, Ontario on Highway 11But of course, this all had to come to a tragic end with the fires of 1922, which killed 11, displaced 3500, and razed the town completely alongside New Liskeard, Dymond, and possibly Cobalt. In order to survive, many families had to hide in wells, lakes, and even down mine shafts. Many of those who escaped to the mines died when the fires, passing over the mines, sucked out the shaft’s oxygen, asphyxiating those who sought refuge underground. The town commorates the fire with a sculpture at its waterfront park, pictured below on the left.

Haileybury Today

With 4500 people, Haileybury (pronounced locally as Hailey-berry) is the second largest part of the Tri-Towns and Haileybury is the seat of the Temiskaming Shores municipality, which includes New Liskeard and Dymond.  It is a quiet lakeshore community that is worth a stop if you’re not in a hurry.

Pioneer Monument, Great Fire, Haileybury, Highway 11

Monument to pioneers that survived the Great Fire by hiding in swamps, lakes, and wells

I really like the waterfront.  There is a nice little pavilion with the Pioneer’s Monument (pictured) honouring the fire of 1922.  There is a little beach and a modern marina as well.  The view is nice across the lake to Quebec and in the summer you’ll see a number of boats on the water as Lake Temiskaming is the end of the scenic Ottawa River route, which is popular with boaters.  The waterfront is worth a drive, if not a full stop.

Haileybury on the shores of Lake Temiskaming

Haileybury on the shores of Lake Temiskaming

In terms of tourism, there is a fair amount to do.  The Haileybury Heritage Museum was built to chronicle the history of the town and tell the story of the fire.  The museum features a restored 1920s streetcar, as well as an old firepumper and a preserved tugboat that used to ply the waters of Lake Temiskaming.  You can also visit the “world famous” Haileybury School of Mines.  Haileybury is also home to the Temiskaming Art Gallery.  You can see different types of ores at the Rock Park Walk, while there is camping and golf in town as well.

I don’t remember a lot of places to eat, and I think the only Tri-Town Tim Horton’s are in New Liskeard and Dymond.  Accommodations include the Leisure Inn, Edgewater Motel and Cabins, the Haileybury Beach Motel, and the Les Suites des Presidents Suites, an upscale bed and breakfast.  New Liskeard has more places to stay and eat.  Personally I find that Haileybury, despite being very pretty and having stuff to do, is still something of a bedroom community.  It doesn’t have the same downtown nor the same ‘feel’ that New Liskeard does.  And it’s nothing like Cobalt.  At all.

Downtown Haileybury

Back to History

Haileybury was also home to the team that would become the Montreal Canadiens.  The club played the 1909 NHA season and left for Montreal.  It would become the Canadiens only two years later.  I think that’s pretty neat.

Haileybury’s streetcars were part of the Nipissing Central Railway that connected the Tri Towns, which would definitely make it unique in the north.  Heck I’m sure it ran faster then than Timmins transit does today.  Toronto also donated 87 streetcars after the great fire to help shelter the homeless.  Today there is one restored streetcar left at the Haileybury Heritage Museum.

And, to finish, Haileybury was also home to Les Macfarlane, who wrote many of the Hardy Boys novels under the pen name Franklin Dixon.

Thanks to Johnny O for the info on the Tri Towns.

The Hardy Boys's Sleuth, in Haileybury on Highway 11

I never liked the Hardy Boys. Too All-American. Too serious. Too predictable. Sure, you knew that Encyclopedia Brown was always going to figure it out too but at least he had a sense of humour. But, anyway, this is a replica of the Hardy Boys’s boat, in Haileybury.