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Heritage

Founding of Orillia Plaque

Thanks to logging and rail links with Toronto and Georgian Bay, Orillia became a commercial centre and summer resort destination in the mid 1800s. Orillia was founded as a village in 1867, the same year as Canada's Confederation, and was incorporated as a town in 1875.

Long before, deep on the floor of The Narrows between Lake Simcoe and Couchiching, natives constructed their fish weirs, now an archaeological treasure older than the Egyptian pyramids.

Nearly 400 years ago, Samuel de Champlain made his way through Orillia and, in the following century, fur traders and explorers travelled the area extensively.

By the early 1900s, Orillia was a bustling town and became the first municipality in North America to build its own hydro-electric power plant. 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.

The town was not just defined by its bustling foundries. Orillia also boasted the best Opera House north of Toronto. With the expansion of the railways, thousands arrived each summer for picnics and holidaying at Couchiching Park.

Always a progressive community, Orillia was the first municipality to introduce Daylight Saving Time in 1912 and printed its own money during the Great Depression as a form of relief.

During World War II, Orillia produced munitions and aircraft parts at plants that later began manufacturing equipment for the mining and pulp and paper industry.

Orillia was incorporated as a city in 1969. Today, Orillia is as popular a vacation spot as it was a century ago and proudly celebrates its heritage by working hard to preserve historic properties in the downtown. It owns three of the most prominent and attractive 19th-century buildings in the core - the landmark Orillia Opera House, the Sir Sam Steele Memorial Building and Central Public School. These buildings and others can be enjoyed as part of the Walking Tour of Historic Orillia.

To gain more insight in to Orillia's rich history, visit our Library's William Frost Scrapbookcollection. This collection is full of amazing photos and information dating back to the late 1800's.

For information regarding Orillia's Heritage Designated Buildings, please see this page.

© City of Orillia, 50 Andrew Street South, Suite 300, Orillia, Ontario, L3V 7T5, Tel: (705) 325-1311, Fax: (705) 325-5178, Email: help@orillia.ca

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