Ontario towns rich in history, beauty, says retired U of G prof
There's no need to travel all the way to Europe to discover quaint towns that remain connected to their origins. In his new book, Picturesque Ontario Towns, a retired University of Guelph geography professor shows that you just need to get off the 400 series of highways to discover towns rich in culture and history.
Fred Dahms features the geological history, physical features and cultural highlights of 10 towns east of highway 400 in his book. It's a sequel to his 2001 book, Beautiful Ontario Towns, which explores towns west of the 400. More than 120 colour photographs complement the physical and historical descriptions of Bobcaygeon, Cobourg, Campbellford, Deseronto, Fenelon Falls, Napanee, Millbrook, Picton, Port Hope and Port Perry.
"Because most of these towns are fairly small, you have the remnants of the original community," said Dahms. "It's an absolutely delightful part of Ontario. These places all have friendly people, small-town charm, rural ambiance and exquisite settings in common."
In writing Picturesque Ontario Towns, Dahms said, he was able to take years of his research and put it in a popular context so that the information is accessible to the general public. "There used to be the feeling that small towns were dying out, but many communities within a couple of hundred kilometres of major centres have a new life based on retirees and tourists contributing to the economy," he said.
All the towns except Millbrook are accessible by boat from the Trent-Severn Waterway and were originally settled as dam sites with sawmills or trading posts, said Dahms. The buildings of each town have a distinct character which is a result of local materials used in their construction because of limited transportation, he said.
Dahms ties the history of the buildings to the towns' present economies. "There's now a tension in these towns between a desire to become bigger and the desire to keep it the way it was."
The book contains maps and statistical information about each town, including population, incomes, main industry, real estate prices and medical and recreational facilities. Many people are looking to retire in these communities because of their proximity to the water and their small-town ambience, said Dahms. His book can help them compare the different attributes of each town.
Dahms is a founding member and former chair of Guelph's geography department. He has written for Canadian Geographic, and several newspapers and is the author of The Heart of the Country. He has also contributed chapters on small towns to academic books published in Japan and India as he continues his work on "resort, retirement, amenity" communities in Canada.
Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography
University of Guelph
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.