On a lazy Sunday (August 21st) afternoon, just over a year ago, a destructive F-3 tornado with winds as high as 300 kilometres an hour ripped through this picturesque town of 8,000 leaving in its wake approximately $130 million dollars of destruction. It also took the life of a 61-year-old man who was working at the salt mine in town when the tornado struck. Downtown businesses, century-old buildings and several churches lost their roofs and upper floors as the four-minute twister ripped through this community on the shores of Lake Huron.
On a recent trip, there was very little evidence, with the exception of the town square which has been left without century old trees, that a tornado had literally torn this town in half. Plans are still in the works to re-plant the 1.2 hectares of the epicenter of the square with trees and grass.
Bob Marshall, Tourism Manager for the Town of Goderich, said, "It's amazing how the residents have gotten together to re-build the prettiest town in Canada. Old and new businesses have re-appeared and tourism this past summer was generally speaking, very good. Some of these visitors were here to see the impressive improvements since the tornado."
Most of the severely hit businesses were closed for 7-8 months. One exception was the yellow-bricked Hotel Bedford (circa 1896) where I spent the evening. Ken Bowen, president of the 35-room hotel said, "We did sustain some damage but were fortunate enough to re-open in twelve days, the first on the square."
Hotel Bedford has a nice blend of the past and the present. Main floor rooms are accessible to the handicapped, but you have to take a stairway to your room on the second or third floor. Check out the stained glassed skylight above the stairway. (An overnight stay will run about $100.00.)
Be sure to enjoy a meal at Paddy O'Neil's. It's reasonably priced food for real people who are hungry, served by friendly staff.
To tour, pick from four self-guided heritage walking tours that you can get free of charge at the town's tourism office at 91 Hamilton Street.
Goodrich's Courthouse Square is found in the middle of an octagonal core. Shops, many located in historic early 1800's buildings, surround the outside of the square, and streets radiate from the centre of this Courthouse Park. There's no shortage of eateries and shops in this area. Give Timmies a rest and get a few pastries from Culbert's Bakery on West Street. Culbert's has been operated by the same family since 1877 and is known for its old-fashioned donuts. They accept only cash and are closed on Sundays.
The Goderich Harbour maintains a rich marine history. You can see large ships filling up with grain from the Goderich Elevators to be shipped all over the world. At the harbour, take a look at the blue-roofed buildings. These are part of
Sifto Canada's Salt Mines. Sifto has been mining salt from
under Lake Huron since the early 1950's and the Goderich mine is the largest in the world. Salt is processed to be used on roads and in water conditioners.
At the harbour you'll find three lovely beaches where you can enjoy one of summer's last dips. In the evening grab a folding chair and sit on the beach and view one of the most colourful sunsets on the Great Lakes.
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, the Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.