It was a sparkling day and my wife and I decided to take a two-hour drive from Niagara to Orangeville (pop. 27,000) north of Mississauga, to discover what the Canadian Institute of Planners describe as - "The Greatest Street in Canada - Broadway, Orangeville."
Broadway is Orangeville's Main Street.
To learn more about this designation I sought out one of the town's go-to people, Ruth Phillips, Economic Development Manager. She explained, "It was this November that The Canadian Institute of Planners announced Orangeville was the winner of its fifth annual Great Places in Canada and named Broadway as the "Greatest Street in Canada." The jury was impressed by the central role Broadway plays in the Orangeville community, along with our heritage and streetscape design."
She went on to say, "First, Broadway is not a street or road; it's just Broadway." That's because one of the original founders, Orange Lawrence, loved to go to New York City and visit Broadway so when the main street was being laid out in 1844 he referred to it as Broadway. The name stuck.
Ellen and I set out to see if we agreed, but before we started to stroll, we picked up a free Orangeville Walking Tour pamphlet. It helped us take a walk through time.
One of the first things to strike us was that Broadway was indeed a broad way. The distance between buildings is 30 metres (100 feet), not the usual 20 metres (66 feet). A lovely manicured boulevard where you can relax on benches sits in the middle of Broadway.
One of the stars of Broadway is the original town hall, circa 1876.The building was completely renovated in 1993-94 and today serves as home to the town council, municipal staff and Theatre Orangeville. The Gift of the Magi, a heartwarming Christmas musical, plays from December 9th to December 20th. (
This municipal building is also the location of the Winter Farmers' Market held every other Saturday until April 23rd. Broadway has undergone a facade improvement program since the early 2000's. The facades of the many historic buildings emphasized the grace and beauty of earlier times. There were few empty buildings on Broadway. When I stopped a few locals and asked about some of the buildings, it was like everyone was on the payroll for the tourist bureau. Most of them knew a little about their history. The enthusiasm for their lovely town was infectious.
We were impressed how all the stores had the same "feel." Although many of the storefronts have been altered, look up to the second and third floors and catch a glimpse of the decorative brickwork and intricate details of the original structures.
At the corner of Broadway and Mill Street is the Orangeville Carnegie Public Library. It calls out to be photographed. This heritage building of the early 20th century was funded by the Carnegie Foundation. In 1989, the library and an adjacent bank building were renovated and joined. The decorative stonework is a hallmark of the style known as Beaux-arts Classicism as in the use of columns.
Walking the downtown and side streets you'll come across many of the 56 tree sculptures created by 19 different sculptors since 2003.The sculptures are a real hit with locals and visitors. The program was started to sustain the life of trees that have reached the end of their life expectancy in a way that allows them to continue to add character to Orangeville.
The town is dotted with affordable places to enjoy a meal. Four of the fifty or so restaurants in town have also been featured on the national television show, "You Gotta Eat Here.” One of them was Soulyve (pronounced Soul) just off Broadway at 34 Mill Street. Chef and owner Phil Dewar is originally from Jamaica, and he has brought some extra spice to downtown Orangeville. The restaurant is in an old 1870's renovated home .There is no wheelchair access and the restaurant is closed on Sundays.
We didn't know if we could handle the spicy food so our server Erin Bolton (she told us her dad's Michael Bolton. He is but not the Michael Bolton) suggested we try the Rotis with little spice. It was a good suggestion. The jerk chicken and chicken Rotis ($12.00 each) were served with sweet potato, Tara root and Casha root chips.
Autumn in Orangeville, Ontario
Flight over Orangeville Ontario
Full-screen for best view
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.