Church Street bridge in St. Marys, Ontario, completed in 1884, restored in 1979
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
The nicest thing about living in St. Marys (pop.6700)? "We all know each other, and we try and look out for one another," says Peter Bart Algra, third generation resident. He also says that "The architecture is not bad." Set in a beautiful valley beside the majestic Thames River, Peter is right on!
Stunning stone buildings are abundant here. St. Marys' 1904 Public Library built of locally quarried limestone is a terrific example of neo-classical architecture. Other fine examples of the early stonemasons' craft (all within walking distance) include the town hall (circa 1891), opera house, town museum and the old water tower and railway viaducts. You can walk just about anywhere in fifteen minutes.
Leave the main street, (Queen) and walk across one of the small, steel truss bridges that cross the Thames River; head up the hill towards Church Street, called Church Street for a reason. Magnificent stone churches with tall steeples, seen for miles around, are nestled between canopies of mature trees that hug the hill. Strolling back down the hill is easier, and chances are you'll begin to sense the stark beauty of the older homes (there are four mansions in the town) that seem to be frozen in the mid-eighteen hundreds. The past is present here.
When you wander downtown, you'll see it's dotted with one of a kind shops. An attractive shop to pop into is the Village Craft and Candle. Owner Susan Griffith told me, "This is
the original Timothy Eaton store from 1860-1868." She's seeking older Eaton catalogues to be displayed in her shop. If you have one, bring it along. The Castle Garden anchors one end of Queen Street and features interesting decorative and garden accessories. There are several fine restaurants, and an old mill beside the northern branch of the Thames River that flows through St. Marys and the heart of town. Outside, a beautiful little waterfall created by a dam, makes for a nice photograph.
Those who enjoy baseball can visit the
Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, located in a century-old stone building that sits atop a hill that overlooks the town's quarry, now Canada's largest outdoor spring-fed swimming pool.
Saturday morning, the Farmer's Market located on Jones Street, opens later than most markets at 8 am until noon. In addition to farm-fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers, local artisans display hand-woven blankets, made from hand-spun wool. Pies and baked goods fresh from the oven provide a glorious smell. Purchase the pie you want when you first see it because it won't be there when you come back.
The first pancake breakfast of the season occurs on Saturday, June 22 featuring delicious buttermilk pancakes, fresh fruit, local maple syrup and homemade sausage.
On Saturday, June 15th there's a Rib Fest beginning at 5pm followed by the music of Blue Daddies at 7pm at the A.N.A.F. Hall at 23 Wellington Street.
Another popular event is the annual Stonetown Heritage Festival on Saturday, July 13th and it includes live entertainment, a street dance, fireworks and lots of street vendors and more.
A good selection of Bed and Breakfasts are available in and around St. Marys and for complete information you can contact the folks at the town's Information Centre at the train station.
St. Marys Opera House
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.