Simcoe County’s history is prevalent among its many historic sites. A lot of our historical buildings are still used by the community for cultural, musical, and artistic events.
Orillia is home to the Stephen Leacock Museum, often used to host literary-themed community events, writer’s workshops, readings, and book signings. “Old Brewery Bay is the 1928 summer home of noted Canadian academic and author Stephen Butler Leacock (1869-1944). The 19-room house, built in the arts and crafts style, was built on the property 20-years after Leacock first purchased it and is the third cottage built here, and the only remaining original building,” enlightens Tom Rose, Collections and Program Supervisor at the Leacock Museum National Historic Site in Orillia.
The house has been run as the Stephen Leacock Museum since 1958 and has been used as a gathering place for the community for years.
“The community has been a huge part of the museum ever since its purchase by the City in the mid-50s. It was the citizenry of Orillia who came together to support the purchase of the house, and the dedication of volunteers has kept it running,” explains Rose.
Another historic building that’s been preserved, yet transformed over the years since its destruction in a 1915 fire, is the Orillia Opera House. “Since its opening in 1895, the Orillia Opera House has been a focal point for the cultural life of the City of Orillia,” informs Wendy Fairbairn, General Manager for the Orillia Opera House in Orillia.
It has been City Hall, a police station with jails, a farmers’ market, performance space, and cultural hub. The Opera House operates year-round and has a number of events and activities from concerts to professional theatre, classes, workshops, art exhibits, weddings and for the celebration of life, says Fairbairn.
The Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church, a tiny historic building at the corner of Line 3 and Old Barrie Road, is profoundly significant in relation to the early settlement of Black settlers. “The Oro Black settlement was the only Government sponsored Black settlement in the history of Canada…,” according to information boards provided by Roz Llewellyn, Coordinator – Community Services for the Township of Oro-Medonte.
The church was completely restored and reopened on August 17, 2016. “The Oro African Church is currently closed for church services, however, through a partnership with Simcoe County Museum, the church is open for interpretive tours throughout the summer months. The township also launched a new virtual app for people to use if they visit the church outside of operating hours,” informs Llewellyn.
Built in 1869, Saint Paul’s United Church in Orillia is still used for church services, but it’s also home to the Orillia Music School. “The Great Hall is a 400-seat performing arts centre with a state-of-the-art sound system, lighting, comfortable audience chairs, and a well-appointed artists’ green room. We’ve hosted music festivals, theatrical performances, concerts of all musical genres, speaking presentations, as well as gala dinners and shows,” says Anna Proctor, Communications Coordinator for St. Paul’s Centre in Orillia.
St. Paul’s Centre
Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church
Orillia Opera House
Leacock Museum National Historic Site