Grand Bend, Ontario Canada

Discover Grand Bend, Ontario: A Historical and Touristic Overview

Grand Bend, Ontario, is a charming community nestled on the shores of Lake Huron in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. It forms part of the Municipality of Lambton Shores in Lambton County.

The History of Grand Bend, Ontario

In the 1830s, a group of English and Scottish settlers purchased lots from the Canada Company, a land development firm. Benjamin Brewster, one of the original settlers, and his business partner David Smart, secured rights to dam the Ausable River and started a sawmill in 1832. This gave birth to the village, Brewster's Mills, which was mainly inhabited by the families of millhands and fishermen.

For two decades, Brewster existed as an isolated lumbering community. It wasn't until the opening of the highway to Goderich in 1850 that the village began to diversify its economy. With improved road connections, new business opportunities emerged.

Throughout its history, the village has assumed many names— Brewster's Mills, Websterville, and Sommerville are all recorded. Early French Canadian settlers referred to the present location of the village as "Aux Crochet", meaning 'at the bends'. The name Grand Bend survived, likely due to its appropriateness— the tight hairpin turn in the original Ausable River where mills were first established.

Land Ownership Controversies in Grand Bend, Ontario

The Noble v Alley Case

The arrival of the automobile and improved roads greatly influenced the growth of Grand Bend. The town became a summer destination, with businesses established to serve visitors and travellers along the highway. However, in the 1940s, Grand Bend became the centre of a major controversy in the landmark court case of Noble v Alley. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a restrictive covenant prohibiting the ownership of lots or cottages by persons of "Jewish, Hebrew, Semitic, Negro or coloured race or blood" was invalid.

The Gibbs v Grand Bend Case

In the late 1980s, a landowner claimed ownership of the entire north beach of Grand Bend, amounting to 1.78 hectares (4.4 acres), by virtue of a land grant given to the Canada Company in 1836. The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the initial ruling in 1995, stating that the owners had lost ownership due to implied dedication and acceptance for public recreational use.

Grand Bend, Ontario: Present Day

Today, Grand Bend is home to a variety of stores and eateries. The main strip is the centre of activity in the town, with shopping during the day and nightlife venues during the evening drawing crowds. The town has earned a reputation of being "Florida north."

Grand Bend also serves as a regional cultural centre, boasting art galleries in the town and the Huron Country Playhouse on the outskirts. The 2021 population of Grand Bend was 3,031, which increases to about 50,000 in the summer months on holiday weekends.

The Pinery Provincial Park and the Lambton Heritage Museum are located seven kilometres south of Grand Bend. Also, in the vicinity one can explore a number of 'Gems of Nature' accessible by marked and maintained hiking trails.

Grand Bend Motorplex has a dragstrip that hosts an International Hot Rod Association race and the IHRA Canadian Nationals, Canada's longest running and largest drag race.