Peterborough, Ontario: A Gateway to the Kawarthas

Peterborough, Ontario, is a city nestled on the Otonabee River, approximately 125 kilometres northeast of Toronto, Canada. As of the 2021 Census, the city had a population of 83,651, while the Peterborough Census Metropolitan Area, which includes the surrounding Townships of Selwyn, Cavan Monaghan, Otonabee-South Monaghan, and Douro-Dummer, had a population of 128,624. The city is known as the gateway to the Kawarthas, a large recreational region of the province, and is named in honour of Peter Robinson, an early Canadian politician who oversaw the first major immigration to the area.

History of Peterborough, Ontario

In 1615, Samuel de Champlain travelled through the area, coming down from Lake Chemong and portaging down a trail, which is approximated by present-day Chemong Road, to the Otonabee River. He stayed for a brief time near the present-day site of Bridgenorth, just north of Peterborough.

Peterborough, Ontario in the 19th Century

In 1818, Adam Scott settled on the west shore of the Otonabee River and began construction of a sawmill and gristmill the following year, establishing the area as Scott's Plains. The mill was located at the foot of present-day King Street and was powered by water from Jackson Creek. This location, adjacent to the Ontario government Ministry of Natural Resources building, and Peterborough's Millennium Park may have been the site of landfall for a portage which connects in a direct line with Bridgenorth. The site has an Ojibway name "Nogojiwanong" which means "the place at the end of the rapids".

The year 1825 marked the arrival of Irish immigrants from the City of Cork to Scott's Plains. In 1822, the British Parliament had approved an experimental emigration plan to transport poor Irish Catholic families to Upper Canada. Peter Robinson, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada and a prominent businessman from York, Upper Canada was the man who took on the emigration plan of 1825. Scott's Plains was renamed Peterborough in his honour.

By 1846, the community was flourishing, with a population of about 2000. A stone jail and court house had been built and there were seven churches and various government offices. There was a fire company, two newspapers and a post office that received mail daily. Industry included two grist mills, two saw mills, one brewery, one ashery, two distilleries, three foundries, three tanneries and tradesmen of various types worked here. One school and one bank agency were operating. Peterborough was incorporated as a town in 1850, with a population of 2,191.

Peterborough, Ontario in the 20th Century

The first major events of the 20th century in Peterborough occurred in 1904. The first occurrence was the completion of the Peterborough Lift Lock on July 9, eight years after construction was initially approved. To this day, many landmarks in Peterborough memorialize Richard Rogers, conceptual father of the Lift Lock, such as Rogers Cove on Little Lake and Rogers Street in the eastern part of the city.

On July 1, 1905, Peterborough was incorporated as a city with a population of about 14,300. The city's flag and coat of arms were adopted later, in 1951.

Geography of Peterborough, Ontario

Peterborough is situated in Central Ontario within the Kawartha Lakes region. Peterborough lies in the St. Lawrence Lowlands ecoregion, just south of the Canadian Shield and approximately 35 km (22 mi) north of Lake Ontario. The city is sited on a series of rapids in the Otonabee River, approximately halfway between the river's source (Katchewanooka Lake) and its mouth (Rice Lake). The city completely surrounds the only lake on the Otonabee, Little Lake, and the Trent Canal runs along the eastern edge of the city, connecting Little Lake to a section of the Otonabee above the rapids.

Topography of Peterborough, Ontario

Peterborough's topography is largely defined by land formations created by the receding Wisconsian glaciers 10,000–15,000 years ago. The South End and Downtown portions of the city sit on what was the bottom of the glacial Lake Peterborough—part of a glacial spillway created when glacial meltwaters from ancient Lake Algonquin (now Lake Huron) travelled south to ancient Lake Iroquois (now Lake Ontario). This area of relatively low and flat relief (approximately 191–200 m (627–656 ft) above sea level) is prone to flooding, exemplified in the major flood that occurred on July 15, 2004. The ground elevation rises to the west, north, and east where a large upland area (the Peterborough Drumlin field) defines the landscape. Much of the land in the north and west ends of the city rises to 230–274 m (755–899 ft) above sea level, with Tower Hill, at 286 m (938 ft) above sea level, being the highest point. Armour Hill, another prominent drumlin located in east city, forms the physical obstacle that the Trent-Severn Waterway ascends by way of the Peterborough Lift Lock. The Oak Ridges Moraine is located approximately 15 km (9.3 mi) south of the city.

Climate of Peterborough, Ontario

Peterborough has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) with four distinct seasons. It lies in a transitional zone between areas to the south, which have a milder winter climate, and areas to the north (within the Canadian Shield), where the winters are snowier and sharply colder. Peterborough's Hardiness zone is 5b. Peterborough's climate can be quite unpredictable and vary greatly from one part of the city to another due to the effects of the Oak Ridges Moraine and changes in elevation. In the south end and areas south of the city, the Moraine acts as a barrier for weather patterns moving off Lake Ontario, reducing precipitation. In the north and west ends of Peterborough the effects of the Moraine are not as prominent, at times creating slightly cooler temperatures and more precipitation than the more southern parts of the city and county. The highest temperature ever recorded in Peterborough was 38.9 °C (102.0 °F) on July 11, 1936. The coldest temperature ever recorded was −39.4 °C (−38.9 °F) on December 21, 1871.

Demographics of Peterborough, Ontario

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Peterborough had a population of 83,651 living in 35,977 of its 38,006 total private dwellings, a change of 3.2% from its 2016 population of 81,032. With a land area of 64.76 km2 (25.00 sq mi), it had a population density of 1,291.7/km2 (3,345.5/sq mi) in 2021. At the census metropolitan area (CMA) level in the 2021 census, the Peterborough CMA had a population of 128,624 living in 53,370 of its 57,761 total private dwellings, a change of 5.7% from its 2016 population of 121,721. With a land area of 1,508.44 km2 (582.41 sq mi), it had a population density of 85.3/km2 (220.8/sq mi) in 2021.

Ethnicity in Peterborough, Ontario

As of 2021, 85.7% of Peterborough residents were white/European, 9.4% were visible minorities and 5.0% were Indigenous. The largest visible minority groups were South Asian (3.1%), Black (1.4%), and Chinese (1.0%).

Language in Peterborough, Ontario

90.2% of the population spoke English as their mother tongue. Other common first languages were French (1.0%), Chinese languages (0.6%), and Arabic (0.5%).

Attractions in Peterborough, Ontario

Peterborough and the Kawarthas offer several attractions. The region is host to an array of museums, cultural exhibitions, indoor and outdoor galleries and theatres, Aboriginal heritage attractions and historical sites, as well as an arts community. The Peterborough Museum & Archives is home to a diverse collection of artifacts. It was established in 1897 and moved to its present site on Armour Hill in 1967. The Archives collection includes items from Catharine Parr Traill, the original Peter Robinson papers, the Park Studio Fonds and the Balsillie collection of Roy Studio Images, over 300,000 film and glass plate negatives dating back to 1896.

The Trent–Severn Waterway passes through Peterborough and includes the Peterborough Lift Lock, the world's largest hydraulic lift lock, which opened in 1904. It was for many years the world's highest hydraulic lift lock with a rise of 20 m (65 ft).

Del Crary Park is a large urban greenspace on Little Lake, located in close proximity to downtown Peterborough. Free outdoor events and concerts are held here during the summer months, including the international Peterborough Musicfest (formerly Festival of Lights & Little Lake Musicfest), Wednesday and Saturday evenings from June through August. The Art Gallery of Peterborough, opened in 1974, is situated on the shore of Little Lake beside Del Crary Park and features 1,300 pieces from around the world.

On Little Lake, there is a fountain called Centennial Fountain that runs from May to October yearly. This fountain has lights that are put on at dusk and is considered a local and tourist attraction.

Peterborough offers a sightseeing option called Liftlock and River Boat Cruise. This cruise boat takes passengers through the Peterborough Liftlock while broadcasting various facts about the city's sights and history. The cruise operates daily from mid-May to mid-October every year.

Showplace Performance Centre is a 647-seat performance facility located downtown that opened in 1996. The Canadian Canoe Museum, located on Monaghan Road, is a national heritage centre that explores the canoe's enduring significance to the peoples of North America.

Jackson Park contains old-growth forest with trees up to 250 years old. The 4.5 ha old-growth forest can be visited from the parking area at the north end of Monaghan Rd.

The Riverview Park & Zoo is a 22.5 ha (55.5-acre) zoo operated by the Peterborough Utilities Group at the north end of Water Street. In addition to its animal exhibits, the zoo features a miniature train ride and the park contains a disc golf course.

The Peterborough Skateboard park is one of the largest skateboard parks in Ontario. It includes several half-pipes as well as multiple ramps and rails. Its construction was sponsored by West 49.

The 'Wall Of Honour' monument was recently unveiled in Confederation Park across from City Hall on North George Street. It contains the names of the 11,300 servicemen and women from the Peterborough area who served in Canada's Armed Forces in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

Downtown Peterborough, Ontario

Peterborough's downtown is home to locally owned shops and restaurants including music stores, fine dining and jewellery stores.

Arts and Culture in Peterborough, Ontario

A portion of the Trent-Severn Canal below the lift lock is flooded and maintained for skating each winter. Beavermead Campground is located on Little Lake at the centre of Peterborough. Beavermead Campground has 98 individual campsites, 46 un-serviced and 52 serviced. Beavermead has rental options for kayaks and a supervised swimming area. There are multiple athletic fields and public washrooms on the grounds. Beavermead Park hosts the Soul Beach Volleyball program that facilitates games and recreation during the summer months.

Public Library in Peterborough, Ontario

The Peterborough Mechanics Institute, established in 1868, housed a subscription library that allowed members who paid a fee to borrow books. Mechanics Institutes were established across Ontario to make education universal and accessible to all citizens. In Peterborough, the Institute and the Library were located on Water Street. In May 1895, the Mechanics Institute became the Peterborough Public Library. The library remained on Water Street.

Later, the Peterborough Public Library received funding from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation and the new Carnegie Library located on George Street opened in 1911. This building is currently the Carnegie Wing of City Hall.

In February 1949, a branch library opened in the south end of Peterborough. It was situated above a hardware store and was a room measuring 50 by 20 feet. It was divided into two sections—one for children, the other for adults.

The DelaFosse Branch Library opened officially on December 1, 1965. The Peterborough Examiner declared that this branch at 729 Park Street S., made "south end residents the envy of the rest of the city." Currently, it holds a recreational reading collection of approximately 14,000 hardcover and paperback books for all ages. Recent additions to the collection include a variety of multimedia including CDs, DVDs, CD-ROMs and CD audio books. This branch library is named in honour of Frederick Montague de la Fosse, who was the Chief Librarian of Peterborough Public Library from 1910 to 1946.

The Main Library at 345 Aylmer Street N. opened on September 2, 1980. The new library was built on the site of the old fire hall and had about triple the floor space of the old Carnegie building. The opening ceremonies were held on September 17 and featured Dr. Robertson Davies, Master of Massey College, University of Toronto, as the keynote speaker. The Main Library was used in the filming of the 2008 American science fiction film Jumper.

Infrastructure in Peterborough, Ontario

Transportation in Peterborough, Ontario

Utilities in Peterborough, Ontario

Peterborough is served by Hydro One as of April 2020 and was purchased from the Peterborough Utilities Group (PUG), formerly the Peterborough Utilities Commission, for $1.05 million. Hydro One provides electricity and water to the city and its residents. It is currently entirely owned by the City of Peterborough. There have been new infrastructure developments that started expanding outside of city water and electricity distribution and have begun to develop and operate electricity generation (notably the 8 MW Trent Rapids hydroelectric project [2010] and the 10 MW Lily Lake Solar Farm [2011], which capitalize on the Province of Ontario's feed-in tariff program), telecom services, energy equipment rentals, and commercial metering services both in Peterborough and throughout the province. Natural gas for heating is provided locally by Enbridge Inc.

Sister Cities of Peterborough, Ontario

Peterborough, Ontario has been twinned with Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States since 1983.