Lindsay’s attractions: Then and now, let us ‘count our blessings’

By Ian McKechnie

Lindsay’s attractions: Then and now, let us 'count our blessings'
Downtown Lindsay in the old days.

Earlier this year, a story appeared in the pages of the local press revealing that the City of Kawartha Lakes ranked eighty-fourth on a list of “2018 millennial hotspots” compiled by a real estate think tank based in Saskatchewan.

Many residents were bemused by this story, with the municipality’s acting Director of Economic Development quoted in Kawartha Lakes This Week as asking “what on Earth are we doing on this list?”

Columnist Ian McKechnie.

As a millennial (a term I have never particularly liked), and as one who has endured good-natured ribbing from siblings and relatives about just why I have chosen to remain in Lindsay rather than move to some major metropolis, I too was intrigued by what our region’s ranking on this list says ‒ or rather, doesn’t say ‒ about our community, its character, and why smaller towns like Lindsay still have much to offer.

The temptation to evaluate Lindsay solely by what it doesn’t have or doesn’t offer isn’t a new phenomenon, as the following story reveals. Dating to the first decade or so of the 20th Century, when Lindsay was a very different community than it is now, this article from our past has much to teach us:


Ten Leaders but there are others Points all should tell about

As compared with Peterboro, Lindsay attracts very few large gatherings or conventions or excursions, even, and the question naturally arises, “Who is to blame, the citizens or the town?” We claim the citizens are to blame. The town itself has plenty of inducements to offer in the way of attracting such assemblages.  Following are the fundamentals:

  1. Lindsay is prettily situated.
  2. Lindsay has lovely water trips, with most convenient connections to pleasure resorts.
  3. Lindsay has a good opera house and town hall to meet in.
  4. Lindsay has abundant up-to-date accommodation for visitors.
  5. Lindsay has the best of railroad connections ‒ Grand Trunk and C.P.R.
  6. Lindsay has a special brand of hospitality for visitors.
  7. Lindsay is a budding city, with bright prospects.
  8. Lindsay has the finest main street in Ontario and the widest.
  9. Lindsay has a number of prosperous manufacturing establishments.
  10. Lindsay has the greatest mileage of granolithic walks of any town of its size in Canada.

Let our citizens and Board of Trade get busy and boom Lindsay, as one of the best towns in Canada, with mighty few in the same class.

Though we no longer enjoy “the best of railroad connections,” the other eight or nine attractions continue to define our community. We continue to be “prettily situated.” The Trent-Severn Waterway continues to offer “lovely water trips.” Our “opera house” is second-to-none (as those of us who took in the Academy Theatre’s recent 125th anniversary celebrations can attest). We enjoy fine restaurants, and the new Days Inn on Angeline Street carries forward Lindsay’s “special brand of hospitality for visitors.”

While the “prosperous manufacturing establishments” which brought a great deal of business to Lindsay in its first 100 years have by and large disappeared, new establishments are making their presence felt, establishments which are utilizing modern technology to its fullest potential.

One thinks here of Bruce and Sharon Vandenberg’s Mariposa Dairy and Ryan Oliver’s Pinnguaq, for instance. As these businesses grow and develop, they will no doubt attract skilled individuals representing a variety of demographics to the community.

Lindsay’s attractions: Then and now, let us 'count our blessings'
Lindsay’s riverside.

With this growth (“a budding city with bright prospects”), the question of balance naturally arises. How do we balance growth and development with the small-town ambiance that attracts so many visitors and potential citizens to our community in the first place? How do we balance the beautiful and fertile agrarian landscape which has long defined us with the necessities of highway widening and housing development?

These questions are not for me to answer, but they do spur us on to think about what of the above-mentioned attractions might be irreplaceably lost if that balance isn’t achieved.

Lindsay is very fortunate in that it hasn’t demolished its historic downtown core and attempted to start all over again. Other communities throughout southern Ontario have not been nearly as lucky, with many a business block, heritage home, and industrial complex obliterated from the landscape between the 1950s and 1990s in the name of “progress” and “urban renewal.” Much of this credit goes to the late Leonard Shea, who for many years chaired the Lindsay Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee.

Most of the landmarks which our ancestors knew ‒ the castle-like tower gracing St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, the Lindsay Fire Hall, the Academy Theatre, the brick business blocks on either side of “the finest main street in Ontario” ‒ continue to define our community.

Where older buildings have become derelict or unattractive, clever entrepreneurs have sought to revitalize them.  The soon-to-be-opened Pie Eyed Monk Brewery, in the 150 year-old C.L. Baker building on Cambridge Street, is an excellent example.  A community which repurposes its heritage buildings for new and creative uses (e.g. craft beer), rather than wiping them clean from the slate, will entice people to stay awhile.

Some of our best attractions, though (and ones that have certainly kept this writer here) have nothing to do with downtown revitalization. These include quiet rural roads over which I have enjoyed many a summer evening bike ride, passing through pastoral landscapes en route and finishing up in Victoria Park, with a refreshing milkshake from Kawartha Dairy, as I listen to the sound the little waterfall beautifying the middle of that historic green space.

Such attractions are a far cry from the dazzling financial and entertainment districts of Toronto and New York, or the hip environs of Victoria and Guelph, but they are ones which make our community unique.

And so, dear reader, I invite you ‒ in the words of that old Sunday school song ‒ to “count your blessings, name them one by one” and add your own favourites to that century-old list of attractions with which our town is richly blessed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.