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Gravenhurst, Ontario

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Title: Gravenhurst, Ontario  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Northern Railway of Canada, Severn Bridge, Ontario, Ontario Highway 169, Lake Muskoka, Bracebridge, Ontario
Collection: Municipalities in the District Municipality of Muskoka, Towns in Ontario
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Gravenhurst, Ontario

Town (lower-tier)
Town of Gravenhurst
Gravenhurst Main street
Gravenhurst Main street
Motto: Wealth & Industry
Gravenhurst is located in Southern Ontario
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
District Muskoka
 • Mayor Paisley Donaldson
 • Federal riding Parry Sound—Muskoka
 • Prov. riding Parry Sound—Muskoka
 • Land 518.59 km2 (200.23 sq mi)
Population (2011)[2]
 • Total 12,055
 • Density 23.2/km2 (60/sq mi)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Postal Code P1P
Area code(s) 705

Gravenhurst is a town in the Muskoka Region of Ontario, Canada. It is located approximately 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Bracebridge, Ontario. The mayor is Paisley Donaldson. The Town of Gravenhurst includes a large area of the District of Muskoka, known to Ontarians as "cottage country." The town centre borders on two lakes: Lake Muskoka, which is the largest lake in the region, and Gull Lake, a smaller cottage-bordered lake. Another lake, Kahshe Lake, is situated 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south of the town.


  • History 1
  • Original townships 2
  • Transportation 3
  • Education 4
  • Demographics 5
  • Notable residents 6
  • The Muskoka Wharf 7
  • Winter Carnival 8
  • Camp 20 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


Opera House in Gravenhurst

Gravenhurst was originally known as McCabes Landing and later as Sawdust City. Gravenhurst was named by a postal official who was reading the treatise GRAVENHURST OR THOUGHTS ON GOOD AND EVIL.

Gravenhurst's economic prosperity stemmed from the construction of a colonization road in the 1850s. Steamboating on the Muskoka lakes began in the 1860s. The town is located strategically at the northern terminus of the Toronto, Simcoe and Muskoka Junction Railway. The town is positioned as the "Gateway to Muskoka".[3]

Nearby Muldrew Lake was named after the lake's second cottager, Dr. William Hawthorne Muldrew. He was the principal of the first Gravenhurst high school in 1894. In 1901 he published a book called Sylvan Ontario, A Guide to Our Native Trees and Shrubs. It was the first book published on this subject in Ontario, and the drawings were his own. All the different types of trees and shrubs of Muskoka could be seen at the school, as he transplanted many of the specimens from Muldrew Lake.

In 1942 the Royal Norwegian Air Force moved their training camp (Little Norway) from Toronto to Muskoka airfield near Gravenhurst. The Norwegians remained in Gravenhurst almost to the end of World War II in 1945.[4] From 1940 to 1946 Gravenhurst was the site of Camp XX, the Gravenhurst Internment Camp, for Nazi Prisoners of War, known locally as "the Muskoka officers club". Before the war it was the Calydor Sanitarium. After the war it was turned into a TB sanitarium, again, and later became a kosher resort called The Gateway.

Original townships

The Town of Gravenhurst includes these original townships from the 1800s:

  • Wood Township (eastern half)
  • Morrison Township
  • Ryde Township
  • Muskoka Township


Gravenhurst also declares itself the "Gateway to the Muskoka Lakes" and has a large gate bearing this message hanging over Muskoka District Road 420, the main road leading into town from Highway 11. The gate had been removed but was rebuilt in 2009 and stands again at the south end of town. It is the home port of the RMS Segwun, the oldest vessel powered by a working steam engine in North America.

The Gravenhurst railway station along the Northlander line stopped passenger service in the Fall of 2012.


Located on the shore of Lake Muskoka since 1949 Gravenhurst has been home to the Ontario Fire College. The College run by the Province of Ontario, under the Fire Marshall's Office, offers training and education programs which are based on the Ontario Fire Service Standards. Courses are available to members of any Ontario municipal fire department, whether full-time or volunteer. The campus also provides a location for Ontario Provincial Police marine and K-9 training.

Public education consists of Gravenhurst High School, and two elementary schools administered by the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.[5]


In the 2011 Census, Statistics Canada originally reported that the Town of Gravenhurst had a population of 11,640 living in 4,674 of its 7,757 total dwellings, a 5.4% change from its 2006 population of 11,046.[8] Statistics Canada subsequently amended the 2011 census results to a population of 12,055 living in 4,845 of its 8,202 total dwellings, a 9.1% change from 2006.[2] With a land area of 518.59 km2 (200.23 sq mi), it had a population density of 22.5670/km2 (58.4482/sq mi) in 2011.[2][8]

In 2006, Gravenhurst's population was 95.6% white, 2.0% Aboriginal and 2.4% visible minorities.[6] In the summer months, Gravenhurst has a population of approximately 34,000 due to cottagers coming up to stay for the summer.

Age Structure [6]

  • 0–14 years: 14.6%
  • 15–64 years: 64.3%
  • 65 years and over: 21.1%

Notable residents

Visitor center of Bethune Memorial House

The Muskoka Wharf

View of Muskoka Wharf from over the bay

The Muskoka Wharf located in Lake Muskoka in Gravenhurst was completed in 2005. The project cost $170 million and spreads across 89 acres. Before the new development was built, the wharf used to be used for lumber and boat building industries.[9] It was also the entry point to the lakes. Years ago, a train would arrive at the wharf three times a day with passengers coming to Muskoka looking to settle.

Today, the wharf is full of retailers and restaurants like Boston Pizza and the Blue Willow Tea Shop. The wharf hosts a number of events in the summer including Pirate Fest and the Gravenhurst farmers’ market. There are also condominiums and a Marriott hotel for those looking to spend some time in Gravenhurst.[9]

Winter Carnival

Every year Gravenhurst has a winter carnival for the community to enjoy. There are events for every age at the carnival including donut eating contests, sno-yoga, ball hockey, a polar dip, and arm wrestling. The town has several dances for anyone ages nineteen and older as well as fireworks on Sunday for the closing ceremony. The fireworks take place at the Muskoka Wharf.[10]

Camp 20

Between 1940 and 1946 Gravenhurst was home to a German Prisoner of War camp known as Camp 20. The camp is also referred to as Camp Calydor and Muskoka Officer’s Club. Many describe Camp 20 as a vacation for the prisoners of war. The camp had a swimming area fenced in on Lake Muskoka where the prisoners could bathe. By the end of the first summer, Camp 20 held 489 prisoners. They were taken around Gravenhurst to work on various projects. The prisoners of war built a set of stone steps leading down to the waterfront which can still be seen at Gull Lake Park today. They also built a light house in the park.

The camp also had its own small zoo that had a monkey and a black bear that prisoners would wrestle as a form of exercise. The camp had its own gardens where the prisoners would grow their own vegetables and they were able to smoke sausages from the local animals. Some prisoners of war said that they became friends with the guards who sought to make the place as friendly as possible to avoid escapes. Many prisoners had the opportunity to work outside of the camp and lumber camps and received a small wage as well as access to the outside world. Through this access to the outside world many German prisoners of war had love affairs with the local girls.

Ulrich Steinhilper, a German fighter ace who shot down five RAF airplanes during the Battle of Britain before himself being shot down, was one of the prisoners here; he made at least five attempts to escape from various camps, his last two attempts being at Gravenhurst.

Today, all that remains of Camp 20 is concrete pillars, a fire hydrant, and the outline of a fence. There is an information kiosk at the end of Lorne Street where visitors can go to get more information on the camp.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Gravenhurst census profile".  
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Corrections and updates". Statistics Canada. 2012-10-24. Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  3. ^ Ontario Heritage Trust Founding of Gravenhurst
  4. ^ Per Conradi Hansen, Little Norway - A message of Liberty to the Hills of Home, ISBN 978-82-997663-0-2
  5. ^ "Schools". Trillium Lakelands District School Board. Retrieved March 29, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c "2006 Community Profiles".  
  7. ^ "2001 Community Profiles".  
  8. ^ a b "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and census subdivisions (municipalities), 2011 and 2006 censuses (Ontario)".  
  9. ^ a b The Town of Gravenhurst. “Muskoka Wharf”. Discover Muskoka. Retrieved February, 2013 from:
  10. ^ Wingston. “Gravenhurst Winter Carnival”. The Gravenhurst Opera House. Retrieved February 21, 2013 from:
  11. ^ “Canada’s Posh POW Camps”. CBC Digital Archives. 2012. Video. Retrieved February 20, 2013 from:

External links

  • Town of Gravenhurst
  • Gravenhurst Fire Department
  • Muskoka Wharf
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