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Peterborough, Ontario

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Peterborough, OntarioPeterborough is a city on the Otonabee River in central Ontario, Canada, 125 kilometres (78 mi) northeast of Toronto. The population of the City of Peterborough was 78,698, while the census metropolitan area (CMA) has a population of 118,975 as of the 2011 census. It presently ranks as the 33rd largest CMA in Canada. The current mayor of Peterborough is Daryl Bennett.

Peterborough is known as the gateway to the Kawarthas, "cottage country", a large recreational region of the province. It is named in honour of Peter Robinson, an early Canadian politician who oversaw the first major immigration to the area. The city is the seat of Peterborough County and since 1983 has been sister city to Ann Arbor, Michigan.


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Pre-European Settlement Era

First Nations groups followed retreating glaciers into the area 11,000 years ago. Woodland Natives inhabited the area circa 1000 BC to AD 1000, followed by Iroquois and Mississaugas circa 1740. Two of the more prominent sites surviving from this time are the petroglyphs at Petroglyphs Provincial Park and Serpent Mounds. The petroglyphs are located northeast of Peterborough and are generally believed to have been carved by the Algonquin people between 900 and 1400 CE, although there are alternative theories which are not as widely held. The Serpent Mounds are located near Keene, approximately 30 km southeast of Peterborough in Otonabee-South Monaghan township, in an area first inhabited over 2000 years ago. 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 and stayed for a brief time near the present-day site of Bridgenorth, just north of Peterborough.

19th Century

Peterborough 19th CenturyIn 1818, Adam Scott settled on the west shore of the Otonabee River. The following year he began construction of a sawmill and gristmill, 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. The year 1825 marked the arrival of 1,878 Irish immigrants from the city of Cork. In 1822, the British Parliament had approved an experimental emigration plan to transport poor Irish families to Upper Canada. The scheme was managed by Peter Robinson, at the time a politician in York (present-day Toronto). Scott's Plains was renamed Peterborough in his honour.

In 1845, Sandford Fleming, inventor of Standard Time and designer of Canada's first postage stamp, moved to the city to live with Dr. John Hutchison and his family, staying until 1847. Dr. John Hutchison was one of Peterborough's first resident doctors. Peterborough 1850 was incorporated as a town, with a population of 2,191. Beginning in the late 1850s, a substantial canoe building industry grew up in and around Peterborough. The Peterborough Canoe Company was founded in 1893, with the factory being built on the site of the original Adam Scott mill. By 1930, 25% of all employees in the boat building industry in Canada worked in the Peterborough area. The period from 1928–36 saw the establishment of the Johnson Motor Company/Outboard Marine (the makers of motorised boat engines) as an outgrowth of the original industry. Peterborough would also see extensive industrial growth as the city was one of the first places in the country to begin generating hydro electrical power (even before the plants at Niagara Falls). Companies like Edison General Electric Company (later Canadian General Electric) and America Cereal Company (later to become Quaker Oats, and in 2001 PepsiCo, Inc.), opened to take advantage of this new cheap resource.

20th Century and Onwards

Peterborough 20th Century and OnwardsThe first major events of the 20th Century in Peterborough occurred in 1904. The first occurrence was the village of Ashburnham, founded in 1859 and situated on the eastern shore of the Otonabee River, being annexed to Peterborough. This significantly increased the size of the growing city. This area of the city is still referred to as "East City" by local residents and is regarded as a somewhat separate entity to Peterborough proper. It has maintained an identity within the city and is one of the more well known neighbourhoods. The second 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 memorialise 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. In 1905, Peterborough was incorporated as a city on Dominion Day, with a population of about 14,300. The city's flag and coat of arms were adopted later, in 1951.

In the 1970s, the Ontario Government helped sponsor the building of Peterborough Square with the aid of the Ontario Downtown Renewal Programme (ODRP). The mall was anchored by an Eaton's store until the collapse of the Eaton's chain of stores in the late 1990s; it now houses offices, stores and a food court. The provincial government relocated the central office of the Ministry of Natural Resources to 300 Water Street, kitty corner from Peterborough Square. With two post-secondary educational institutions, Trent University and Fleming College, the region has a wealth of research and labour development opportunities. On top of all of the advantageous economic and market-access factors Peterborough is located in one of Canada's premier lake districts—the Kawarthas—providing sport, recreation and lifestyle opportunities. In 2008, a new regional hospital officially opened in Peterborough. On July 15, 2004, 235 mm of rain was dropped in Peterborough backlogging the city's sewer system, resulting in a large flood. No casualties were reported, but many homes in Peterborough had flooded basements and/or main floors. A similar event having happened just 2 years before in 2002.


Peterborough is situated in South Eastern Ontario, on the north-eastern edge of the Greater Golden Horseshoe and heart of the Kawartha Lakes region in Ontario. Peterborough lies in the St. Lawrence Lowlands ecoregion in Canada, just south of the Canadian Shield and about 35 kilometres north of Lake Ontario. The city is centred around a series of rapids in the Otonabee River, approximately halfway between where it begins at Katchewanooka Lake and where it empties into Rice Lake. The urban area of Peterborough 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.


The South End and Downtown portions of the City sit on what was the bottom of the glacial Lake Peterborough, the remnants of which now form the Otonabee River. This area of relatively low and flat relief (approximately 191–200 m (625–645 ft.) above sea level) is prone to flooding, exemplified in the major flood that occurred on July 15, 2004. The elevation quickly rises to the west, north, and east where a series of hills (the Peterborough Drumlin field) dominate the landscape. Much of the land in the North and West Ends of the City rises to 230–274 metres (750–900 feet) above sea level, with the recently annexed Tower Hill, at 286 m (942 ft.) a.s.l., being the highest point in the City. Armour Hill, another prominent drumlin located in East City, forms the physical obstacle which the Trent-Severn Waterway ascends by way of the Peterborough Lift Lock. Approximately 15 kilometres south of the city, runs the eastern section of the Oak Ridges Moraine.


By the Köppen climate classification, Peterborough falls under Dfb classification, which categorizes it as a Warm Summer Continental region, it lies in a transitional zone between areas south, which have a milder winter climate and to the north in the Canadian Shield, where the winters are snowier and sharply colder. Peterborough's Hardiness zone is 5a. 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. In the South End and south of the City, the Moraine acts as a barrier for weather patterns coming 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. It is usually a degree or two warmer, especially at night, in the downtown area (along the Trent River) than at the Airport observation site.



Peterborough Economy
Top Eight Major Employers  
Employer Employment Numbers  
Peterborough Regional Health Centre 2075
Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board 2050
General Electric 1450
City of Peterborough 1267
Fleming College 1100
Ministry of Natural Resources 895
Trent University 700
PepsiCo Foods (Quaker) 700

No longer the dominant local industry, manufacturing is still one of the key sectors along with food processing, automotive supplies, electronics, aerospace and life sciences/biotechnology. General Electric and Quaker Oats maintain large operations in Peterborough, as well, the city is also a 'bedroom' community for workers commuting to Oshawa and East Toronto. The Peterborough Regional Health Centre is the largest employer, planning to hire 800 more over the next three years, adding to its current employment total of over 2,000. School boards, local government, Trent University and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources are other large employers.

Companies like General Electric have had a major impact on the growth of the city. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of the early 1990s saw a major shift in trading patterns for many Canadian companies. Other innovations like just in time delivery and pressure to produce ever cheaper goods impacted some of the large multi-nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. GE operations in Peterborough consists of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada, GE Hydro and World Air. Despite this, today GE, PepsiCo Quaker, Siemens and numerous smaller manufacturing companies are experiencing significant growth. Minute Maid (Coca-Cola) recently invested $CDN20 million in a new warehouse and product line while auto parts supplier Ventra has doubled in size. United Canadian Malt Ltd. is a manufacturer of a wide variety of extracts of malted barley, and other grains. Manufacturing job creation kept pace with the provincial average from 1991–2001. Lower costs, reliable labour and high quality post-secondary institutions are a competitive advantage for Peterborough. Peterborough was ranked number one location for business in Ontario by Canadian Business magazine in late 2004. Peterborough is a major shopping destination for the region and is home to three shopping centres; Peterborough Square, located at George and Simcoe Streets, Portage Place at 1154 Chemong Road, and Lansdowne Place at 645 Lansdowne Street West. All have undergone major renovations in recent years. Wal-Mart, Costco and Real Canadian Superstore have large stores in Peterborough, which draw clients from the surrounding area.

Arts and culture

Peterborough Downtown District
Peterborough, ON on the 9th floor of an apartment building, looking south onto the Downtown district

Artspace is one of Canada's oldest artist-run art centres, founded in 1974. Its mandate is to support the growth and development of contemporary artists. Artspace maintains a public gallery. Noted artist David Bierk was one of the founding members. The Art Gallery of Peterborough was also founded in 1974 and features rotating exhibitions by local, national, and international artists. Peterborough is also home of the Kawartha Artists Gallery, a group of amateur artists. Formed in 1991, under the leadership of Monica Jackson, the KAGS meets in the basement of the De La Fosse Library in Peterborough's south end. A variety of artists meet there: Weavers, Monday mornings; Life Drawing, Tuesday mornings; Still Life, Wednesday mornings; Portrait, Wednesday afternoons (September–June); and Outdoor Artists, Thursday mornings (indoors October–April). There are a number of single artist and multi-member exhibits in paint (abstract and representational), various media and photography.

Peterborough New Dance and Public Energy was founded by Bill Kimball in 1994, and is a presenter and animator of contemporary dance and performance. It is the only full-time presenter of contemporary dance in Ontario outside of Toronto and Ottawa. The organization also supports the development of local dance and performance artists, produces the annual Emergency festival of new dance featuring area artists, and presents indigenous performing artists. The Peterborough Symphony Orchestra was incorporated in 1967, with historical roots reaching back before the turn of the century. The PSO presents symphonic music. Music Director Michael Newnham has led the organization since 2001, which offers concerts and educational outreach programming to Peterborough and beyond. The Peterborough Singers: the choir's membership originally formed within the scope of the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra in 1990 and was known as the "Peterborough Symphony Singers." However, in 1993, the Peterborough Singers (PS) was incorporated as a stand-alone entity. Under the direction of Sydney Birrell and a dedicated group of volunteers, the choir has grown into a highly regarded ensemble of some ninety to one hundred members. In fact, its reputation is such that world-class, professional Canadian soloists have come back time and again to perform with the choir.

The Peterborough Folk Festival was founded in 1989 by a collective of artists; this three-day August festival has supported a number of local and Canadian artists. Its Emerging Artist Award, founded in 2001 by Reverend Ken Ramsden, has honoured Serena Ryder, James McKenty, Kate LeDeuce, Sean Conway, Melissa Payne and Benj Rowland amongst others. The Starfire Band was originally formed in 1999 by Peter Ford. It was an offshoot of the Kawartha Wind Symphony, which was composed of the older generation of musicians. The Starfire Band was created for the younger generation of musicians and consists of students from Grade 7 to Grade 12 in the Peterborough area who are interested in music, not necessarily with any or much experience. Peterborough has a resident professional theatre company; New Stages. Founded in 1997 by Randy Read, New Stages produces new Canadian and American plays, and runs a highly successful reading series of "edgier" work. New Stages is a fully equity company and uses both Showplace Peterborough and the Market Hall Performing Arts Centre. Peterborough is also well known for its thriving music scene, and is home to musicians and bands such as Hawk Nelson, I Mother Earth, The Spades, Thousand Foot Krutch, Rick Fines, Jimmy Bowskill, Reverend Ken Ramsden, The Burning Hell, The Silver Hearts, and Washboard Hank, amongst many others.


Peterborough and the Kawarthas offer a multitude of attractions and events for all demographics. Rich in heritage, 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 a vibrant 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. Walter Seymour Allward designed a municipal cenotaph, the Peterborough Memorial (1929), Valour Defeating Barbarism. 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 is also the world's highest hydraulic lift lock with a rise of 65 feet (19.8 m).

Peterborough AttractionsDel Crary Park is a large urban greenspace on Little Lake, located in close proximity to downtown Peterborough. The Chemong Yacht Club clubhouse was designed by John Belcher (architect) in 1905. Free outdoor events and concerts are held here during the summer months, including the international Festival of Lights music and fireworks displays, Wednesday and Saturday evenings from June through August. The Festival of Lights has recently been renamed the Little Lake Music Fest after the fireworks display was removed due to budget cuts for the 2010 season. 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.

Showplace Performance Centre is a 647-seat, state of the art performance facility located downtown that opened in 1996. The Canadian Canoe Museum, located on Monaghan Road, is a unique national heritage centre that explores the canoe's enduring significance to the peoples of North America. The Riverview Park & Zoo is a 55.5-acre (22.5 ha) 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 WWI, WWII and the Korean War. Peterborough also contains Wild Water & Wheels Amusement Park containing the world's only operating auto sled coaster.

Annual events

  • Artsweek - annual celebration of the arts in Peterborough, held in September
  • Downtown Countdown - alcohol/drug-free New Year's Eve celebration (website currently down)
  • Emergency: Festival of New Dance and Performance by Peterborough Area Artists - festival held in late March/early April, produced by Public Energy and Peterborough New Dance
  • Festival of Trees - fundraiser in support of local healthcare built around a show of decorated Christmas trees and other seasonally-themed displays, late November, Memorial Centre but is now hosted down town Peterborough.
  • Peterborough Folk Festival - three-day music, arts and community festival, featuring free all-day outdoor event with five stages, traditionally held last weekend in August
  • The Ontario municipal holiday (held on the first Monday in August) which is called Simcoe Day in Toronto and Colonel By Day in Ottawa is called Peter Robinson Day locally
  • Little Lake MusicFest was formerly known as the Peterborough Summer Festival of Lights and is a free concert series on Wednesdays and Saturdays from June to August in Del Crary Park on George Street South
  • Peterborough Pride Week and Parade - spanning the last week of September with nightly events. Parade occurs on Saturday afternoon followed by attractions in Del Crary Park and a dance in the evening.
  • Peterborough Kinsmen Santa Claus Parade - first Saturday of December at 5:00 pm.
  • Multicultural Canada Day - Annual celebration with international food vendors and live entertainment held in Del Crary Park on July 1. Organized by the New Canadians Centre, the City of Peterborough, and other community partners.


School boards in Peterborough

The Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board (KPRDSB) is the public English language school board that serves the local area. Its headquarters are located at 1994 Fisher Drive, Peterborough. Over 35,000 students attend its schools and it encompasses almost 7,000 square kilometres, and takes the place of the former Peterborough County Board of Education and Northumberland-Clarington Board of Education. It stretches from the north of Peterborough County south to Lake Ontario, and from Hastings County in the east, to the City of Kawartha Lakes and the City of Oshawa in the west. As of 2010, the KPRDSB operates 82 elementary schools, 15 secondary schools and four adult learning centres serving both the urban area and the outlying rural communities. Of those, 16 elementary schools, five secondary schools and a single adult learning centre are located within the city.

The Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board is the Separate English language school board for the region. It is headquartered at 1355 Lansdowne Street West, Peterborough and presently operates 33 elementary schools and five secondary schools. Of these, nine elementary and two secondary schools operate within the city. The Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud is the Separate French language school board for the South-Central region of Ontario, which includes Peterborough. It presently operates 41 elementary schools and eight secondary schools, of which the only school in Peterborough is the elementary school Monseigneur-Jamot.

Post-secondary institutions

Trent University

Established in 1964, Trent University is a small liberal arts- and science-oriented institution. Trent's academic focus is on environmental, cultural and science studies. The main Symons Campus of Trent, located in the city's far north end, is approximately 14.6 square kilometres, over half of which is a part of Trent's Nature Areas, an ecologically diverse wild-life nature reserve. Trent University is divided into a series of colleges: Champlain, Lady Eaton, Catharine Parr Traill, Otonabee, Peter Gzowski and Julian Blackburn. Each college has its own residence hall, dining room and student government, except for Julian Blackburn, which consists only of part-time students and is located near downtown Peterborough.

Fleming College

Established in 1967, Fleming College, (formerly Sir Sandford Fleming College), is a multidisciplinary institution with two primary campuses within the city of Peterborough: McRae Campus is located in a renovated textile mill located on McDonnel Street near Monaghan Road and is home to the School of Continuing Education and Skilled Trades. Sutherland Campus is located on Brealey Drive in the city's west end, and has recently undergone a massive expansion. The new St. Joseph's at Fleming is the first long-term care facility to be built on a college or university campus. In 2005, the Peterborough Sport & Wellness Centre was constructed to accommodate the college's athletic needs. The college also operates satellite campuses in nearby Lindsay, Cobourg and Haliburton.


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Toronto Office
2273 Dundas Street West
Toronto ON  M6R-1X6
(416) 534-3511