In a world that equates progress with skyscrapers and suburbia, maybe it's a surprise to experience the rural tranquility of Northumberland. Here, church spires and farm silos still outnumber apartment towers and the major landmarks are buildings that are well beyond the century mark. In fact, it's like an open-air museum of 19th-century architectural history.
The most ambitious buildings are found in towns, particularly Cobourg and Port Hope, where the well-to-do flaunted their status in a continuous game of architectural one-upmanship. Even the smaller places--Brighton, Campbellford and Warkworth--have their share of architectural ambitions while in the countryside, the humble farmhouses have a charm all their own.
Here's an introduction to some of our architectural gems:
- Victoria Hall - Cobourg's landmark municipal building was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1860. It remains one of the best examples of its kind in all of Canada. See the beautifully restored courtroom.
- Walton Street, Port Hope - No question about it: Port Hope's main drag lives up to its claim as the "best preserved Main Street in Ontario."
- Highway 2 Farmstead Tour - Some of Northumberland's oldest and most beautiful farmhouses are found on the Lake Ontario front, along Highway 2 between Port Hope, Cobourg, Colborne and Brighton. A great route for house-spotting.
- Port Hope Town Hall - Built in 1856 and rebuilt after a fire in 1893, the Town Hall is a landmark along the Ganaraska River in downtown Port Hope
- King Street, Cobourg - Nicely preserved business area whose focus is the cupola of Victoria Hall. All small-town downtowns should be as attractive as Cobourg's.
- Capitol Theatre, Port Hope - Built specifically for "talkies" in 1930, this is one of the few "atmospheric" theatres ever built in Canada: interior and exterior architecture adopts a castle theme. In 2016, the theatre was designated as a national historic site.
- Warkworth - A jewel in the rolling countryside, this farm village has taken on a new life, its main street lined with boutiques and restaurants.
- St. Peter's Church, Cobourg - Probably the most ambitious church in Cobourg and one of the oldest; dominates King Street E.
- Dorset Street, Port Hope - There's hardly a better collection of stately Victorian homes in Ontario than on Port Hope's most affluent street. King and Augusta deserve honourable mentions.
- Gore's Landing - Probably the prettiest of the Rice Lake villages, this little port even has a gazebo on the town dock.
- VIA Rail Station, Port Hope - Tucked into an out-of-the-way corner, the humble 1850s limestone railway station is one of the best preserved and last of its kind still in use along the Windsor-Montreal corridor.
- St. Mark's Church, King St., Port Hope - Not as ornate as some, but what a charming little church. Governor-General Vincent Massey is buried here.
- Presqu'ile Lighthouse - Lighting the way along the treacherous Lake Ontario shore since 1840; south of Brighton in Presqu'ile Provincial Park.
- Rice Lake Scenic Drive - This is probably Ontario's oldest cottage country, with a view of the lake at every turn, between Gore's Landing and Harwood.
- Victoria College - Part of the University of Toronto since 1892, Victoria College actually began as a Methodist college in Cobourg in 1836. The domed building is a downtown landmark, rivalled only by Victoria Hall.