Gananoque, Ontario

By: 1000 Islands

Communities

Directly across the river from Clayton, Gananoque similarly has long been a year-round village, a trading center for the surrounding countryside, rather than merely a seasonal resort. Scenic environs of the Admiralty and Lake Fleet groups of islands attracted visitors, however, and the major inn here has welcomed them since 1896.

The river is seven miles wide here. Five-mile long Grindstone Island lies between the villages, so they seem more remote from one another than may be expected. At one time a ferry connected the two communities, however, and steamboats stopped at both on their regular routes.

As Clayton has developed its Antique Boat Museum as its distinctive institution and attraction, so Gananoque now has its Casino--the only gaming facility in the region.

The casino, accessible directly from America's busiest highway, is more oriented to the road than the water.

Highway 401 has also brought throngs of visitors to Gananoque in recent years, patronizing not merely the casino but the excellent theatres, restaurants, and lodgings that have made Gananoque one of the premier destinations of the region. Gananoque is one of several major ports for boat tours of the islands.

Gananoque is host to special events of wide interest, like the Festival of the Islands and the Poker Run. It's attractions, however, are also regular. Two theaters and several fine restaurants draw visitors nightly through the season. Those coming from afar find quality accomodations at the historic inn and several bed-and-breakfast lodgings.

Centerpiece of the village, the 1831 John McDonald House serves as the town hall. The handsome historic structure stands in an attractive park, bordering the Gananoque River with fountain and swans.

Gananoque provides a model for commercial development: Heritage Village on the waterfront effectively employs the local tradition of nineteenth-century resort buildings, arranged in a well maintained park setting. A book store and gift shops attract many visitors, as do adjacent boat tour docks.

Centerpiece of Heritage Village is the Arthur Child Heritage Museum. A historical display, a gallery of changing exhibits, and a fine craft shop occupy two floors of the building constructed as a visitor facility.

The waterfront development, opened in 1995, is an example of a project enabled by local, provincial, federal, and private collaboration.  Funding came from the Gananoque Municipal Government, Provincial and Federal Governments, together with Brockville-Leeds Community Futures program and benefactor Arthur Child, who donated funds for the museum to inform the public about the history, life and times of the Thousand Islands region.

Tourists throng the Gananoque waterfront, attracted by the boat tours that embark from the Heritage Village area.

Although some of its important main street structures were lost to modern development, Gananoque retains some remarkable historic buildings, like the distinctive tower, built with "entasis," the Greek curvature of vertical lines, seen on classical columns. A Boston architect, Franklin Townsend [Frank T.] Lent, designed the Stone Street landmark as well as the Clayton Opera House and many cottages, mostly in the Gananoque vicinity.

The book Ah Wilderness! provides more information about the architect and some of his local buildings.

Posted in: Communities



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