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Orillia Ontario Birthplace to Legend Gordon Lightfoot

Orillia and Some of Its History

Orillia, Ontario, Canada is located in southern Ontario on two connected lakes named Couchiching and Simcoe. In 1867 (same birth year as Canada) the Village of Orillia was founded becoming a town in 1875 and a city in 1969. In the 1600’s Samuel d’Champlain visited Orillia and at Lake Couchiching Park you will find a bronze sculpture monument in his honor.


Interesting Facts on Orillia

  • In 1902 Orillia had the first municipal hydro electric transmission plant in America.
  • In 1936, the town of Orillia printed its own money.
  • Orillia means border, shore or bank in Spanish getting it’s name, which was suggested by lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, Sir Peregrine Maitland, who had served in Spain.
  • Couchiching in Ojibwe means "Inlet", Lake Couchiching means "Lake of Many Winds".


Ontario Hospital School

Ontario Hospital School

Orillia Asylum

  • Orillia Asylum originally was called Orillia Asylum for Idiots. They did however change the name to Ontario Hospital School and in 1974 it was renamed Huronia Regional Centre.
  • In 1960 there were approximately 2,800 developmentally challenged residents housed here.
  • In 1987 the government started closing these types of facilities and by 2009 the HRC was closed.
  • Currently the Ontario Provincial Police Academy are using the property, but it is for sale with a price tag of 6.5 million dollars.


In 1995 the General Headquarters for the Ontario Provincial Police opened its doors in Orillia allowing all bureaus to be in one building for the first time in history.

Ontario Provincial Police Headquarters

Ontario Provincial Police Headquarters

Stephen Leacock

Stephen Leacock

Stephen Leacock

Stephen Leacock, Canadian economist, writer and humorist born in England in 1869 moved to Canada when he was six years old. In the summers he lived at his families estate on Lake Simcoe. He later spent his summers on Brewery Bay in Orillia. The Stephen Leacock house is now a museum and a National Historic Site of Canada.

The Old Brewery Bay, Home of Stephen Leacock

The Old Brewery Bay, Home of Stephen Leacock

Stephen Leacock House in Orillia, Ontario

Stephen Leacock House in Orillia, Ontario

              Gordon Lightfoot   at The 2010 Mariposa Folk Festival

Gordon Lightfoot at The 2010 Mariposa Folk Festival

Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot musician, singer, songwriter was born in Orillia in 1938. As a youth Gordon would sing in the choir at St. Paul’s United Church in Orillia.

After graduating from Orillia District Collegiate Vocational Institute, ODCVI, Gordon went to school in California to study at Westlake College of Music.

When he returned to Canada he settled in Toronto, Ontario. Most summers he returns to Orillia to sing at the Mariposa Folk Festival held in July at Tudhope Park on Lake Couchiching. You can sometimes catch Gordon performing at the Orillia Opera House, in the Gordon Lightfoot Auditorium.

Gordon Lightfoot Ave., Orillia, Ontario

This can be seen off of Mississauga Street in Orillia. Both pictures have Gordon Lightfoot in them from when he sang as a tenor in The Collegiate Four in 1952. The other from when he played on a curling team.

This can be seen off of Mississauga Street in Orillia. Both pictures have Gordon Lightfoot in them from when he sang as a tenor in The Collegiate Four in 1952. The other from when he played on a curling team.

Gordon Lightfoot at Mariposa Folk Festival 2012 - Surprise guest appearance

Play Gordon Lightfoot Songs Yourself

Streets Alive, Orillia 2017

A painting done on a leaf of Gordon Lightfoot.

A painting done on a leaf of Gordon Lightfoot.

Orillia Opera House

Orillia Opera House

Things To Do In Orillia

At the Orillia Opera House (built over 115 years ago) throughout the year you can sit and enjoy a play, listen to an orchestra, attend a concert or laugh along with many comedians.

Tudhope Park, Orillia

Tudhope Park, Orillia

Mariposa Folk Festival

Mariposa Folk Festival


  • Mariposa Folk Festival, held at Tudhope Park on beautiful lake Couchiching every year in July, has something for everyone to do. This three-day event features music from folk, rock, Celtic and more.
  • Attend musical workshops, visit the Artisans’ Village where you can purchase or just look at pottery, paintings, jewelry, woven art, carvings and even handmade instruments.
  • There are always numerous food and beverage vendors as well as beer tents that have entertainment.
  • Children delight in Folkplay as well as enjoy painting and crafts, or have their faces painted by Clarabella the clown.
  • Each year the festival is held on the second weekend in July.
Island Princess

Island Princess

Take a Cruise

Climb aboard the Island Princess and take one of the many relaxing tours of both lakes. This large double-decked riverboat style vessel will hold up to 200 passengers and is fully handicapped accessible. Dinner cruises are available with a private chef and crew of six. The Princess does have a fully equipped bar should you like to relax with a drink.

Port of Orillia

Port of Orillia

Boating in Orillia

For boaters, Orillia has a dock at the Port of Orillia. There are 206 transient slips that will boat up to 80 ft. and 5 ft. draft. There are showers, an information center, laundromats, launch ramps, a fishing pier, free internet, and is just steps to downtown Orillia. Cost is $1.40 per foot plus tax, which includes water and hydro.


For fisherman, Orillia has one of the largest registered fishing derbies in Canada called the Perch Festival that is held April – May, with thousands of dollars to be won.


Winter Sports

Winter Sports include skiing at one of many ski resorts nearby Orillia. At Horseshoe Valley Resort there are 25 alpine runs for skiers and snowboarders. Other resorts are Mount St. Louis Moonstone and Hardwood ski and Bike.

My family and I moved to Orillia twenty years ago from Toronto, which is 60 miles or 100 km south of Orillia. It is a beautiful place to live or visit.

For anyone wanting to relocate to Orillia, there are many schools including, Georgian College and Lakehead University, which opened it doors here in September of 2010.

Thank You For Visiting

If you'd like to read more about the author Just Ask Susan, or read more of her articles here on HubPages, please visit her profile page.

© 2011 Susan Zutautas


Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 01, 2013:

Thanks Sheri :)

Sheri Dusseault from Chemainus. BC, Canada on May 01, 2013:

Very well done hub!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 04, 2012:

Janis, My brother in law works at U of T . He is assistant director of student recruitment. It's amazing how big Toronto is when you drive from Pickering all the way to Hamilton. When I go back down to Mississauga now often I'll get lost, especially around the Erin Mills area. You'd be amazed at the size of Barrie now as well.

Janis Goad on November 03, 2012:

Yes, I lived in Toronto for many years, too--I went to university there at U of T and my grandmother lived out Lakeshore Boulevard in Mimico, now adjacent to Missisauga. I moved away from Toronto 25 years ago, and rarely go back--now the whole north shore of Lake Ontario is one huge metropolis from Oakville to Hamilton, and north to Milton and Barrie. It is not for me. However, the multicultural communities there do create a wonderful mix of restaurants and cultural venues, if you have time and money to enjoy them, and if you can find a place to park!! LOL

Jellygator, for sure you need to come up to Canada. It's an amazing country!!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 03, 2012:

Janis, I didn't know that you grew up in this area. We moved to Orillia from Mississauga 22 years ago. I do miss the city for the variety of restaurants and shopping but I sure don't miss all the traffic and noise.

Glad that you enjoyed the hub.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 03, 2012:

GoodLady, It can get cold here. We woke up yesterday to our first dusting of snow this year but it melted fast. The spring and summer are quite nice with the two lakes. Glad that you enjoyed the tour and thank you.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 02, 2012:

Judi, Thanks, and glad you liked it.

jellygator, I hope you do :)

Janis Goad on November 02, 2012:

This part of Ontario has many old, beautiful towns--Orillia, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge... In the summers they double in size with cottagers and guests, and have a special feel with the lakefront and boating life. I love it. I grew up around there, and now on the west coast and BC interior, I don't miss the winters, but sometimes think about the wonderful summers we had there. Lakes, big trees, old houses, historical sites. I enjoyed your hub, Susan!

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on November 02, 2012:

Great place to visit. I do like the names of the lake and places and that you gave the information about the translation from Ojibwe. It sounds like a wild place. I'm partial to mental institutions too since I've always thought I belong in one and even though it sounds cold where you live, I warm to it. You did a great job on your tour of Orilla, thanks.

jellygator from USA on November 01, 2012:

Beautiful. One of these days, I'm gonna make it to Canada, I swear!!

Judi Brown from UK on November 01, 2012:

What a beautiful place! Can't believe what they called the Asylum :0

Thanks for such a lovely visit!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 26, 2012:

connorj, Nice to meet you. You should have a look at the Lakehead campus next time you're in the area. They did a beautiful job on it.

John Connor from Altamonte Springs on May 25, 2012:

Hi Susan,

I grew up in Thornhill and played OMHA hockey against Orillia. My wife and I saw G. Lightfoot in Duluth many years ago (80s). He was wonderful... Although we live in Florida now (my better-half is an Air Force brat from Florida)we travel to Muskoka when ever we can during summers-what beautful country. Oddly enough I am a graduate of Lakehead University (Thunder Bay)...

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 02, 2012:

Bill, Thank you for stopping by and having a look at where I live. It's a nice spot but I still miss Washington :)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 01, 2012:

A great tour of a place I have never heard of...but I have heard of Gordon Lightfoot so I've got that going for me. Great hub and loved the pictures!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 08, 2012:

MJFenn, At Couchiching Park in Orillia there is a hot dog stand called Frenchies. They have a table there that Stephen Leacock sat and wrote at. At the museum they have lovely luncheons during the summer months which are quite nice. Hope that you enjoy your visit.

MJFenn on February 07, 2012:

I must visit the Stephen Leacock house in Orillia; having been through Orillia several times, this is something that I need to do, still. Regarding this famous, adopted son of Orillia, it is hard for me sometimes to figure whether this humour specialist is trying to be funny or not. As head of McGill University's department of political economy, he had plenty of serious ideas, but the borderline between seriousness, humour and quaintness from the vantage point of today, is hard to discern, sometimes. (So I must visit his museum!)

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 18, 2012:

That Grrl, Nice to meet you. I like Orillia for the most part and yes there is quite a bit to do and see here. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on January 17, 2012:

My brother lives in Orillia now. I thought this was a great post, a lot of information about places I have heard of, visited or would like to vist.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 17, 2011:

James, I know that, I follow your band on FB :)

James A Watkins from Chicago on December 17, 2011:

My band doesn't do any of his songs. We are a more of a rock and roll outfit with my big drums. But I love listening to his songs.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2011:

James, Glad you liked it. Does your band ever do any of Gordon's songs?

James A Watkins from Chicago on December 12, 2011:

So interesting to read about where you and your family live. Orillia sure looks wonderful. I love Gordon Lightfoot's music. Sometimes I even give it a go at Karaoke. :-)

Thank you for the excellent article. I enjoyed it.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 26, 2011:

Peg, I've seen Gordon many time right here in Orillia and in Toronto as well. Glad to know that you too are a fan of Gordon Lightfoot.

I know what you mean it is mind boggling that they would name it Orillia Asylum for idiots.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 26, 2011:

This was a fascinating piece Susan. The photos were truly beautiful with so much to learn about Canada. I played The Wreck of The Edmundfizgerald while I read your hub. Beautiful. I saw my first Gordon Lightfoot Concert in Florida in the the late 70s - It was awesome.

It is mind boggling that they named that assylum Orillia Asylum for Idiots. The place looks like something from a Horror movie. Creepy.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 26, 2011:

AUPADHYAY, Thank you, glad you liked it.


Fantastic hub. voted it up.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 25, 2011:

Wesman Todd, LOL....Thanks for letting me know that you turned your Dad onto Gordon Lightfoot.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on October 25, 2011:


I'd so love to get to travel about and spend some time in your BEAUTIFUL Northern Land.

Interesting enough - when I went with my folks to take my brother and his wife out for my brother's birthday last month - we were listening to the radio on the way back home (seventy miles) - and Gordon's "Sundown" came on the radio.

Now I was a bit sauced, yannow.....so I was singing every word to that one as well as I could....

Dad asked, "who sings that?"

I answered, of course "Gordon Lightfoot."

Well, sure enough - just a few days later I heard my Dad's big diesel truck pull up outside, and boy, was he ever jamming his new Gordon Lightfoot disc!


saddlerider1 on March 26, 2011:

Nicely done, Gordon is one of my favorite Canadian musicians, I had the honor of seeing him perform live at Les Place des Arts in Montreal many moons ago. He was terrific. Stephen Leacock as well, I didn't know that he lived there as well. Interesting facts, thanks for the share.

Ken R. Abell from ON THE ROAD on March 24, 2011:

Thumbs up & useful to be sure. Thank you for an excellent piece.

emilybee on March 22, 2011:

I saw Gordon in concert - not exactly by choice ;) My parents are avid fans. I'll forward them your hub. Thanks for sharing.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 22, 2011:

Marie you should visit Orillia there are some really nice spots here.

Chatkath an Dale thanks for reading and for the vote up!

hillrider from Mid-west United States on March 22, 2011:

Another up vote Sue for another great Hub ...

Kathy from California on March 21, 2011:

Nice tour Susan, I sure would like to visit some day. Thank you for sharing.

Marie Landry from Ontario, Canada on March 21, 2011:

Very nice! I don't live all that far from there, but surprisingly, I've never been there. And I didn't know that's where Gordon Lightfoot was from, very cool! Great hub, really enjoyed this. :-)

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 21, 2011:

Pamela thanks so much for your comments. That would be wonderful to meet you. Who know's I just may make it to Jacksonville one day myself. I usually go to Florida every August.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 21, 2011:

I have always liked the music of Gordon Lightfoot. This is a very interesting, well-written that I very much enjoyed. Orillia looks like a wonderful place to visit and maybe I'll get to see you someday.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 21, 2011:

epigramman Thank you so much you are too kind.

dahoglund Southwest Minnesota would be close to Thunder Bay which is about 538 miles north of Orillia. Have never been up there but I hear it is a great place to ski.

ahorseback I saw Gordon in Toronto and most years that I go to the Mariposa Folk Festival he is playing there. Glad he recovered seemed to be touch and go there for awhile. Thanks so much for your comments.

ahorseback on March 20, 2011:

Oh my God Susan , You Live where my musical Idol lives? Gordon Lightfoot is purely the greatest songster and musician in the world of music, I almost died when he did the "Harmony" album after his sickness. I have loved his music since I was a teen ager. Thanks for this great stuff. Be well.......I just saw him in concert last year for my third time only.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on March 20, 2011:

My mother came from Canada a a little girl or so I understand.I'm not sure where but since we lived in Minnesota it must have been up from SW Minnesota.

My wife is a big Gordon Lightfoot fan.

epigramman on March 20, 2011:

...well even though we both live in Ontario I do know someone else who lives in Orilla who is famous for her writing and hubtastic subjects - you!!!!

I have always loved the music and words of Mister Lightfoot and this is such a labor of love that you put together with these well chosen images and heartfelt travelogue narrative - and Orillia looks like a mighty fine place to visit - because you made it so!!!!

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