From the late 1940s through the 1970s Collingwood was in a period of change, industrial development and growth.
As fewer people used the Opera house that was behind the Town Hall and hockey had become a popular sport both nationally and locally, the Opera House was replaced by a new arena in 1948. This brought hockey indoors since then the arena has acted as the central recreational pulse of the community ever since.
In 1950, thanks to a generous donation by a private donor, the Town Hall's appearance was finally complete with the installation of the clock.
This was not the only change in the business district. The tanneries and meat packing plants had gone replaced by factories manufacturing high quality furniture and chinaware. On Pine Street the building that had served as the curling and skating rinks, now manufactured ejection seats for jet propelled aircraft.
As the population continued to grow (1951 pop. 7413) so did the need for larger schools, and in 1954 Collingwood Collegiate institute moved to its present location. The late 1950's brought many new businesses to the centre of Town including Global General Insurance, and Peerless Textiles. From all points summer and winter recreation facilities attracted tens of thousands of visitors to the area. Many of the visitors choose to stay in Collingwood at the Arlington or the Dorchester Hotels.
The Dorchester was considered to be one of "the" places to stay with its mahogany paneled rooms, his and her drinking rooms and what was considered to be one of the finest dining rooms north of Toronto. If you're wondering what happened to the Dorchester, look for the Georgian Frame Gallery and Blue Mountain Vacuum as you walk down Hurontario Street.
Collingwood's centennial in 1958 was celebrated over six days. The events were many including several parades, ball tournaments, contests, bingo and fireworks. Hurontario Street gas lamps were replaced with stately fluorescent standards.
The 1960's saw an ever changing and developing community. As the community continued to grow (100 people in 10 years) the need for more and varied housing was evident. The 1960s brought a whole new era of entertainment; television and comic books became a favourite past time especially since you knew good would always triumph over evil. Kids would visit Tony's Cigar Store everyday waiting to be the first to get the newest edition of their favourite comic. The Beatles were as big in Collingwood as anywhere else and the teens would meet on Friday nights for "The Drum Beat Club" located in the old Lion's Den (currently the uninhabited building between the CIBC and Century 21).
CKCB Radio (now the Peak FM) opened in 1965; the same year saw the industrial park in the east end develop with TRW Electronic Components LTD as the first occupant. Under a federal plan to assist slow growth areas Collingwood began to see an influx of new business in the spring on 1966.
This together with the new airport was thought to encourage and garner future growth and stability. Of the 130 businesses in Collingwood in 1967, the majority was still on Hurontario Street.
Collingwood's Chamber of Commerce, in 1967, realized that the business center of town, as with many other small towns, had been left mainly to chance. To correct this they tried the "Norwich Plan" a British idea that was to voluntarily involve store operators to collectively improve their storefronts, for the mutual benefits of the community. This unfortunately failed, as few volunteered to participate.
Shipbuilding became the "keel of our community" through the 1960s and '70s.
During this time the shipyard launched 63 new ships and refitted numerous others. The shipyard also helped businesses in the community in other ways by buying products from them, such as furnishings from Trotts Furniture (now Century 21)}.
"The Read Voorhees Report" a comprehensive urban study was completed by the town in 1970. The Report, in part, indicated the six blocks downtown as the main shopping area and should evolve as a mall or plaza. This concept was enthusiastically received throughout Collingwood.
In 1976, The Provincial Government outlined the requirements for communities to form Business Improvement Areas (BIA's). Collingwood's Chamber of Commerce organized a meeting in which they encouraged the businesses in the downtown to form such an organization. The BIA would through a voluntary increase in business taxes, promote and physically improve public property in specified areas. On July 13, 1977 the BIA was officially designated.
Downtown Collingwood and the BIA
As the seventies ended, the changes to our community continued. In October 1976 a group of downtown business owners started the footwork needed to organize a Business Improvement Area (BIA) in Collingwood.
The Provincial Government had just outlined this new municipal act that allowed a group of businesses in a defined area to voluntarily increase their taxes, to promote and physically improve the public property within the specified area.
The BIA was officially designated on July 13, 1977, and included all six northern blocks on Hurontario Street. The first step in the beautification process was to plant flowers in barrels and trees in planters. In 1978 the BIA was officially named "The Promenade" and over the next two years the appearance started to match its name.
The reconstruction of Hurontario Street from First to Fourth Streets took co-operation between the town and the BIA, as well as a public debate and planning. The cost was $1,200,000 of which the BIA agreed to pay $150,000 to cover the extra costs involved in supplying the lights, sidewalk when digging up the main street for the new water mains, sewer lines and storm drains, the workmen discovered some of the original corduroy road four feet down. They also discovered extra basement rooms that were on (or under) town property.
The BIA's portion of the reconstruction was made possible by a provincial loan at a very low interest rate, which was paid back over a ten-year period. "The Promenade" was officially opened in October, 1980.
As the community continued to grow, the need for larger and more modern fire and police stations arose. In July of 1981 the new building housing both of these services opened on Ontario Street. This allowed the old fire hall on St. Marie Street to be removed, and this area is now the parking lot behind the Arlington Plaza.
Fire broke out twice in 1987 and destroyed the original Arlington Hotel. The building, now considered an eye sore and hazard was demolished and the Arlington plaza was constructed. The main floor houses a boutique store, medical clinics, hair salon and Tim Horton's. The second, third and fourth floors house professional offices.
During this time the third block also saw many changes as the ambulance station moved and the building was replaced with the present red brick structure. The building houses the Sports Medicine Clinic, as well as professional offices and Rafters gift shop on the main floor. Around the same time the IGA plaza was constructed across the street, presently housing Georgian College, Fleetwood Dance Studio and Ministry of Transportation offices.
In 1995 the town purchased the old Sunoco Gas Station on the corner of Hurontario and Forth Streets. It was initially developed into a parking lot.
The property was redeveloped a few years later and now house Scotia Bank.
Originally build in 1890, the Temple Building was designated as a Heritage Building under the Ontario Heritage Act and deserved this designation historically as well as architecturally. At the time of the fire, four retail stores on the main floor, several professional offices on the second and the Masonic lodge on the third floor were all lost. The lodge rebuilt the building with the present structure that pays tribute to the original and currently houses Tabi and Cotton Ginny on the main floor.
Downtown Collingwood has been declared a historical district and has now been identified as one of Canada's 'Historical Places'. It is a great honour that we have been listed in the prestigious Canadian Register of Historical Places, a designation usually reserved for single site.
Our business center does not just revolve around the main street, but there are also many other businesses on the side streets as well as in the many lane ways. From home security to accountants, manicurists to wine makers, restaurants to lawyers and all types of other retail and services.
The BIA is more than flowers, trees and bricks; it is the joining of many different businesses to promote and to continue to develop the area.
The BIA is a sponsor of many events in Collingwood, such as the Festival for Canada, The Collingwood Elvis Festival and the Santa Clause Parade.
Individual businesses could not do the many things this association does. The main business center of town has changed dramatically since the days of dirt roads and saloons. Manufactures no longer locate in the heart of the community but opt for industrial parks better suited to their needs.
Collingwood is a fortunate community in that the center core of town has remained a vital, attractive area providing goods and services to the community at large. However, for this area to continue to prosper it will require the co-operation from the businesses within as well as the desire of the community to maintain a central business district.
This is the Second & Third in a series written by Margot Nicolson-Trott, Owner of the Georgian Frame Gallery on Hurontario Street.
Photographs were provided by John Nichols-The Peak FM, Ian Chadwick and Dr. David Ripley.
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