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Brockville
City of Brockville
Statue of General Isaac Brock outside the courthouse in Downtown Brockville.
Statue of General Isaac Brock outside the courthouse in Downtown Brockville.
Nickname(s): 
City of 1000 Islands / "Birthplace of The Canadian Flag" (This claim has been widely refuted.)
Motto(s): 
Industria, Intelligentia, Prosperitas (Latin: "Diligence, Understanding, Prosperity")
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
County Leeds and Grenville (independent)
Settled 1785
Incorporated 1832
Government
 • Type City
Area
 • Land 20.90 km2 (8.07 sq mi)
 • Metro
893.44 km2 (344.96 sq mi)
Population
 (2011)
 • City (single-tier) 21,870
 • Density 1,046.2/km2 (2,710/sq mi)
 • Metro
39,024
 • Metro density 43.7/km2 (113/sq mi)
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Postal code FSA
K6V
Area code(s) 613
Website www.brockville.com

Brockville, formerly Elizabethtown, is a city in Eastern Ontario, Canada in the Thousand Islands region. Although it is the seat of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, it is politically independent of the county. It is included with Leeds and Grenville for census purposes only.

Known as the "City of the 1000 Islands", Brockville is located on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River opposite Morristown, New York, about halfway between Ontario's Cornwall to the east and Kingston to the west. It is located 115 kilometres (71 miles) south of the national capital of Ottawa. It is one of Ontario's oldest European-Canadian communities and is named after the British general Sir Isaac Brock.

History

Indigenous peoples lived along both sides of the St. Lawrence River for thousands of years. The first people known to have encountered the Europeans in the area were the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, a group distinct from and preceding the Iroquois nations of the Haudenosaunee, based further to the south. While the explorer Cartier recorded about 200 words in their Laurentian language and the names of two villages, the people had disappeared from the area by the late 16th century. Anthropologists believe they may have been driven out or defeated by the powerful Mohawk people of the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee), who by then reserved the St. Lawrence Valley as a hunting ground.

Brockville - ON - Rathaus
Victoria Hall, now the site of Brockville's City Hall, was built in 1862-64 as a concert hall in front and a butchers' market in the rear
Court House Avenue and Soldier's Monument, Brockville, Ontario (1920s)
Court House Avenue and Soldier's Monument, 1920s

This area of Ontario was first settled by English speakers in 1785, when thousands of American refugees arrived from the American colonies after the American Revolutionary War. They were later called United Empire Loyalists because of their continued allegiance to King George III. The struggle between Britain and the 13 American colonies occurred in the years 1776 to 1783, and seriously divided loyalties among people in some colonies such as New York and Vermont. In many areas traders and merchants, especially in the coastal cities or the northern border regions, had stronger business ties and allegiance to the Crown than did the frontiersmen of the interior. During the 6-year war, which ended with the capitulation of the British in 1782, many colonists who remained loyal to the crown were frequently subject to harsh reprisals and unfair dispossession of their property by their countrymen. Many Loyalists chose to flee north to the British colony of Quebec. Great Britain opened the western region of Canada (known as Upper Canada and now Ontario), purchasing land from First Nations to allocate to the mostly English-speaking Loyalists in compensation for their losses, and helping them with some supplies as they founded new settlements. The first years were very harsh as they struggled on the frontier. Some exiles returned to the United States.

The St. Lawrence River was named by French explorers in the 18th century to honour the martyred Roman Christian, Saint Laurentis. In 1785 the first U.E. Loyalist to take up land in Brockville was William Buell Sr. (1751–1832), an ensign disbanded from the King's Rangers, from the state of New York. Residents commonly called the first settlement "Buell's Bay." Around 1810 government officials of Upper Canada designated the village as Elizabethtown.

About 1812 leading residents of the village suggested that the village be renamed to differentiate it from the township of Elizabethtown. The commanding British General in Upper Canada and temporary administrator of the province was Major-General Isaac Brock. He was celebrated as the "Hero and Saviour" of Upper Canada because of his recent success in securing the surrender by Americans of Fort Detroit during the War of 1812. Perhaps to curry favour with Gen. Brock, certain leading citizens of the village, including Charles Jones, proposed the name of Brockville. They began using this name in their correspondence and dealings with Isaac Brock. Gen. Brock was soon involved in other battles on the Niagara Peninsula. On October 13, 1812, he was fatally wounded while leading troops up the heights near the village of Queenston, then held by American militia.

A raid on Elizabethtown occurred on February 7, 1813, when Benjamin Forsyth and 200 of his American forces crossed the frozen St. Lawrence River to occupy the settlement and seize military and public stores, free American prisoners, and capture British military prisoners.

General Brock had learned of the honour being offered by the residents of Elizabethtown, but had no chance to give it his official blessing before his death. Provincial officials accepted the new name, which was soon commonly used by residents and visitors. In 1830 the population of Brockville exceeded the 1000 mark. This entitled it to be represented by its own elected member in the House of Assembly. Henry Jones, the village postmaster, was elected in October 1830 to the 11th Parliament of the Province.

Brockville became Ontario's first incorporated self-governing town on January 28, 1832, two years before the town of Toronto. By means of the Brockville Police Act passed by the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, Brockville was granted the right to govern its own affairs, pass laws, and raise taxes. The first elections for the new Board of Police were held on April 2, 1832 to elect four members to the Board. These four in turn chose a fifth member, Daniel Jones, who became the first Police Board president or Mayor of Brockville. In March 1836 he became the first native Upper Canadian to receive a knighthood for services to the Crown; he was known as "Sir Daniel Jones".

In the 19th century the town developed as a local centre of industry, including shipbuilding, saddleries, tanneries, tinsmiths, a foundry, a brewery, and several hotels. By 1854, a patent medicine industry had sprung up in Brockville and in Morristown, New York, across the St. Lawrence River, featuring such products as "Dr Morse's Indian Root Pills", "Dr. McKenzie's Worm Tablets," and later, "Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People".

Brockville - ON - Railway Tunnel
The south portal of the Brockville Tunnel, Canada's first railway tunnel, opened in 1860

In 1855, Brockville was chosen as a divisional point of the new Grand Trunk Railway between Montreal and Toronto. This contributed to its growth, as it could offer jobs in railway maintenance and related fields. At the same time, the north–south line of the Brockville and Ottawa Railway was built to join the timber trade of the Ottawa Valley with the St. Lawrence River ship route. A well-engineered tunnel for this railway was dug and blasted underneath the middle of Brockville. The Brockville Tunnel was the first railway tunnel in Canada.

Brockville and many other towns in Canada West were targets of the threatened Fenian invasion after the American Civil War ended in 1865. In June 1866 the Irish-American "Brotherhood of Fenians" invaded Canada. They launched raids across the Niagara River into Canada West (Ontario) and from Vermont into Canada East (Quebec). Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald called on the volunteer militia companies in every town to protect Canada. The Brockville Infantry Company and the Brockville Rifle Company (now The Brockville Rifles) were mobilized. The unsuccessful Fenian Raids were a catalyst that contributed to the creation of the new confederated Dominion of Canada in 1867.

By 1869, Brockville had a population of 5000 and a station on the Grand Trunk Railway. It was the County Town of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville and a Port of Entry. Steamboats stopped in Brockville daily while plying among Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and Hamilton. The Brockville and Ottawa Railway connected Brockville with Smith's Falls, Perth, Almonte, Carleton Place and Sandy Point. During the summer, a steam ferry plied every half-hour between Brockville and Morristown, New York.

In 1962 Brockville was granted official status as a city. Its coat of arms featured a beehive surrounded by a golden chain and bears the motto Industria, Intelligentia, Prosperitas. This is an official heraldic design. Brockville is one of the few Canadian cities to have a recognized heraldic flag.

Climate

Brockville experiences a Humid continental climate (Dfb). The highest temperature ever recorded in Brockville was 103 °F (39.4 °C) on 31 July 1917 and 4 June 1919. The coldest temperature ever recorded was −37 °F (−38.3 °C) on 4 February 1886 and 28 January 1925.

Transportation and communications

Brockville is midway between Toronto and Montreal (330 kilometres (210 mi) northeast of Toronto and 210 kilometres (130 mi) southwest of Montreal) and less than one hour from Ottawa. Highway 401 runs through Brockville, with exits at Leeds & Grenville County Road 29 and North Augusta Road. There are several daily Via Rail connections to Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa along the Corridor.

The town has a municipal airport (Brockville Regional Tackaberry Airport) in the neighbouring Elizabethtown-Kitley Township. The Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is approximately 100 km away.

The Thousand Islands Bridge and the Ogdensburg–Prescott International Bridge, both of which cross the St. Lawrence River into New York, are located 35 kilometres (22 mi) south-west and 25 kilometres (16 mi) north-east from Brockville, respectively.

Brockville Transit is the city-operated public transit system which covers the urban area, providing three regular scheduled bus routes and paratransit services, from Monday to Saturday.

Brockville has high band/high speed telecommunication capability provided by both Bell Canada and AT&T fibre lines. Citywide Wi-Fi is also available by various retail outlets, including Starbucks and McDonald's (Bell Wi-Fi).

Demographics

Canada census – Brockville community profile
2011 2006
Population: 21,870 (-0.4% from 2006) 21,957 (2.7% from 2001)
Land area: 20.90 km2 (8.07 sq mi) 20.74 km2 (8.01 sq mi)
Population density: 1,046.2/km2 (2,710/sq mi) 1,058.8/km2 (2,742/sq mi)
Median age: 44.2 (M: 42.7, F: 45.6)
Total private dwellings: 10,645 10,394
Median household income: $46,071
References: 2011 2006 earlier
Historical populations
Year Pop. ±%
1871 5,102 —    
1881 7,609 +49.1%
1891 8,791 +15.5%
1901 8,940 +1.7%
1911 9,374 +4.9%
1921 10,043 +7.1%
1931 9,736 −3.1%
1941 11,342 +16.5%
1951 12,301 +8.5%
1961 17,744 +44.2%
1981 19,896 +12.1%
1986 20,880 +4.9%
1991 21,582 +3.4%
1996 21,752 +0.8%
2001 21,375 −1.7%
2006 21,957 +2.7%
2011 21,870 −0.4%
Visible minority and Aboriginal population (Canada 2006 Census)
Population group Population  % of total population
White 20,670 95%
Visible minority group
Source:
South Asian 70 0.3%
Chinese 150 0.7%
Black 55 0.3%
Filipino 95 0.4%
Latin American 50 0.2%
Arab 0 0%
Southeast Asian 125 0.6%
West Asian 20 0.1%
Korean 15 0.1%
Japanese 10 0%
Visible minority, n.i.e. 45 0.2%
Multiple visible minority 50 0.2%
Total visible minority population 685 3.1%
Aboriginal group
Source:
First Nations 230 1.1%
Métis 150 0.7%
Inuit 0 0%
Aboriginal, n.i.e. 20 0.1%
Multiple Aboriginal identity 10 0%
Total Aboriginal population 410 1.9%
Total population 21,765 100%

Tourism

Morristown NY
Tour boat on the St. Lawrence River with Morristown visible on the opposite shore. This major river was named by French explorers in the 1700s to commemorate the martyred Christian Lawrence of Rome.
John H. Fulford Fountain, Brockville, Ontario
John H. Fulford Memorial fountain, erected in 1916.

The community is dominated by the St. Lawrence River and is known as The City of the Thousand Islands. The city has revitalized its downtown area, enhancing a waterfront open to the public with parks and walking trails, and numerous shopping locations are found throughout the city. The city's architecture consists of many stately mansions and elaborate fountains, carefully preserved as reminders of Canadian history. The historic Fulford Place house museum is located in the east end of Brockville at 287 King St. E. This was the palatial home of Senator George Taylor Fulford, whose success in marketing "Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People" around the world made him one of the area's richest industrialists before his death in 1905. The house owned and operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust is open for public tours on a seasonal schedule.

The Brockville Museum, situated in the historic downtown core, features exhibits and artifacts related to Brockville's rich Loyalist history and the city's development as a waterfront community.

The Aquatarium, a $12-million dollar (estimated) Discovery Centre of the 1000 Islands, is a tourism and waterfront education attraction, which opened its doors to the public in March 2016. It is part of developer Simon Fuller's $60-million Tall Ships Landing condominium project located on Broad Street, overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

1000 Islands Cruises out of Brockville are offered by 1000 Islands and Seaway Cruises offering scenic cruises on the St. Lawrence River.

The Brockville area is the launching point for some of the best fresh-water wreck diving in the world. Numerous sunken ships have been discovered below the waters of the St. Lawrence, and a number of dive operators with fully equipped boats are ready to take divers to these sites. In 2014, the City of Brockville started a collaboration with S.O.S. (Save Our Shipwrecks) to launch an underwater sculpture park off of Centeen Park. New sculptures will be added to the park annually. (Since the early 1990s underwater visibility had increased, due to effects of the invasive species zebra mussels.)

Brockville has been awarded one of Canada's safest communities by the World Health Organization.

Brockville boating

Brockville also offers excellent boating resources, with a large, deep-water municipal marina, a yacht club and several commercial marinas. Just upstream on the mighty St. Lawrence River is the Brockville Islands group, which contain some city island parks, and an island park belonging to the St. Lawrence Islands National Park system.

Brockville is at the downstream end of the world-famous Thousand Islands, which extend as far as Kingston, Ontario (at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River at Lake Ontario), 80 km away.

The next closest commercial boating facilities are each about a half-day boat-trip away (at displacement speeds), downstream at Prescott, Ontario and upstream at Rockport, Ontario. So, many boaters come to Brockville during their boating vacations, to re-fuel, have repairs done, and re-provision, before casting off again for home.

Culture

Brockville Broad St
Broad Street in Brockville

The city has several music, art and dance organizations, such as Brockville Artists Studio Association, Brockville Community Choir, Brockville Concert Association, Brockville Musicians' Association, Brockville Operatic Society, City of Brockville Pipe Band, and the Thousand Islanders Chorus.

The Brockville Concert Band arises from a long tradition of community and military bands in Brockville. Civic bands provided entertainment at public venues such as community picnics and outdoor skating rinks. The Brockville Rifles Reserve Band entertained "on the green" in the 1930s and 40s.

Military band members returning from the Second World War formed the Brockville Civic Band. Re-organized as the Brockville Concert Band in 1974, it inherited a musical tradition (and sheet music) from civic and military bands dating back to the turn of the 20th century. The Brockville Concert Band plays a series of summer concerts every second Tuesday in Hardy Park in Brockville within view of the St. Lawrence River. The band also plays for various civic functions and entertains at charitable fundraising events. Since 1995, the band's musical director and conductor has been trumpeter and music teacher Lance Besharah.

St. Lawrence College in Brockville is home to the Music Theatre - Performance Program which trains students to enter the professional world of musical theatre. SLC Stage produces three professional-quality musicals each season at the Brockville Arts Centre. The Brockville Arts Centre is a 710-seat, newly refurbished theatre venue with a full season of entertainment offerings.

Several festivals occur each year. Riverfest, a four-day entertainment event, was an annual attraction until 2011.

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