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A Portage Through Oshawa

If you want to get to know the city of Oshawa, start at Lakeview Park. Oshawa's present location began as a portage for Indigenous Peoples travelling across the Oak Ridge Moraine to Lake Scugog. The portage is now Simcoe Street, the spine of the city and the location of many of the city’s cultural attractions. Travelling north from the shore, one can visit the Oshawa Museum, the Canadian Automotive Museum, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, the Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens, and Parkwood Estates, all either on or within walking distance of that first walking trail.


Simcoe intersects with Highway 2 at what was once Skae’s Corners. Skae’s Corners became Oshawa, and 100 years ago, on March 8, 1924, the City of Oshawa was incorporated. To celebrate this anniversary, consider travelling along the original portage and visiting the many arts and culture destinations along the route. All will have special exhibitions and events throughout the year to mark the centennial anniversary.


Be sure to stop in at The Guy House during your next visit to Lakeview Park in Oshawa. Photo Credit: The Oshawa Museum

The Oshawa Museum will host two lectures in their Local History Series with the Centennial at the centre. Select sessions from the Tea and Talks series will also focus on Oshawa in the 1920s, and their signature event, Scenes from the Cemetery, will feature a political debate between passionate 1920s politicians arguing for and against expanding Oshawa’s borders from the then location around Skae’s Corners to include the Cedar Dale area down by the lake. By the end of this year, a publication titled ‘The Unwritten History of Oshawa’ should be available, including forgotten voices in the city's history. An in-person exhibit will accompany the book. 


On January 16 at Guy House, part of the Oshawa Museum's ‘Postcards to the Front’ will facilitate writing postcards in Ukrainian, Polish, and English to be sent to Defenders of Ukraine. This event speaks to the importance of the Ukrainian community and culture to the development of the city of Oshawa.


As you travel North on Simcoe Street, you can’t help but notice the copper domes, now green, of St. George The Great Martyr Ukrainian Catholic Church, which rises over the north side of Hwy 401. Built in 1912, the church was a central link for Ukrainian Catholics living between East Toronto and Kingston. On the south side of the 401 is St John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church.


St. George the Great Martyr Ukrainian Catholic Church and it's beautiful domes overlooking Simcoe Street. Photo by: The Oshawa Museum

Ukrainian-Canadian William Kurelek is one of the artists in an exhibit currently on at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. The RMG is located in the downtown core, just a block West of Simcoe. The exhibition is titled ‘About Time’. With works chosen from the gallery’s Permanent Collection, the exhibition explores the passage of time through seasons and hours, ageing, captured moments, and referencing the past. Artists featured along with Kurelek are Group of Seven alumni A.Y. Jackson and Arthur Lismer, among many others. Also included are Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak, Cree artist Jane Ash Poitras, and Ojibwe artist Carl Beam


One of the many automotive displays at the Canadian Automotive Museum in Downtown Oshawa. Photo Credit: The Canadian Automotive Museum

From its Indigenous roots as a portage route, the city has grown as transportation evolved: foot, horseback, carriage, and car. The Canadian Automotive Museum on Simcoe St. has a sizeable collection of vehicles, including cars, carriages, trucks, an amphibious vehicle, a life-size model of Lightning McQueen from the Disney movie Cars, as well as vehicles owned by the McLaughlin family, and some used by the Royal Family on visits to Canada.  On January 16, the museum will host Ashley Hardwick from the Remington Carriage Museum in Alberta. Hardwick will speak about the history and impacts of Canadian carriages, which are vehicles fueled literally by horsepower. 


Throughout the year, the Canadian Automotive Museum hosts walking tours of the city, bringing it all back to how Oshawa first began, one foot after another.


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