Fast Orillia Facts

Orillia Trivia   ◘ History of Orillia's Power   ◘ The Wilder Days   ◘ Vintage Summers

A combined serious of photos from Orillia with the text love where you live.
Everything you wanted to know about Orillia ... or not. There are some interesting historical bits of information that perhaps a lot of residents (and visitors) have never known, and maybe didn't need to know, but "little-known" pieces of trivia about a town should be written down somewhere on the world wide web, don't you think?

There are lots of facts about Orillia available by doing web searches (such as population, and demographics, and other basic city numbers), but there are some that are more difficult to find, and some that exist only in books and paper. Some of these are are a combination of both.

In researching some of this information (and that's an ongoing project) to confirm things I'd "heard" in passing from family who lived here back in the 1930s, or oddities mentioned by other "old-timers" in Orillia, I found myself learnings things I hadn't know either, even though history is one of the subjects that interests me - particularly history related to something I know (like family, or the town I live in, and even some of the houses we've lived in). I didn't "always" have such a love of history. In grade school, I thought history was the most boring subject that could exist. Until Grade 7, when Mrs. Smith happened. A tiny, white haired woman nearly ready for retirement fired up our entire history class that year. She had a way of presenting historical facts that seriously changed the outlook of almost every student in that class. Thank you, Mrs. Smith (General Brock Public School.)

  • First local industry was Fur Trading.
  • Development after that was Logging and Farming.
  • Tourism was an established industry in Orillia by 1867.
  • The "electric telegraph" was in Orillia by 1868.
  • Bell Telephone came to Orillia in 1887, but was in use in Barrie, Penetang and Midland before that.
  • In May 1889 J.P. Secord built Orillia's first hospital and convalescent home at Orchard point - "Red Cross Hospital and Convalescent Home". It closed in 1895.
  • Incorporated as a village in 1867 (same year that Canada was formed).
  • Became a town in 1875.
  • Became designated as a city in 1969.
  • Orillia was the the first municipality in North America to introduce daylight saving time. 
  • The first municipal hydro transmission plant in North America was in Orillia. 
  • Orillia's first public library was established in 1911. (A short history can be found here.)
  • The Orillia Opera House was completed in 1895, burned down in 1915, and rebuilt and reopened in 1917.
  • Boris Karloff once performed at the Orillia Opera House.
  • The legendary tunnels under the opera house are still legend. Nobody has been able to confirm or deny absolutely that they existed or didn't. Information leans towards them once having existed during the days a brewery was located at Fred's Meat Market, but no excavations have uncovered complete tunnels.
  • The basement of the Opera House used to hold jail cells.
  • In July 1959 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip visited Couchiching Beach Park.
  • September 1957, Bob Hope came to Orillia to make the official "switch" from 5,000 watts to 10,000 watts at the CFOR Radio Station.
  • The "Ida Burton" was scuttled and sunk along Orillia's shoreline in 1876. (see this story).
  • Orillia shows up as #7 in the list of Top Ontario Investment Towns (2013-2018)
Orillia's first newspaper, named The Expositor and North Simcoe Journal of the Times" (aka "The Expositor")  began in 1867.  In 1869 it was sold and became "The Northern Light". A competing newspaper, "The Packet" issued it's first print in November 1870. The Packet went through several name changes from The Packet to the Orillia Packet & Times, and is currently published under the banner of Packet and Times (although, usually referred to as "The Packet").

In June 2002, Pope John Paul II visited Orillia and stayed on Strawberry Island. The Basilian retreat on Strawberry Island has been used since (circa) 1922. The history of Strawberry Island (including information on the Steamer "the Orillia"/"the Islay") can be found here.  This history of the Island is quite long, and most casual readers will find the latter half of the document to likely be of the most interesting. The Sisters of St. Joseph have a secluded retreat at Invermara.

Condominiums built at Invermara Bay, Orillia.
Invermara Bay Condominiums (©J. Gracey Stinson)