Elora, Ontario

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Unincorporated community
Elora Mill 2014.jpg
The 1832 mill in 2014; it has since been restored to a luxury Inn
"Tempus Rurum Imperator"  (Latin)
"Time commands all things"
Elora is located in Ontario
Location within Ontario
Elora is located in Canada
Location within Canada
Coordinates: 43°41′06″N 80°25′38″W / 43.68500°N 80.42722°W / 43.68500; -80.42722
CountyWellington County
TownshipCentre Wellington
 • Total7,756 (estimated)
Time zoneUTC−05:00 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−04:00 (EDT)
Forward sortation area
Area code(s)519 ,226 and 548
NTS Map40P9 Guelph

Elora is a community in the township of Centre Wellington, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. It is well known for its 19th-century limestone architecture and the geographically significant Elora Gorge.

Elora is no longer an independent entity. In 1999, the Township of Centre Wellington was formed by amalgamating the Town of Fergus; the Village of Elora; and the Townships of Nichol, Pilkington, West Garafraxa, and part of Eramosa.[2] In 2011, the community referred to as Elora had a population of approximately 7,756.[1]


Roman Catholic missionaries first visited the area in the early to mid 1600s, attempting to Christianize the indigenous people, particularly the Neutral Nation on the Attiwandaronk Lands. The first European settlers arrived in 1817, and Roswell Matthews built a home here the next year.[3][4]

Captain William Gilkison (1777–1833) was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, and emigrated to North America in 1796. He served with the British forces in the War of 1812 as an assistant quartermaster-general, and in 1832 purchased some 14,000 acres of land in Nichol Township. He selected this area near the falls of the Grand River as a town site for his proposed settlement and named it Elora. It was laid out by Lewis Burwell, deputy provincial land surveyor, late in 1832, and the following year Gilkison established a sawmill and a general store. The founder of Elora died in April, 1833, before the full results of his foresight and enterprise were achieved.

Voluntary regiment in May 1862 in Elora, Ontario. The army consisted of 30,000 men in 1870, intended to defend Canada against a possible attack from the United States
A street in Elora after an ice storm; early 1900s.

Elora was founded in 1832 by Captain William Gilkison, originally from Scotland, who was a British officer recently returned from India. He had also served in the War of 1812, fighting the nascent United States. He bought 14,000 acres of land on the Grand River and settled on the east side of the river. The plan for the settlement was laid out by Lewis Burwell, in late 1832, when it was called Irvine Settlement. By 1833, Gilkison had opened a sawmill and a general store.[5] Gilkison named the community after his brother's ship, which was itself inspired by the Ellora Caves near Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India.

Charles Allan and Andrew Geddes laid out a town site on the west side of the river. By 1848, village lots were being sold and the settlement was incorporated into a village in 1858. The commercial area was near the grist mill, by the waterfalls (Mill St.) and eventually moved further up the hill.[6]

The Smith's Canadian Gazetteer of 1846 describes Elora as having a beautiful waterfalls and a deep channel carved by the river in the limestone rock. At the time there were only 100 inhabitants but two churches, three mills and a post office. Otherwise there were a few tradesmen and a single tavern.[7]

In the 1850s and 1860s, Elora was a major agricultural marketplace. Stores in the downtown area sold many types of goods. The flour mill and saw mill were powered by the Grand River. In 1869 the population was 1,500.[8] By 1870, several other mills, two distilleries, a carpet factory, tannery and two furniture factories were operating.[4] While there were some earlier private providers of electricity on a small scale, more extensive provision of power, by Ontario Hydropower, began in 1914.[9]

Elora Mill[edit]

The extant five-storey Elora grist mill was built in 1832, and through its history housed a sawmill, distillery and flour mill. In the 1970s, it became a hotel called the Elora Mill Inn, which closed in 2010. Plans were submitted to convert the building to condominiums and a hotel,[10] and in 2017 a report stated "Elora Mill Inn and Spa, a $120 million project expected to bring a world class resort and 250 jobs to the area when it opens in Spring 2018.[11] Following a $27 million renovation, the Elora Mill Hotel and Spa, owned by Pearle Hospitality, opened in July 2018, employing 170 people and featuring 30 rooms and a restaurant.[12] Construction of the condominium section of the property was to begin in 2019.[13]

In February 2020, the property was awarded a Heritage Recognition Award by Heritage Centre Wellington.[14]

David Street (Irvine Creek) bridge[edit]

David Street Bridge
Coordinates43°41′06″N 80°25′38″W / 43.685°N 80.4272°W / 43.685; -80.4272
Carriestraffic along David Street West
CrossesIrvine Creek
No. of spans1

In 2002 the Township of Centre Wellington announced that, for safety reasons, it would be necessary to demolish the historically important David Street Bridge over Irvine Creek. The structure and its pier had been built in 1868 by Charles Lawrence, a stonemason. The structure was "the first cantilever bridge in North America". (A more modest earlier bridge had been built over the Irvine Creek in 1848.) It is described as one of the few remaining open-spandrel concrete arch bridges and is listed in the Ontario Heritage Bridge Program.[15][16] Concerned about the preservation of Elora's culturally significant architecture, the group Elora Heritage was founded. They received over 1,000 names on a petition. They met with representatives from town council as well as the provincial and federal governments.

It became apparent that the bridge was beyond preservation; however council agreed to preserve the pier and build a replica bridge in 2004. The project presented numerous engineering challenges but was successfully completed. The current structure is similar to the 1921 bridge; the 1867 stone pier was retained as had been planned.[17]

Victoria Street Bridge[edit]

Victoria Street Bridge
Coordinates43°41′06″N 80°25′38″W / 43.685°N 80.4272°W / 43.685; -80.4272
Carriespedestrian traffic west of Metcalfe Street
CrossesGrand River
Total length62.7 metres (206 ft)
No. of spans1
OpenedLate 2019
The new pedestrian bridge in 2020

Most parts of another bridge over the river, known as the Victoria Street Pedestrian Bridge, had been demolished years ago but it was being rebuilt in 2019 as part of the downtown re-development.

The first Victoria Street Bridge over the Grand River was built in 1843, again in 1871 and lastly the as a Pratt struss bridge in 1899. The latest structure, a non truss concrete beam pedestrian bridge with decorative railings and stone cladding mimicking arch below, replaced the previous structure which was demolished in 2006.[18] Named for Jack R. MacDonald, the new bridge opened in November 2019 and allows for increased pedestrian access into the core.[19]

Metcalfe Badley Bridge[edit]

Metcalfe (Badley) Street Bridge
Coordinates43°41′06″N 80°25′38″W / 43.685°N 80.4272°W / 43.685; -80.4272
Carriestraffic along Metcalfe Street
CrossesGrand River
MaterialSteel and concrete
Total length71.93 metres (236.0 ft)
Width7.32 metres (24.0 ft)
No. of spans1
Constructed byA.H. MacLellan and Hamilton Bridge Company[20]
Construction start1952
Construction end1953

The Metcalfe Street (Badley) Bridge (c. 1952-1953) is the main vehicular bridge with direct access into town. The Parker Through truss bridge has been assessed as in poor state and would be closed for repairs or replacement.[21] The new bridge will not be a truss bridge in order to accommodate vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.[22] The scope of the Victoria St. project was described as:[23]

Construction of the bridge deck concrete topping and side curbs, masonry pilasters, steel framing and arched masonry stone side skirts along the bridge, steel railings, electrical, lighting and the finished piazza concrete slab, retaining wall, storm sewer extension and planting beds.

A report in April 2020 indicated that benefits included "wider traffic lanes and sidewalks, two new bike lanes, an expanded observation deck, enhanced lighting, limestone gateway piers".[24] The reconstructed bridge opened on 18 December 2020.[25]

From "poorhouse" to museum[edit]

In 1877, the County opened the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, or Poorhouse as it was called, on Wellington Road 18 between Fergus and Elora. Over the years, approximately 1500 "deserving" poor, including those who were destitute, old and infirm or suffering from disabilities were housed here. The sixty bed house for "inmates" was surrounded by a 30-acre "industrial" farm with a barn for livestock that produced some of the food for the 70 residents and the staff and also provided work for them. Others worked in the House itself. According to a 2009 report by the Toronto Star, "pauperism was considered a moral failing that could be erased through order and hard work". A hospital was added in 1892. A nearby cemetery has 271 plots for those who died. In 1947 the House was converted into the Wellington County Home for the Aged and in 1975 the building reopened as the Wellington County Museum and Archives.[26][27][28]

A historic plaque was erected at the museum, indicating that the "government-supported poorhouse" was "the shelter of last resort for the homeless and destitute, who traded spartan accommodations for domestic or agricultural labour".[29]

Raceway and slots controversy[edit]

In 2000 a proposal was made to bring a standardbred horse racing track with slot machines to Elora, by creating the Grand River Raceway. The plan became the subject of much debate. The Centre Wellington Citizens Coalition was formed in opposition to the race track, primarily because of the inclusion of gambling facilities. A 4–3 decision to approve the opening was made by township council. It came down to a 3–3 decision and the mayor at the time voted in favour of it. The Grand River Raceway eventually opened in Elora in 2002, with Slots At Grand River Raceway offering 200 slot machines operated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).

Grand River Raceway is owned and operated by the Grand River Agricultural Society (G.R.A.S.), a not-for-profit corporation, incorporated under the Agricultural Societies Act of Ontario and operated by a volunteer board of directors. The Society operates the racetrack and other facilities. It leases space to the OLG for the slot machines; the OLG is the operator and employer for the slots operation.[30] In 2009, the business paid $1.6 million in taxes and the OLG paid the Township an additional $1.78 million, being a share of the profits.[31]

A plan for substantial expansion, approved by Township Council in February 2017, will include gaming tables (up to 52) and many additional slot machines (up to 1,200 in total). Some councillors were strongly opposed to the plan. The rationale for the majority decision was the revenue benefit; since the slots opened, the Township has received over $22 million from the currently small operation.[32]


One of Elora's many tourist attractions, the gorge also has the architecturally significant David St. Bridge; it was saved from destruction by active citizens.
Tubing in Elora Gorge Conservation Area

Many tourists visit Elora on day trips, attracted by the historic nature of the town or the Grand River Raceway with horse racing and slot machines. It has many small shops, pubs, cafés, restaurants and art galleries. These are often in buildings built during the mid 19th century. The Gorge Cinema is Canada's oldest continuously running repertory theatre.[33] The annual Elora Festival & Singers event is particularly popular.

The Elora Gorge and its Conservation Area are at the edge of town. The park offers canoeing, paddleboat rentals, hiking, camp-grounds, fishing and picnicking.[34] Some of the limestone cliffs are 12 metres (40 feet) high. At the eastern end of the village is the Elora Quarry Conservation Area, a scenic former limestone quarry, and is now a popular swimming area.[35]

Restored buildings on Mill St., (shops and restaurants), line the Grand River in the downtown area.

In 2001, a group of citizens organized an arts and cultural centre, the Elora Centre for the Arts, at the site of a century school whose headmaster had been at one time David Boyle, who was well known as an educator in the late 1800s.[36]

The township of Centre Wellington has an active historical society and operates the Wellington County Museum and Archives in a historic stone building in Aboyne, halfway between Elora and Fergus, Ontario.[37] This two-storey Italianate-style stone building was the oldest known state-supported poorhouse or almshouse in Canada, called the House of Industry and Refuge when it opened in 1877. The museum opened in 1975 and the building was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995.[38][29]


Elora has a humid continental climate (Dfb) under the Köppen climate classification with cold winters and warm summers.

Climate data for Fergus (1981−2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.6
Average high °C (°F) −3.6
Daily mean °C (°F) −7.4
Average low °C (°F) −11.1
Record low °C (°F) −35
Average precipitation mm (inches) 67.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 27.8
Average snowfall cm (inches) 40.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 19.7 14.9 14.0 14.6 14.4 12.0 11.5 12.4 13.9 16.5 17.4 18.3 179.5
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 4.7 4.5 7.4 12.9 14.3 12.0 11.5 12.4 13.9 16.3 13.1 6.8 129.7
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 16.5 11.8 8.2 2.8 0.15 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.73 5.6 13.2 59.0
Source: Environment Canada[39]


Elora is situated on the Grand River, approximately 20 km (12 mi) north of Guelph, and 20 km (12 mi) northeast of Kitchener-Waterloo.


The Canada 2001 Census was the last Canadian census to record Elora as a separate community. In the Canada 2006 Census, demographic statistics were published only for Centre Wellington.

According to the Canada 2001 Census:[40]

Population: 3,796 (+13.4% from 1996)
Land area: 3.54 km²
Population density: 1,072.3 people/km²
Median age: 39.1 (males: 37.4, females: 39.1)
Total private dwellings: 1,447
Mean household income: $29,473

Data extrapolated from the 2011 Canada Census report indicates that at the time, Elora had a population of about 7,756.[1]

No data for this community was available in the 2016 census, but the population of the entire Centre Wellington Township was 28,191, and this included the population of Fergus which was 20,767 at that time.[41][42]

Local government[edit]

The Centre Wellington Township council includes a Mayor (Kelly Linton) and six councillors. Three of the latter live in Fergus while one lives in Elora.[43] The Township is also represented on the County of Wellington Council which is made up of seven mayors and nine councillors. Kelly Linton was elected Warden, the head of this council, in December 2018.[44]


Centre Wellington is heavily agricultural but is also the home to industries, manufacturers, retailers, health care services and trades people. The local economy also benefits greatly from tourism.[45] Data is not available for Elora alone but at the time of the 2011 Census, 6.4% of the workforce of Centre Wellington was involved in agriculture and other resource-based industries/utilities, 24.8% in manufacturing and construction, 19.8% in health and education and 13.2% in wholesale and retail trade. The top three categories for employment (in order of importance) were in manufacturing, Healthcare and Agriculture. The major employers in the township include Jefferson Elora Corp., Nexans Canada, Polycorp Ltd., Groves Memorial Hospital, Wellington Terrace and PR Donnelly.

Centre Wellington encourages the filming of movies and TV shows; quite a few productions have taken advantage of the historic look of Fergus, and especially Elora, for location work.[46] In 2016, parts of the 10-part miniseries, Canada: The Story of Us, were filmed in Elora which was a stand-in for scenes of WW II skirmishes in Holland and France.[47]

The Elora Quarry was used to film a couple of scenes in the movie Angel Eyes, and for a scene for the 2017 movie It.[48] The Elora Quarry and nearby West Montrose Covered Bridge were also featured in It.[49] Parts of the Grand River in both Elora and Fergus were the site for some of the scenes filmed for the 1994 movie Trapped in Paradise.[50] Other productions have also done filming in Elora, including the 1979 TV movie, An American Christmas Carol[citation needed],According to Centre Wellington, Elora or Fergus was also featured in: Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Dead Silence (2007) and Mrs. Soffel (1984).[46]


Elora has a very active lawn bowling club that offers programs for all ages. The Elora Rocks Lawn Bowling Club is a member of District 7 of the Ontario Lawn Bowling Association, and more information about the club may be found on the District website.

Elora is also home to the Elora Mohawks lacrosse team, the Elora Rocks hockey team.

At the community level, Elora also has a skating club, a curling club, a girls' hockey team (Grand River Mustangs), minor hockey team (Centre Wellington Fusion), soccer (Fergus-Elora District Soccer), a ringette team, and a few baseball teams, as well as several other sports clubs and organizations.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Smart Growth Elora + Fergus". Infographic SGEF Canada. SGEF Canada. 2016. Archived from the original on March 12, 2017. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  2. ^ "Local History". Wellington County. October 17, 2017. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  3. ^ Connon, John R. (1906). The Early History of Elora, Ontario, and Vicinity. Elora: Digitized by the Internet Archive, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Fergus-Elora: A history shaped by the Grand River". Southwesternontario.ca. July 5, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  5. ^ "The Founder of Elora". Ontarioplaques.com. Alan L. Brown. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  6. ^ "About Elora, Ontario". Elora-ontario.com. Town of Elora. 2015. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  7. ^ Smith, Wm. H. (1846). Smith's Canadian Gazetteer - Statistical and General Information Respecting all parts of The Upper Province, or Canada West. Toronto: H. & W. Rowsell. p. 54.
  8. ^ McEvoy, Henry (November 1869). The Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory. Robertson & Cook. ISBN 9780665094125. Retrieved November 30, 2018 – via Internet Archive.
  9. ^ "History of the Electrical Industry in Fergus and Elora" (PDF). Centre Wellington Hydro. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  10. ^ "Restore: The Story of Elora Mill". Eloramill.ca. Archived from the original on October 2, 2016.
  11. ^ Martin Slofstra (February 13, 2017). "Fergus builds on its small-town appeal". Toronto Sun. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  12. ^ "Getaways Elora Mill Hotel & Spa". West of the City. July 15, 2019. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  13. ^ "New look Elora Inn & Spa helps revitalize the village". Guelph Today. December 26, 2018. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  14. ^ "Three Centre Wellington properties given Heritage Recognition Awards". Guelph Today. February 23, 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  15. ^ "Grand Old Bridges : The Grand River Watershed Bridge Inventory" (PDF). Grandriver.ca. p. 12. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  16. ^ "David Street Bridge - Elora, ON". Township of Centre Wellington. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  17. ^ "Irvine Street Bridge - Elora, ON". Attractionscanada.com. Archived from the original on March 12, 2017.
  18. ^ Elora’s Victoria Street bridge was replaced in 1899
  19. ^ Jack R. MacDonald pedestrian bridge officially opens
  20. ^ https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=ontario/elorametcalfe/
  21. ^ https://www.wellington.ca/en/resourcesGeneral/Badley_Bridge_Documents/Badley_Bridge_PIC1_Exhibits_QC.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  22. ^ "Badley Bridge Environmental Assessment - Roads". November 28, 2019.
  23. ^ "Victoria Street Pedestrian Bridge & West Mill Street Improvements". ConnectCW.ca. Township of Centre Wellington. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  24. ^ Elora's Badley Bridge still expected to be finished this year
  25. ^ "Elora reconnected as Badley Bridge reopens to traffic". Guelph Today. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  26. ^ Tyler, Tracey (January 3, 2009). "When 'poorhouse' wasn't only an expression". The Toronto Star. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  27. ^ "The Bank Barn and the Industrial Farm" (PDF). Wellington County Museum and Archives. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  28. ^ "Meet the ghosts of Wellington County's Poor House in Elora". The Hamilton Spectator. Metroland Media Group Ltd. July 5, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  29. ^ a b "The Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge". OntarioPlaques.com. Alan L. Brown. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  30. ^ "About Us". Grand River Raceway. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  31. ^ Shannon, Meghan; Mitchell, Clare J. A. (December 29, 2011). "Racinos in Rural Canada: Economic Impacts of the Grand River Raceway on Elora, Ontario, Canada". Journal of Rural and Community Development. 6 (2). Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  32. ^ Robinson, Mike. "Centre Wellington Council Votes 4-3 in Favour of Potential Grand River Raceway Expansion". Wellington Advertiser. Guelph. Archived from the original on March 12, 2017.
  33. ^ "Things To Do". Elora.info. Elora Ontario BIA. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  34. ^ "Elora Gorge". Grand River Conservation Authority. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  35. ^ "Elora Quarry". Grand River Conservation Authority. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  36. ^ "History of Building". Eloracentreforthearts.ca. Elora Centre for the Arts. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  37. ^ "Visit Us". Wellington County Museum and Archives. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  38. ^ Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  39. ^ "Fergus Shand Dam, Ontario". Canadian Climate Normals 1981–2010. Environment Canada. October 31, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  40. ^ "2001 Community Profiles". Statistics Canada. Government of Canada. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  41. ^ "Census Profile, 2016 Census: Centre Wellington, Township". Statistics Canada. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  42. ^ "Census Profile, 2016 Census: Fergus, Ontario". Statistics Canada. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  43. ^ "Mayor and Council". Township of Centre Wellington. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  44. ^ "Meet Your County Council". Wellington.ca. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  45. ^ "Economic Development". Township of Centre Wellington. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  46. ^ a b "Filming in Centre Wellington". Archived from the original on July 1, 2016.
  47. ^ Robinson, Mike (July 22, 2016). "Elora set part of filming of Canada: The Story of Us". Wellingtonadvertiser.com. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017.
  48. ^ Hunter, Ian (September 8, 2017). "Local landmarks shine on the big screen in 'It'". Waterloo Region Record. Metroland Media Group. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  49. ^ "It (2017)". IMDb.com. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  50. ^ "Trapped in Paradise (1994)". IMDb.com. Retrieved November 30, 2018.


  • Carter, Floreen Ellen, Place Names of Ontario, London, Ontario, Phelps Publishing, 1984, ISBN 9780920298398

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°41′6″N 80°25′38″W / 43.68500°N 80.42722°W / 43.68500; -80.42722