Broadway, in downtown Orangeville, is the hub of the community’s social, cultural, and economic activities. From specialty shops and businesses to historical buildings, from street festivals and popular eateries to unique landscape features, Broadway is a kaleidoscope of all that’s vibrant and interesting about the community’s life. Where else would you see a waterfall, a clock tower, and an imposing sculpture in the middle of the main street?
Established as a road about 175 years ago, Broadway quickly became the heart of Orangeville, and today, is a protected and celebrated heritage district. With 100 feet between buildings on the north and south sides of the street (instead of the usual 66 feet), this street is one of the widest main streets in Ontario.
Broadway is a prime example of a strong and charming street that succeeds as a social and commercial centre, and as a cultural and entertainment hub. Friends meet in cozy cafes and outdoor patios, while visitors photograph street art and discover interesting shops.
Broadway is distinctive, due in part to three central medians that transform the streetscape and relay some local history. The unique landscaping features and architectural elements of the medians tell the tale of Orangeville’s evolution from forested area to urban centre. The medians draw a lot of attention, as do the unique tree sculptures lining Broadway – ranging from tributes to local sports champions to historical figures and even a few whimsical creations. Broadway is well known for exceptional shopping and dining opportunities, accented by heritage buildings including a prominent Town Hall and library. All these elements deliver an undeniable charm and a fun experience.
The historic clock tower, cupola atop Town Hall, and the striking statue of the Town’s founder Orange Lawrence are all recognizable symbols showcasing Broadway’s charming and historic demeanor – all to be seen on the Heritage Orangeville “Booming Broadway” walking tour.
So not only is Broadway a street to be experienced, who can resist saying they spent time on Broadway? The community is proud of its landmark main street with the prominent name.
Events and Festivals
Being the heart of the Town, Broadway has always been a key location for festivals and events in Orangeville. Broadway hosts many of the Town’s festivals and events, such as the provincially-recognized Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival, the Founders’ Fair, the Downtown Orangeville Harvest Celebration, and the weekly Orangeville Farmers’ Market. And just off Broadway is the annual Taste of Orangeville and Rotary Craft Beer Fest. All these events contribute to making this bustling street thrive. Thousands of people visit these events, creating a strong economy in the downtown core. In fact, the Farmers’ Market drew more than 52,000 guests in 2014. With plenty of free parking, walking proximity to most Town locations, a regular transit system, and a new free bicycle lock-up tent for select festivals, everyone is able to experience Broadway’s excitement and entertainment.
The charming ambience of downtown Broadway is a strong draw for both residents and visitors. Beautiful floral displays as well as trees and shrubs, historical architecture, and sidewalk cafes all lend themselves to that inescapable small-Town vibe.
Another great source of entertainment is theatrical productions in the historic Opera House, located on Broadway within Town Hall. Theatre Orangeville has been producing live professional theatre since 1994 and offers plays of many different genres, appealing to a variety of audiences. Live theatre has proven to be an essential element for the community’s vitality and serves as a major tourism driver for the Town and downtown Broadway.
Jesse Ketchum inherited property in Orangeville from his uncle in the 1850s. A resident of Toronto, he had visited New York and thought the fledgling Town could become something “big” so he changed the name of the dirt track serving as a main street to Broadway. He then had streets and lots surveyed, providing numerical names for the streets and avenues – just like New York.
The founding period of Orangeville was followed by an increase in business and commercial development on both sides of Broadway. A hardware store, a carriage company, the Grand Hotel, and Graham’s Tavern were among the first businesses located on Broadway.
With a population of 1,200, Orangeville was officially incorporated as a village of Wellington County on December 22, 1863 – a full four years before Canada’s incorporation. It became an official Town in 1875, the same year that the Town Hall was constructed on Broadway.
Fire was a constant threat in the downtown core, and a bylaw was passed in 1875 authorizing brick as the only acceptable cladding for downtown commercial buildings. Today you can still see remnants of the original style. There are several existing buildings on Broadway that are designated historic properties under the Ontario Heritage Act, such as Graham’s Tavern c. 1860, the Commercial Hotel c. 1864, and Town Hall c. 1875. Various architectural styles are visible, from Italianate to Georgian to Second Empire.
The development of central medians on Broadway, separating eastbound and westbound traffic, has come to define the Town in recent years. The medians represent the Town’s evolution from a natural forested area to a mill-based village to an urban centre.
Designed by landscaping students at the Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, the most easterly median, in front of the Town Hall, features a pergola with stone columns and a white cedar roof structure. The most prominent feature in this median is the statue of Orange Lawrence, the founder of the Town, created from magnesium phosphate. The 7.5-foot sculpture stands on a base and towers above street level to welcome those coming into Town. He’s depicted with his jacket over his shoulder and sleeves rolled up with plans in his hands – ready to start work on the mills he built in Orangeville’s formative years.
The central median features a clock tower. The clock was originally built and installed on the old post office in 1936 where it remained until the post office was demolished in 1963. The clock sat atop the Town Hall from 1980 to 1993 until the Town Hall was renovated. The marble timepiece weighs about 2,000 pounds.
The westerly median features a waterfall, with water falling in four directions representing the fact that Orangeville sits at the headwaters of four river systems. The design of the waterfall includes rougher features on the east and west faces so the water cascades more. The north and south sides, which are more exposed to the wind, have been designed to be smooth so the water clings to the wall better and minimizes spray on the roadway. The water goes into a pool at the base of the waterfall and is recirculated. Some water runs along a chute to the top of a symbolic waterwheel, representing the emergence of the mills and its energy source — and the village that became Orangeville.
The renovation, over the years, of the Town Hall & Opera House as well as the Orangeville Public Library, have preserved beautiful heritage buildings and ensured that central Broadway remains a people place. The prominent structure of the Orangeville Town Hall is a great example of a government building of the late nineteenth century, with Georgian elements. Historically, the building functioned as a public market and a Town Hall. Today, the Town Hall houses the municipal administrative offices and the Opera House is the primary venue for theatrical performances and is managed by Theatre Orangeville. The Town Hall is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The development of the “Town Centre” – a residential condominium complex – has created more people living space in the downtown core. More and more Broadway property owners have renovated their upper storeys for unique residential accommodation. The Broadway Grand development has also completed a residential complex downtown and will add more commercial buildings to front Broadway.
While businesses on Broadway act as a draw to the area, so does another new development project. The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit constructed a three-storey building on Broadway. Great care was taken to ensure this new building reflected the historical development of the community and complemented Broadway’s architecture. Public services are required in downtowns as they act as a destination to individuals seeking that type of service, thus creating another reason to come downtown.
The development of several unique restaurants has made Broadway a destination for “foodies”. From Rustik to the Black Wolf Smokehouse, to the Bluebird Café, there is no shortage of wonderful dining experiences. In fact, three of the downtown restaurants have been featured on the “You Gotta Eat Here” television series. One of Orangeville’s oldest buildings (1854) – originally a tavern operated by the Town’s founder – has just been transformed into Steakhouse 63. The stones in the building are a match to those found in nearby Mill Creek and the building is one of the most well-known historic sites in Town. It’s got charm, it’s got history – and some believe that it’s also got a ghost.
Broadway has many attractive storefronts, thanks in part to the Town’s Façade Improvement Grant program. Since 1999 when the incentive program was introduced, there has been a total of $456,682.37 invested by the Town in facades along Broadway with an additional $1,616, 231.32 in private investment. This is an excellent example of government and private enterprise collaborating for the economic benefit of the community.
The creation of tree sculptures has added character to Broadway and those pieces of art now serve as a major tourism driver for the community. They also tell stories about Orangeville’s past, promote art, and demonstrate our community spirit. Whether it’s the Story Teller tree sculpture outside the library, or the Letter Carrier sculpture adjacent to the Post Office, the sculptures are unique and are part of the Town’s Art Walk of Tree Sculptures program that draws tourists from far and wide to see the 50-plus works of art.
Walking distance from most of Town, and a bike ride or transit bus ride away from the rest of Orangeville, Broadway is easily accessible. For visitors to the community, Broadway is right off Highways 9 and 10 so it’s readily accessible and visible for motorists. Wide sidewalks, bicycle posts, on-street parallel parking, and plenty of free public parking can accommodate many kinds of transportation in the downtown core. The street runs straight east and west; hence, it’s easy to navigate. But motorists will want to stop and check out the amenities and shops as they drive along Broadway. The Town of Orangeville values a barrier-free community, and has undertaken many initiatives to promote accessibility. Some great examples on Broadway include:
- APS signals (Audible signals that tweet and chirp to let pedestrians with poor vision know which light is green at intersections)
- Countdown signals at traffic lights
- Opera house: hearing devices installed, portable wheelchair lift for the stage, ramped aisles and 16 wheelchair spaces as well an elevator
- Bus transit schedule is posted in large fonts at each stop, with benches and shelters installed at many stops
- Bright yellow painted curbs downtown for visually impaired to see where curb ends
- Enlarged street signs at major Broadway intersections for better visibility
- Many businesses are fully accessible and portable suitcase ramps are available for other businesses to make entranceways accessible
Broadway offers a great variety of shopping and dining opportunities that cater to different demographics. Some businesses cater to both youths and adults. Koros Games has a huge appeal for the gaming community. And “Club Art” offers regular art programs and open studio nights, hosted by local artists. Different themes and art mediums have proven popular with youths. Two dance studios on Broadway add to Broadway’s cultural scene – and help to draw more young people downtown.
A wide range of retail boutiques, offering everything from art and home décor to apparel and jewellery, attracts adults with diverse interests. Broadway has a lot to offer – whether you’re on a mission for a particular item or just in the mood to browse, whether you’re looking for sporting gear or equestrian supplies. You can find banks, hair salons, employment centres, law firms, media companies, kitchen and home décor specialty shops, yoga studios, an art gallery, a driving school, an arts supply business, health care professionals and much more.
Artists also have a reason to come to Broadway, aside from painting scenes on the street. “Dragonfly Arts on Broadway” is an art gallery and shop, with artists’ studio spaces, and it has become a popular destination over the years.
One of the main attractions that draws people to Broadway is the amazing selection of restaurants and cafes. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just dessert you’re after, there’s always a place to go that will suit your needs and satisfy your hunger. Many restaurants offer sit-down as well as take-out service — and even patio dining during the warm seasons. Choose between sandwich shops, coffee houses, chocolate shops and candy stores, fine dining, gourmet smoothies, pubs, and pizza parlours.
The nightlife destination on Broadway includes Holbrooks Grill & Sports Bar. With more than 50 TVs and a modern atmosphere, it’s a great place to watch the game and grab a beer. On weekends, live acoustic artists, three-piece bands and DJs fill the place with high energy music and entertainment until 2 a.m.
There are the more fun venues to enjoy during the evening. The Tipsy Toad Pub & Grill, the Barley Vine Rail Company Bistro & Pub, Steakhouse 63, and the Black Wolf Smokehouse offer live entertainment and a fun night out.
The various festivals and events around Broadway offer plenty of activities for children and families, with live music, buskers, magicians, and vendors.
The Saturday Farmers’ Market at the Town Hall draws all ages and has become a go-to destination.
Having the Opera House right on Broadway is another plus, given the diverse and steady crowds that it attracts, from seniors matinees to performances for school children. It offers everything from concerts to professional theatrical performances.
Orangeville’s slogan is “Historic Charm…Dynamic Future”. Broadway, being the heart of the town, encompasses historical charm, provides charisma with diverse businesses, entertains with great events, and promotes strong community spirit. Broadway is a huge part of the community’s identity. It’s both an attraction and a destination.
Broadway is a really great place.