We are in the midst of marking the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Canadians are, that is. Some of our national heroes were forged in the conflict, such as Isaac Brock and Laura Secord. When the war ended in 1814, the British colony now known as Canada, began building a defensive infrastructure just in case the citizens south of our border again turned to war to settle our differences. One building project was the Rideau canal system between Kingston and the Ottawa River. The Rideau Canal was a British Army project under the command of Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers. The terminus of the canal, became known as Bytown. The name did not stick, although Colonel By’s reputation for efficiency did.
As the canal progressed northward communities were founded: Perth, Ontario is an example. Founded in 1816, the community was once a major transport centre. Now it is a picturesque dormitory town for the National Capital – Ottawa, formerly Bytown. The Rideau Canal locks were built by hand, each stone hand-hewn by skilled masons, and put in place by labourers who had carved out the locks with picks and shovels. Many of the masons stayed in Canada, where building was big business as the country expanded. Their skill gave Perth its distinct look.
Perth is a day trip from Ottawa, and an overnight from the Greater Toronto Area. There is a new hotel and spa for upscale getaways. Bed and breakfasts enable visitors to see the interiors of the heritage homes that dot the streets. There is a farmers’ market every Saturday. Looking for shoe bargains, Brown’s shoes – aka Naturalizer – has a factory outlet by the fair grounds.
There are marinas close by for renting boats for touring or fishing. Relatively flat, the surrounding landscape is excellent for bikers. Balderson’s Cheese is a short drive away. Bring a hamper, because you will want to take some home.
Quiet, quaint and close – Perth is worth exploring.