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Town of Bracebridge History

Early History

Located a two-hour drive north of Toronto, Bracebridge is situated on the Muskoka River in Ontario, Canada. Both early and late history of Bracebridge were shaped by the proximity to Lake Muskoka. The location of the town was beneficial because of its abundant water resources and convenient crossing.

The first settlers of Bracebridge arrived in the 1860s. The town was initially called North Falls, but renamed in 1864 — after Washington Irving’s novel called Bracebridge Hall. The first settler was John Beal, who built a log house in the present-day Bracebridge. He was followed by James Cooper, who was sent to the area to develop a route called Muskoka Road. By late 1860s, Bracebridge was a settlement with a population of about 160 people.

As several decades passed, Bracebridge was expanding and already had over two thousand residents by the beginning of the 20th century. The first business ventures appeared, including J.D. Shier Sawmill, Beardmore Tannery, and the Bird Woolen Mill. Two newspaper, the Herald Gazette and the Northern Advocate, appeared in 1872. In 1886, the railway reached Bracebridge and connected the town with other cities in Canada and the United States.

Just like many small towns in Ontario, Bracebridge suffered during the world wars and the Great Depression. The development of tourism was one of the factors that helped improve Bracebridge’s economy. The area’s picturesque nature enabled construction of numerous hotels along the shores of scenic lakes.

Bracebridge Town Express
Bracebridge Town Express

Latest History

In the 1950s and 1960s, Bracebridge became home to multinational manufacturers like Alcan Wire and Cable, Rockwell International, Fanotec, Muskoka Transport, Alcan Foils and others. Such a boost to Bracebridge’s economy created thousands of new jobs and brought the much-needed stability and diversification to the local economy. As of 2020, the major economic sectors in Bracebridge are construction, tourism, healthcare, and manufacturing, with most of locals employed in these four spheres.

Today Bracebridge is the seat of the Muskoka municipality and an important tourist destination in Ontario. Bracebridge Falls, Santa’s Village Entertainment Park, Kirby’s Beach, Muskoka Brewery — here are just a few attractions that a travel enthusiast can check out in Bracebridge. Each traveler — regardless of their age, nationality, and preferred lifestyle — will find something in this lovely town that will suit their taste!