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    What Is It Like to Live in Oshawa?  


    Oshawa, a part of the Durham Region, is a great city to consider if you want to live in the Greater Toronto Area.  


    As a suburb of Toronto, the commute to downtown Toronto from Oshawa is relatively short. Oshawa accommodates a good transit system. This sometimes overlooked gem, a city which sits on the shore of Lake Ontario, is surrounded by lots of beautiful nature, containing plenty of parks and trails making it a great place to live in but also to visit on holidays. Oshawa is a prominent centre for sports events and entertainment. This best kept secret of the GTA also offers an abundance of year-round adventures, celebrations and recreational activities for the entire family. Oshawa is also very rich in culture with a captivating Indigenous history. It’s time we explore all these wonderful things Oshawa has to offer so sit back, get comfy and lets discover this hidden gem in the Greater Toronto Area.


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    Did you know Oshawa was once home to the ancestral Wendat?


    This city’s history was not ignited with the arrival of the first European immigrants but rather goes back hundreds of years prior to the European settlements with the ancestral Wendat who settled at what today are known as the Grandview and MacLeod sites.  


    Oshawa was once home to the Iroquois (approximately from 1350 A.D to 1450 A.D) who are identified as ancestral Wendat also known as the Huron and not to be confused with the Iroquois of the Confederated Five Nations of Upper New York state: Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga and Seneca. Evidence of these Iroquois inhabitants came from two archeological excavations at the Grandview and MacLeod sites of two villages understood to have belonged to the ancestral Wendat peoples from the approximate time period of 1400 A.D-1450 A.D. This time period is also a part of the time known as the Late Woodlands Period between 1000 A.D to 1650 A.D and more specifically the Late Iroquoian Period (15th century).  


    The territory of the ancestral Wendat is thought to have extended along the north shore of Lake Ontario from the Rouge River to Prince Edward County. The Grandview Site, located south of Taunton Road and west of Grandview Street North, was discovered in 1992 during construction for a new subdivision of Oshawa. Archaeological Services Inc. was contacted and a salvage excavation was completed by 1993 which unearthed the remains of a large ancestral Wendat village of approximately 0.78 hectares. The village consisted of 12 longhouses, including 11,000 artifacts, 3 garbage pits (middens) and 11 other outdoor activity areas.  


    The MacLeod site, located at the corner of Rossland and Thornton roads, was discovered by accident in the fall of 1967 when a local resident noticed several pieces of broken pottery in the topsoil from the property of Howard MacLeod. The Ontario Archaeological Society examined the recovered materials at the site and concluded the site had been a village. In order to learn more about the village, it was decided that an exploratory excavation should be conducted.


    The Ontario Archeological Society worked in co-operation with the City of Oshawa, with the assistance from members of the Oshawa Historical Society, with local high school students, and also with students who took part in the University of Toronto field classes, to excavate the site. It was determined that an established ancestral Wendat village existed at this location consisting of several longhouses surrounded by a palisade and situated on at least three to four acres of land. Based on the evidence found, the village was thought to be inhabited from 1450 A.D to 1470 A.D. Over 18,000 artifacts were uncovered during the excavation, of which the vast majority was ceramics, lithic stone tools and bone.  


    Evidence from both of the Grandview and MacLeod sites suggests that sometime before 1400 A.D a group of Iroquois, from the Duffins Creek area (Toronto) and the Rouge River watershed, expanded east and settled on Harmony Creek at the Grandview Site. The new village was sustained by farming, fishing and hunting until 1450 A.D when the village was then abandoned. The Iroquois then settled at the MacLeod site, only 5.5 kilometres to the west.


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    When did early European settlement begin in Oshawa?  


    In the 1700s, since Lake Ontario was the only means of transportation, early settlement in Oshawa took place mainly along the shoreline. It wasn’t until after 1793, when Governor Simcoe planned a road between Kingston and Toronto, that settlement started to move further inland. This road is known as Kingston Road (now Highway 2).  


    More people moved to Oshawa in the early to mid-1800s. As the population slowly increased, more services and buildings were built, including mills, hotels, stores, churches and a post office. In 1849 Oshawa was incorporated as a village. The name “Oshawa” was chosen to represent the original settlement and translates from the Ojibwe native term aazhawe, meaning “the crossing place” or just “a cross”. By 1840 Oshawa’s harbour was known as Port Sydenham, named after Lord Sydenham, who was Governor General of Upper Canada between 1839 and 1841.


    Port Sydenham was located only five kilometres from the centre of town and provided a means of importing and exporting goods to and from Oshawa. However, the railway’s arrival in Oshawa in 1856 greatly affected business at Port Sydenham as coal and other supplies were brought in by rail rather than ship. In the mid to late 1800s, Oshawa’s industry continued to grow especially with the development of the Grand Trunk Railway from Toronto to Montreal. In 1876, Robert McLaughlin moved to Oshawa and his company, the McLaughlin Carriage Company, quickly developed into the largest carriage works in the British Empire.  


    Oshawa’s industrial development in the 1900s  


    In the 1900s, with the automobile gaining popularity, the McLaughlin family decided to enter the business by contracting with the Buick Motor Car Company of Michigan for use of the Buick engine in the McLaughlin car. Automobile production began in Oshawa in 1907 when 198 McLaughlin automobiles were built. In 1915, the McLaughlin’s acquired the rights to build Chevrolets, creating the Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada.


    Three years later, the McLaughlin Motor Car Company and Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada were merged to create General Motors of Canada Limited, a unit of the General Motors Corporation. At the same time, Pedlar People Limited, a metal roofing company, grew to be the largest of its kind in the British Empire and by 1920, the number of people employed with industrial jobs in Oshawa grew to over 3,000. Oshawa continued to grow in size and population. A public water system was created, a public library was built, the Oshawa General Hospital was built and two large parks were created (Alexandra Park and Lakeview Park). On March 8, 1924, with a population of 15,545, Oshawa received “City” status and throughout the late 1900s population and employment continued to grow.  




    Today in the 2020s, with a population of over 172,000, Oshawa is the largest municipality in the Durham Region.  


    Oshawa is home to many post-secondary institutions and is rich in the arts and cultural assets with over 500 cultural businesses. It also hosts a great number of events and festivals.  


    Is Oshawa a good place for students?  


    Oshawa has excellent options for education at all levels. The city’s secondary schools provide education for students interested in skilled trades such as environmental studies and the performing arts. Also, with Oshawa being the education hub east of Toronto, Oshawa is home to more than 25,000 full time post-secondary students including post-secondary schools such as Durham College, Trent University Durham, Ontario Tech University, Queens Univesity’s Family Medicine satellite campus at Lakeridge Health Oshawa , and TeachingCity Oshawa.  


    Does Oshawa have public transit?  


    Community members and visitors can get around the city and surrounding area by using any combination of the multiple public transit options offered within Oshawa: Durham Regional Transit provides public transit within the city, Go Transit provides transit out into the GTA and beyond, and Via Rail Canada is an excellent option for people to access the rest of Canada from Oshawa by train.  


    Is Oshawa worth visiting?  


    Not many tourists go much further than Toronto, so Oshawa is often missed. But it has so much to offer!  


    Some of the Best things to do in Oshawa are:  


    1. Checking out cars at one of the city’s most visited attractions, the Canadian Automotive Museum.

      This very cool 2,300 square metre museum is located in what once used to be a local car dealership. Today, it is filled with cars that date all the way back to 1902. The museum consists of two levels with the second level featuring Canadian-made cars. When walking through this museum, one has the pleasure of seeing classics such as a 1908 De Dion-Bouton Roadster, a 1926 Bentley 3 litre Speed Model, a 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III, a 1957 Dodge Regent and a plethora of other fantastic automobiles.  


    1. Visiting impressive Canadian national historical sites such as The Parkwood Estate.

      This magnificent property, now open to the public to visit, was once the residence of the founder of General Motors of Canada, Samuel McLaughlin. Today one can wander around the estate and admire the landscape, architecture and interior design of this magnificent mansion. Featuring 55 rooms and an incredible garden where weddings and photo shoots often take place, this beautiful mansion features housewares, artwork, memorabilia and books all set up like they were when the family inhabited the estate.  


    1. Looking at contemporary and modern Canadian art at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

      This wonderful gallery was opened by, as well as features, works by the Painters Eleven. In this gallery one can walk around and admire over 4,500 works in the gallery’s collection. Paintings, prints and sculptures created by artists from the Painters Eleven group can be seen throughout, particularly those of Alexandra Luke who was one of the founders of the gallery.  


    1. Exploring Oshawa’s History at the Oshawa Museum.

      The historical museum is both a museum and an archival storage. The museum displays items that date back to the 15th century, all of which celebrate the history of the city.  The permanent collections are within two buildings, both of which date back to the 19th century. Robinson House is where you will find the archaeology exhibits.  


    1. Enjoying the outdoors in many forms such as walks on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail.

    The Waterfront Trail stretches from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Brockville, passing through Oshawa along the way. It is one of the best places in the city to go for a walk or a bike ride. The trail goes through the entire city along the edge of Lake Ontario. Parts of it are off-road, while others are on-road. There are a few car parks and washrooms along the trail as well as two lookout points which happen to contain one of the most significant remnant coastal wetlands in the trail.  


    Visiting many of Oshawa’s parks such as the Darlington Provincial Park.  


    Located just to the east of the city on Lake Ontario. It is a small park, but it is a nice place to spend a day. Darlington Provincial Park is home to a plethora of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, grey wolves and monarch butterflies. In fact, there are so many butterflies there that it has been incorporated as part of a butterfly conservation program. Also, if you want to spend more time there, there are three campgrounds on-site. Darlington Provincial Park also contains a beach, hiking trails and picnic facilities.  


    Enjoying the city’s Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens.  


    This network of parks make up a fantastic place to stop and smell the flowers. The summer is the best time to explore the gardens, although it is open year-round. The gardens feature beautiful trails, pavilions and picnic areas, as well as a playground for the kids to enjoy. Parts of the Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens have outdoor fitness equipment and places to sit and relax. It is also a popular place for wedding photography.  


    Enjoying a visit to the Oshawa Zoo and Fun Farm.


    The nine hectare zoo is home to over 45 animal species such as sheep, pigs, mini donkeys, belted galloway and goats amongst its domestic animals. You will also see camels, lemurs, monkeys, llamas and wallabies. The zoo often rescues abandoned or injured animals. Some of the animals you will see are rescue animals which have since been given food, shelter and loving care.  


    Exploring Downtown Oshawa.  


    There is so much to see in Downtown Oshawa and a walking tour is the best way to explore it. Many top attractions are there, as are some lovely parks. Downtown Oshawa sits on the west side of the Oshawa River filled with numerous cafés, restaurants and local shops in the area that are fun to relax in or browse through. In this same downtown area there are two trails leading south to Lake Ontario which one can take a walk through. Downtown Oshawa is also the most popular part of the city in terms of accommodations.  


    1. Enjoying Oshawa’s sports venues and events.

      There are a number of swimming pools throughout Oshawa, some of which are indoors and some that are outdoors and one can head to any of these pools to go for a swim. The Civic Recreation Complex Pool is the largest, having six-lanes for doing laps. There is also a diving board and a sauna. The 25-metres indoor heated Donevan Pool is also a great option, as is the 30-metre heated outdoor Rotary Pool. Then there is the Legends Centre Pool which features a lazy river, a beach and two water slides.  


    Oshawa is a haven for sports lovers as it is home to numerous local professional teams. There is a hockey, lacrosse, basketball, rugby and football team in the city. The Oshawa Generals hockey team is probably the city’s most well-known team, as it has famous alumni like Bobby Orr, Wayne Cashman, Eric Lindros and Dave Andreychuk. The Oshawa Green Gaels lacrosse team is also pretty top notch. Therefore, if you are a sports lover, watching a game is a must. Some are quite popular and may sell out fast, so be sure to buy tickets ahead of time.  


    1. Tasting the culinary joys Oshawa has to offer.


      Oshawa has recently become a food city, with many restaurants and emerging chefs popping up at every corner. Downtown is the area that has the most options though food can be enjoyed all over the city. Everything from healthy eats to Southern BBQ joints can be found in the city giving you plenty of opportunities to please your taste buds. Indian, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Mexican cuisine are just a few of the options available. Some restaurants have live music while others offer a fine-dining experience. No matter what you are looking for, you are sure to find it there.  


    1. Shopping till you drop.


      There are numerous opportunities to do shopping in the city, both in shopping malls and along streets. You will find local boutiques and known chain shops in Oshawa. If you are looking for unique items, head to Downtown Oshawa and explore the local boutiques and artisan shops. If indoor shopping is more your thing, head to the Oshawa Centre. Oshawa also features outdoor malls with a few larger shops like Walmart and Best Buy. These outdoor malls also often have outlet shops.  


    Now that we have explored this Greater Toronto Area’s well kept secret, I am certain that you can all agree that Oshawa has a lot to offer to anyone looking for an alternative place within the GTA to live in or even just to visit. There is so much for everyone and anyone of any age, whether it’s a family, young couple or single person, to explore and enjoy this city. Therefore if you’re one of those more adventurous types, you may want to consider Oshawa as the place for you to make your future home and even if that’s too much of a leap, you can definitely give it a shot and pay Oshawa a visit. I am certain you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise!  


    More About Oshawa


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