Ontario Detailed Review. This small town has a LOT to offer the day-tripper.
Check out its museum, art gallery, prettily-preserved downtown and Victorian
Above: Woodstock Museum
Woodstock Ontario’s mansion-lined Vansittart Avenue was the first thing that attracted me to this small city in southern Ontario. I was passing through the town on a bus one day on my way to Stratford, spied the homes, and made a note to follow up with a visit. When I looked up their regional tourist office online and saw this gorgeous piece of architecture above (the Woodstock Museum), I knew my sister and I had to make a daytrip there and check it out.
It has taken a while to get back here, but Woodstock was worth the wait. The town’s core is nicely laid out along Dundas Street, where you’ll find most of the attractions that will appeal to day-trippers, like the art gallery, the city hall, the restaurants and shops and of course the wonderful Woodstock Museum. The building, which is located on the main street at 466 Dundas, started life as the Town Hall, market, public meeting place and jail. It was built in 1853 and modelled on the Town Hall in Woodstock, England. City offices outgrew the space eventually and moved out, and in 1948 the museum moved into the building. The inviting fountain in front of the museum – a popular gathering spot for locals, we noticed – was erected in 1916 in honour of Andrew Pattulo, a local newspaper editor.
The interior design of the building is just as interesting as the exterior. Downstairs you’ll find the restored council chambers in lovely lemon and cream, a little reminder of what it used to be:
Upstairs is a total shocker. I gasped when I saw this room, the former public hall. I can just picture generations of former citizens enjoying this space, dancing around in their finest at a grand ball or gathering for a gossip before a lecture by Oscar Wilde (who appeared here in 1882).
What a pity that it isn’t used as a theatre anymore. Half of it is blocked off and used for temporary exhibits. I asked the woman at reception and she said the stage can no longer be used because it doesn’t meet code. What a shame. I would love watching a performance here.
This is a close-up detail of that gorgeous ceiling:
The museum’s permanent displays downstairs deal with the history of the town and the region, including its various industries, especially the dairies (the region is known as the Dairy Capital of Canada and celebrates a festival called Cowapalooza). We didn’t have time to get out to the corner of Dundas and Springbank streets and see the life size statue of "Springbank Snow Countess: a Famous Cow", but we promise to pay her a visit next time.
Speaking of cows, it’s not often that you hear one on a city street. But when I was walking around outside of the building, I heard a distinctive MOOOOOOOOOOO. I turned around and saw this truck and in the back I could see at least one cow (possibly two). Apparently Miss Moo was a little bored waiting for her human driver.
But back to the museum … I liked the fact that one of the first industries in town was the brewery. These people had their priorities right.
And they seem to be very down to earth as well. I don’t remember coming upon an outhouse in a museum before.
As I mentioned, the museum building used to house city hall. Now City Hall is located just down the street at 500 Dundas St. in a building that was originally constructed in 1901 as the post office. It has a nice solid feel, with a kind of H.H. Richardson heft to it.
Just behind the museum is the Woodstock Market, built in 1895. To me it resembles a railway station but it was indeed built as the market. At one end of the sprawling building you’ll find the Woodstock Theatre.
The Woodstock Art Gallery at 449 Dundas Street offers two floors of exhibitions, one temporary and one permanent. Admission is free.
Vansittart Avenue lived up to the
memory I acquired on my fleeting trip down it on a bus. On a street of
mansions, the home of Thomas L. “Carbide” Wilson at 210 Vansittart stands out. Wilson
was the inventor of the 1st commercial calcium-carbide process for the
manufacturer of acetylene gas (and I have no idea what that means, so don’t
Downtown Woodstock Ontario runs from Vansittart Avenue to Huron Street on Dundas Street, the city's main street. There are several shops and restaurants, many of them happily still housed in vintage buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Check out their downtown BIA: www.downtownwoodstock.ca
Or try the regional tourist web site at Tourism Oxford: www.tourismoxford.ca
On the way out of town, at 97 Wilson Street, you’ll find a large sprawling warehouse full of antiques, The One of a Kind Antique Market, purported to be the largest in the county. We ran out of time but we hope to make a visit back another day to explore this Palace of the Past.