Take Another Look at Bowmanville

Will McGuirk

No visit to the ‘Ville is complete without a visit to the Village Inn. It is an anchor to the downtown music community built around the art of conversation...

Downtown Bowmanville bridges the liveliness of a city with the loveliness of a village. The main thoroughfare is often shut down for community events and celebrations. The downtown is the gathering place for the town, and wandering around the side streets and neighbourhoods is a peek into the lives in one of Durham Region’s best-kept secrets.

At one of those community events in the late 1800s, a boy named William Hunt witnessed his first circus. He would grow up to become the Great Farini, an internationally known showman and explorer and one of the first to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. 

The Clarington Museum and Archives is located on one of the leafy side streets downtown. Although closed at present, the museum is a great place to browse exhibits with children. It is far from a stuffy affair; instead, the museum combines education and entertainment in unexpected ways. After a visit, one sees the streets outside in a different light, beyond just their intriguing names; Temperance Street, Horsey Street, Lover’s Lane. Number 7 Lover’s Lane was where Farini lived.

Several church spires rise above the aged old trees, which shade the streets and the front porches which overlook them. Some of the churches have been in use for more than a century and are a wonder to behold; among them, St. Paul’s United, Trinity United, and the unique Spanish and Italian facade of St Andrews Presbyterian, all located appropriately on Church Street. 

Even higher than the spires, the water tower hovers over the town like a strange spaceship. The shape of the tower lends itself to the imagination of a child, and all sorts of stories can be projected on to the utility as one walks the downtown neighbourhood with a young family.

One should take time to observe Bowmanville’s Octagon House on Division Street, the one time home to Canada’s first female columnist, Faith Fenton, a pseudonym used by Alice Freeman, as journalism in the 1880s was not respectable enough employment for a young woman.

The youngest of men are the focus of Little Buck, which sells baby boy clothing beyond just the blues. Of course, baby girls, mamas, and papas can find something too at this sweet family-run store. Another sweet treat is Petit Nordique. This is also a  family-run store. They sell home-made knitted clothing and accessories for children, everything from bonnets to blankets, and all Instagram cute.  Gather has a unique collection of fresh fashions and locally sourced hand-made items, many with a quirky twist and designed with women, children, and babies’ wellbeing in mind. 

No visit to the ‘Ville is complete without a visit to the Village Inn. It is an anchor to the downtown music community built around the art of conversation. The Irish themed pub is decorated with an assortment of framed posters and memorabilia, and the upstairs lounge feels more like a country kitchen with its antique rural furnishings. Situated on the corner of Scugog and King, their patio has a wide view of that busy intersection, and one can see all the comings and goings of the town while enjoying a plate of mussels and a glass of wine

Further north on Scugog Street, is the Foundry District. Some of the former industrial use buildings are now being used by new makers, including the Manantler Craft Brewery. The brewhouse was an early entry into Durham Region’s craft beer community, and the owners have continued to add exciting new flavours as well as collaborations with artists and bands. They brew in small batches, so not everything is always in stock.  Still, if you can swing it, their Roberta Blondar is a crispy thirst-quencher, perfect for the close of an evening after a day taking in the sights of Bowmanville.