Today, I’ll be picking up where I left off with the next part in a continuing series of community profiles – highlighting some of the smaller towns and cities which surround the major real estate markets of Southwestern Ontario. Since kicking things off a few weeks ago, we’ve visited three destinations, each of which is less than 40 minutes’ driving time of Kitchener-Waterloo: Paris to the south of us, and New Hamburg and Stratford to our west. Today, we’ll be switching our focus about half an hour north-east of us, to the beautiful and historic Grand River milling community of Elora.
While there’s lots in common with some of the other locations we’ve already looked at, there’s also plenty of unique things that make Elora such an interesting town, starting with the name itself. Elora actually borrows its name from the namesake of its founder’s brother’s boat – the Ellora Caves of Maharashtra, India. Captain William Gilkison, originally from Scotland, had served as an officer in Queen Victoria’s overseas empire. Upon arriving in Canada, Gilkison purchased 14,000 acres of land along the Grand River to the west of the provincial capital of Toronto in 1832 – land which includes today’s community.
You’ll recognize the 1830’s as a decade which pops up frequently in the histories of Southwestern Ontario towns as a foundational era. As European immigration gathered steam in Upper Canada, communities popped up by the dozens along rivers and streams – anywhere a living could be made from the land and milling its bounty. Elora was no different, and by the time of Confederation in 1867, its population was approaching the 1,500 mark and the town boasted multiple mills, churches, distilleries, factories and shops.
But what’s set Elora apart over all the years since has been the natural beauty of its location. Hilly, leafy and the site of a spectacular glacial gorge – today, a conservation area administered by the GRCA – Elora has the charm to attract visitors during every season even aside from its many cultural highlights, shows and festivals. Today’s town features stunning century homes and beautiful properties by the scores. Chic shops, boutique inns, breweries, restaurants and cafes line Mill, Metcalfe and Geddes Streets, attracting tens of thousands of tourists every year. Once again, even aside from impressive historical architecture and natural beauty on display, Elora’s proximity to major population hubs (Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and the GTA) means that it’s an extremely attractive bedroom community for those who are seeking more space and a slower-paced lifestyle.
As we all know, popularity comes with a cost – in this case, that cost can be measured by steep increases in the price of Elora real estate these past several years. The town’s desirability has led to some eye-watering prices for the most desirable established neighbourhoods close to the town centre, but increased activity in the development and new homes sectors (and even some condos now) have meant that more inventory is coming available. While not exactly cheap, Elora is still a more cost-friendly alternative to prestigious GTA neighbourhoods, with the added benefit of carrying a unique charm, history and appeal all its own.
Original article written by Lee Quaile, March 19, 2021