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Monthly meetings are held in Cobourg's Victoria Hall.

Cobourg and District Historical Society Meetings are held every month except May, June, July, August and December.  Meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday in the Month.  Meetings start at 7:30 pm but coffee and cookies are available starting at 7:00 pm.  Meetings are $5 for non-members and free for members of the society and students. 

More on our About page.

The summary is a copy of the powerpoint slides used for her presentation to the Society.

Based on a presentation by: Marsha Ann Tate, ABD
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania USA 16802
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As presented to Cobourg Historical Society

Text version here (4 pages).

Early History

1797 – 1820’s

  • Cedar swamp so originally avoided by settlers
  • Early settlers (1797 - 1820’s)
    • United Empire Loyalists
    • Retired fur traders
    • British “official class” = ‘Half-pay pay’ officers
    • Strong military tradition

Cobourg 1850-1865

Prosperity to Poverty

  • 1850’s: Prosperity
    • Town population = 6000
    • Fifth largest center in the province and most important central Lake Ontario port
  • 1856: Opening of the Grand Trunk Railway
  • 1860’s: Near Bankruptcy
    • Failure of the Cobourg to Peterborough Railway
    • Cost of town hall

From Iron & Steel to Rest & Relaxation

  • Late 1860’s George K. Shoenberger & his Pittsburgh associates assume control of:
    • Marmora Iron Mines 50 miles north of Cobourg
    • The Cobourg, Peterborough, and Marmora Railway and Mining Company
  • The Pittsburgh industrialists use Cobourg as their Canadian base of operations
    • The industrialists begin bringing their families and friends with them on their “business ” trips

Establishment of American Summer Colony

  • Colonel William Chambliss
    • Son-in in-law of George K. Shoenberger
    • The “Ozone” tour
  • Arlington Hotel
    • George Shoenberger & William Chambliss
  • “Friends and family” in North and South

Reasons for Reasons for Cobourg’s Popularity with Southern and Northern U.S. Families

  • Southern families
    • Cool and hospitable climate
    • Not required to spend vacation money in the northern United States.
  • Northern families
    • “High quality ozone"
    • Business interests (e.g., iron and coal)

mansionOne of the large estates built 1857 - now called the Sidbrook property.

Additional Factors

  • Geographic Location
    • Relatively close proximity to growing urban centers in the United States (e.g., Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Rochester)
  • Transportation infrastructure
    • Readily accessible from the US via rail and water routes
    • Ontario Car Ferry Company Ferries carried: coal, other goods and passengers
  • Marketing
  • Accommodations

Cobourg’s US Visitors:

  • Wealthy
    • Built large estates and often stayed from May until early September
    • The “American summer colony
  • Middle and lower classes
    • Weekend excursions (Early part of 20th century)
    • Cobourg visit normally lasted only a few hours

Ontario Ferry 1919Ferry in Cobourg Harbour ca. 1919
From Ontario Archives Item reference code: C285-1-0-0-140

 Cobourg Summer Colony: From Hotels to Estates


  • Activities slower paced than later decades
  • Activities hotel oriented
    • Most dances, ‘hops’ or soirees were in the hotel
    • Guests included prominent local and American families


  • Large estates built
  • Activities often “estate focused

Economic Ties

  • Railroads
    • Ontario Car Ferry Company
  • Infrastructure
    • Hospital, roads, water system
  • Recreational facilities
    • Cobourg Golf Club
  • Hotels & other tourist tourist-related businesses

 Social Ties

  • Marriages between members of southern US families with members of northern US families
    • Marriages were highlights of the colony’s summer season
  • Marriages between Americans and Canadian families

Arlington HotelThe Arlington Hotel on King Street. Now the north west of Victoria Park.

Social Events

  • Plays
  • Dances (e.g. hops)
  • Band concerts (e.g. Shriners from New York state)
  • Regattas
  • Horse shows/races

Twilight of the American Colony

  • World War I
    • Major social and economic transitions in both Canada and the United States
  • Prohibition
  • The Depression
  • World War II



Original Powerpoint Presentation by Marsha Ann Tate - pdf format

All photos courtesy of Cobourg Public Library