Visiting Kleinburg Canada With a Small Dog
About an hour or so west of Toronto, just off Highway 27, is a little town called Kleinburg. Even if barely a village – and really, just an enchanting street – Kleinburg is one of those places that seems to eat, breathe, and sleep its history.
Before visiting Kleinburg, print (or upload onto an e-reader or smart phone) the 38-page walking tour guide you can find at . It’s an easy guide to follow and without it, you will miss much of the story the village has to tell.
Kleinberg, assumed to be named after John N. Kline, has been variously spelled “Klineburg” and “Kleinberg.” Its present day spelling (Kleinburg) is derived from the German word for “small castle.” An alternate spelling is the result of combining two German words: klein, meaning “little” or “small,” and “berg,” meaning “mountain.” The designation “small mountain” perfectly describes the topography and environmental setting of Kleinberg, and it’s this meaning that residents prefer.
A Quick History Lesson
Like many early villages in Canada, Kleinburg grew around numerous mills. The most significant mills in this area were the sawmill and gristmill built by Mr. John Nicholas Kline on 83 acres of land he purchased in 1848. Kline’s mills were the largest between Toronto and Barrie. They not only served the local farming community, but also became the impetus for a growing commercial centre.
Although not as large, the mills owned by the prestigious Howland family and the mills later built by George Stegman, also contributed to the growth and wealth of the Kleinberg community.
Thanks to the village’s location on the original Humber (Indian) Trail, Kleinburg also became popular as a resting stop for farmers, merchants, and traders on their way to or from Toronto. The most efficient route to Toronto, the Humber Trail ran along what is today Islington Avenue and extended down to Dundas Street in the City of Toronto.
By 1860, Kleinburg boasted a tanner, a tailor, a boot- and shoemaker, a carriage maker, a doctor, a saddler and harness-maker, an undertaker, two hotels, a church, and a school. By 1870, a chemist (druggist), a cabinetmaker, an insurance agent, a butcher, a milliner, and a tinsmith joined the collection of local businessmen. Kleinburg remained small but, with everything one could need in a village at that time, it prospered.
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Yet, despite all that history and village charm, the primary reason people know of, visit, or stay in Kleinburg is the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The museum is one of the few places in Canada where you will find solely – and a lot of – Canadian art.
Found south of the village core, the museum was originally the home of Robert and Signe McMichael, who donated their 40-acres of land and log home, called “Tapawingo,” to the Province of Ontario. Since its opening in 1966, the art gallery has boasted one of the finest collections of the Canadian Group of Seven artists in addition to a collection of a range of artwork produced by Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.
The best part of the museum for those traveling with a canine, is the Sculpture Garden. Ivan Eyre’s dramatic twice-life-size bronze sculptures sit alongside a winding paved path amongst magnificent trees, offering visitors much wonder and enjoyment. There is also the Tom Thomson Shack and a number of other outdoor sculptures.
If you love the style of landscape art made famous by the Group of Seven, then you may want to acknowledge the lives of the members of the Group of Seven by visiting the small cemetery. Of the ten artists who were members of the Group of Seven, six – Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, Lawren Harris, Frank Johnston, A.J. Casson and A.Y. Jackson – are buried in a small cemetery on the McMichael grounds. Gallery co-founders, Robert and Signe McMichael, are also buried there.
Another key draw to Kleinburg – all year round – is weddings, especially BIG Italian weddings. We saw two during our half hour visit. Two within a half hour. On a Sunday!
The most sought after wedding venue is The Doctors House. It is a lovely white home, surrounded by gorgeous gardens with its own chapel of wooden pews, candlelit iron chandeliers, and cathedral style windows. The Doctor’s House dates back to 1867, the year of Canada’s Confederation, and earned its name by being home to a succession of medical men, the last of whom, Dr. Thomas Henry Robinson, practiced there for 52 years!
A restaurant was built on the property in 1974, and then a major rebuilding and expansion program was completed in the spring of 1993. The expansion added six finely appointed banquet rooms and the chapel to the original building. Summer 2012 witnessed another revitalization of The Doctor’s House with the introduction of a newly renovated Country Fare & Great Hall dining room and the addition of a roof top patio that overlooks the quaint town of Kleinburg.
Kleinburg is a great little stop. The main street still keeps its charm and has cute restaurants and boutiques. You can stop for an ice cream or a coffee in one of the outdoor cafes. Or on a Saturday, when the brides are out, take in some car gazing in a lovely setting and check out the many pricey cars driving around or parked on the side streets.
Kleinburg is a favourite escape for Torontonians who wish to take some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying a more peaceful place. In fact, on a sunny and warm day, Kleinburg can get very busy, so you may want to try to go earlier in the day.
In review: Sadly, Kleinburg’s restaurants are not pet friendly. Not a single one. So if you want more than just a snack, you are out of luck. There is a Starbucks inside the McNeil House, and I enjoyed a quick water break there while Dad had an espresso and Mom a cool ice tea. You can also enjoy a gelato on a shared outdoor terrace. But on the whole, Kleinburg is a visit to fit in-between meals.
Take a stroll through Canada’s past thanks to the preservation of nearly 20 original homes, all of them still standing where they were originally built, still telling their stories. It’s a lovely walk on its own and a perfect way to start or finish a hike in the region!