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Visiting the belltower landmark, Thornhill West, City of Vaughan, Ontario: echoes of a harmonious business community

Updated on March 3, 2016
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
The Belltower at Thornhill West, Vaughan
The Belltower at Thornhill West, Vaughan | Source
Close up of belltower, Thornhill West
Close up of belltower, Thornhill West | Source
Map location of Vaughan, Ontario
Map location of Vaughan, Ontario | Source

Evoking a Medieval idea of ringing confidence?

Some parts of the world are particularly endowed with belfries, or belltowers. Flanders, for example, has, since the Middle Ages been noted for its tradition of building belfries near the centre of towns; part of the idea being that a tower with bells is both a symbol of community cohesion and even prosperity, but also there was the very practical aspect of local burghers, traders and guilds being able to pursue their business timetables according to hour chimes which they could all hear and abide by. Long ago, the practical aspect of belltowers was subsumed by the architecturally aesthetic aspect — and musical also. Today, of course, belltowers are hardly limited to Flanders.

Ontario's City of Vaughan in the York Region has a belltower, which serves as a well known landmark for residents and visitors to the Thornhill West area of the city. (Some of the information regarding this belltower has been derived from the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America.)

Some features

When the Promenade complex of shopping centre buildings was built in 1986, included in the wide, planned area, connected by the Promeande Circle roadway, was a belltower.

Simplicity is a keynote of the open steel design. 8 bells are visible; their manufacturer is given as Eijsbouts. An electric-automatic system of chimes was installed.

Views of the belltower

Visitors approaching the Promenade Circle area on foot from the intersection of Bathurst and Centre Streets have to descend a flight of public steps. From this location a particularly striking panorama, in which the belltower is prominent, may be obtained. (It was from here that I took one of the photographs, which I have supplied.)

"I didn't know it was in Vaughan..."

Even today, the City of Vaughan advertises itself as the 'City above Toronto'. All well and good. The fact is that many people are quite familiar with various features of Ontario's City of Vaughan, but maybe not as familiar with the sum of the whole. Picturesque Kleinburg (former home also of Pierre Berton and Lester B. Pearson); the Kortright Centre for Conservation; the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, with its Canadian Seven specialism; the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame, on Black Creek Drive; the Dalziel Barn: all these are part of Vaughan. Max, Lord Beaverbrook was born in what is now Vaughan, in Maple in 1879, and, indeed, donated another carillon to St Andrew's Presbyterian Church Manse there. "I didn't know it was in Vaughan..." is not an unusual refrain when people, already familiar with one or more of these locations, get to realize what the municipality is called where these are actually located.

Added to this list must be Promenade Circle's belltower landmark: of a latent familiarity to many, but which may one day be regarded as one of the symbols of the City of Vaughan, with its reputation for dynamic growth and business confidence, in the York Region, itself noted for its rapid growth.

Also worth visiting

Among the numerous sights worth visiting in the area — some already referred to — are the following:

Kleinburg (distance: 21.6 kilometres); this picturesque village is sometimes used as a backdrop for wedding photographs; the McMichael Canadian Art Collection includes many works by the Canadian Seven. The Kortright Centre for Conservation is situated here also.

Black Creek Pioneer Village (distance: 8.1 kilometres) is located near the boundary of Toronto with the York Region, harbouring a fascinating collection of historic buildings in a large, open air site.

Heritage Centre, Richmond Hill (distance: 9.7 kilometres); located in a circa 1840 Regency style building in Church Street, this museum is devoted to local history and has memories of 19th century Parliamentarian Amos Wright.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to Vaughan: approx. 29.9 kilometres). Highways 407, and 7, via Bathurst Street, give access to Thornhill West. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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