Brantford, Ontario the 'Telephone City'

Brantford's Bell Homestead. (BRIAN THOMPSON/QMI Agency)

Brantford's Bell Homestead. (BRIAN THOMPSON/QMI Agency)

GEORGE BAILEY, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:19 PM ET

Both Brantford, Ont. and Boston claim the telephone was invented in their cities. Both are a bit right.

When you talk to Brian Wood, curator of Brantford's Bell Homestead National Historic Site he'll tell you it was at the Alexander Graham Bell family homestead in 1874 that the idea of the first practical telephone was conceived. Further proof, the first long distance telephone call was made on Aug. 10, 1876 from his homestead to Paris, Ont., 11 kilometres away.

But search the records and you'll find that on March 10, 1876 the 29-year-old Bell said his first words, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you" over his experimental telephone from his laboratory in Boston to his assistant Thomas Watson. By the summer of 1877, the telephone had become a business. The rest is history.

Regardless, visitors to this step-in-the past place found in a quiet residential area of Brantford will be intrigued by the restored homestead, open year-round. There's a working kitchen and an extensive collection of Bell family artifacts inside the home. The peaceful grounds reflect the 19th century countryside.

Other Top Draws

A visit to the "new" downtown of this city of 90,000 will find quite a change since it was used as a setting for a ghost town in the 2006 horror flick, Silent Hill.

Perhaps one of the most notable changes is the spanking new buildings that have appeared in the centre of the downtown. Harmony Square in the centre of town offers free community entertainment year-round. There's an outdoor rink that gets lots of action during the cooler month.

Located across the road is the Sanderson Centre for Performing Arts. Originally the Temple Theatre, which opened as a vaudeville theater in 1919, has undergone extensive renovations but has maintained its historic flavour and added modern amenities. It was recently awarded the prestigious, theatre preservation award by the League of Historic American Theatres.

Live theatre and concerts are performed throughout the year. Canadian rock legends Lighthouse perform on Thursday evening at 8 p.m. on Nov. 1.On Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m., A Country Christmas with the Walters Family appears on stage.

If you visit on a Friday or a Saturday, one spot not to pass up is the farmer's market. The indoor market is one of the oldest in Canada, established in 1848 and is open year-round (Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.-2 p.m.). This place is alive with over 25 vendors, who practice old-fashioned courtesy.

For those who live on the wild side, the OLG Casino Brantford has recently undergone a state-of-the-art renovation and it will still take your money 24-7 and it's a stone's throw away from the market.

For a great cup of coffee, visit William's Coffee Pub in the Market Square Shopping Plaza on Dalhousie Street. This place is abuzz with chatter. Most of the staff are university students. You have to check out the Brantford historic library, within walking distance, now part of the university.

You can't write about Brantford without mentioning, "The Great One." This is where hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was born and raised. You'll see memorabilia of this hockey great and others in the Sports Hall of Fame in the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre.

Lovers of architecture will have a hey-day walking downtown. Magnificent stone building, such as the post office and several churches will have you pulling out your camera. On Colborne St., which runs parallel to Brantfords Main St., Dalhousie St. has a long stretch of uninterrupted pre-confederation (1867) buildings.

A lot has changed since this city was first settled in 1784 when Captain Joseph Brant and the Six Nations left New York to settle in Canada. As a reward for their loyalty to the Crown, they were given a large grant of land on the Grand River. One of the remaining remnants of this native settlement is the Mohawk Chapel, built in 1785, which remains Ontario's oldest Protestant church. It's located where else, on Mohawk St. in Brantford. It's closed to the public during the winter.


Photos