Architectural Landmarks in Parry Sound

There's no denying the natural beauty and otherworldly landscapes of Ontario's Parry Sound. Nestled along the shores of Georgian Bay a few hours north of Toronto, Parry Sound is one of the region's most revered places to engage with nature across all seasons. In fact, given its ideal bayfront location adjacent to the banks of the Seguin River, a case is easily made for Parry Sound being the most spectacular of the gateways into the Georgian Bay biosphere and its Thirty Thousand Islands freshwater archipelago—the largest in the world.

In addition to its celebrated natural environment, Parry Sound is also a notable town and a significant waypoint for those living and working between Greater Sudbury, Barrie, and Toronto. Just like any bustling center of commerce, the town possesses far greater significance than its size and remote location would indicate. One of Parry Sound's most underappreciated and overlooked qualities is the area's unique architectural landmarks.

Equal parts modern and historical, with careful consideration for how the artificial structures interact with more natural elements, architecture in Parry Sound does more than stand sentry over the town. It plays an active role in its development, adding yet another compelling dimension to this Canadian gem. Here are five architectural landmarks in Parry Sound worth appreciating up close.

Tower Hill Lookout & Heritage Garden

17 George Street

It may not carry the architectural weight of some of Parry Sound's more classically designed structures, but for sheer awe-inspiring grandeur, few buildings can match the Tower Hill Lookout. Towering above dense foliage, the metal fire tower was completed in 1935 and played a crucial role in detecting over 60% of the fires that sprung up throughout the district.

Decommissioned 31 years later, the tower found new life as one of Parry Sound's first major tourist attractions. Offering stunning, panoramic views of Georgian Bay and the entirety of the Parry Sound District, the fire tower—along with the Tower Hill Heritage Garden that sprouted from around its base—is a cherished part of Parry Sound's past and is one of its most popular modern-day architectural landmarks.

Parry Sound District Courthouse

89 James Street

Though it has been altered multiple times throughout its history to meet the needs of the day, the Parry Sound Courthouse has stood as the stately embodiment of judicial authority and architectural splendor since its construction in 1871. Located in the heart of the town at the intersection of James and Murray Streets, the building took shape over three building periods: 1871, 1889, and 1921.

The red brick and stone building took its final simplified Georgian-style form with the 1921 expansion. As a hub of legal proceedings for the town and district, the courthouse has shaped the community for over 150 years. Its continued functionality is a testament to the builder's original craftsmanship, making it a significant focal point of Parry Sound's architectural heritage.

Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts

2 Bay Street

Perched along the Georgian Bay waterfront, the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts is a defining modern architectural gem for Parry Sound. Upon completion in 2003, the Stockey Centre was an instant hit both within and outside the region and transformed the town into a celebrated destination for the arts and artists across all genres and disciplines. The Centre's sleek lines and expansive glass facades offer an unparalleled view of the Bay.

Its design evokes the unique rustic profile and timber detailing of a classic Georgian Bay cottage, albeit one with a 400-seat, acoustically sound performance hall and the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame Museum housed within its walls. A testament to contemporary design principles and celebrating the connection to the surrounding natural environment, the building was constructed with locally sourced stone, granite, and indigenous trees—a genuine architectural landmark of and for Parry Sound.

Parry Sound train stations

Canadian Pacific Railway Station, 1 Avenue Road
Canadian National Railway Station, 70 Church Street

Parry Sound is fortunate to feature two distinct, historically significant train stations separated by a 15-minute walk along beautiful Church Street.

The older of the two stations is the Canadian Pacific Railway Station (CPR), built in 1907 and notable for its large, castle-like rotunda, step roofline, and bell-cast eaves. A subtle example of late-Victorian era design as it morphed into Edwardian standards, the CPR station is among a handful of Ontario's first-generation stations—those that have remained in service at their original sites. At one time serving as a private art gallery, the station is listed as a historic place and is part of Canada's Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.

The Canadian National Railway Station (CNR) on Church Street is younger than its counterpart by 25 years but holds its own as the more "modern" of Parry Sound’s two railway stops. Constructed in the classic Tudor Revival style, the CNR has served in many capacities since accepting its first passengers in 1932, from being a stop for the Canadian Transcontinental and later the Super Continental to providing a home for the area Chamber of Commerce and Park to Park trail association.

Today, both stations serve as stops for Via Rail, with the CPR station listed as the Parry Sound Station Gallery and the CNR simply as Parry Sound train station.

Parry Sound light towers

Georgian Bay

Of course, not all architectural landmarks in Parry Sound need to be on the mainland to garner appreciation, deserve preservation, or be honored for their historical significance. Of course, the majestic collection of Parry Sound and Georgian Bay light towers have guided personal, commercial, and industrial ships in and out of the town's namesake sound. And while one could endlessly extoll the virtues of the notable light towers and lighthouses spread across the whole of Georgian Bay, four, in particular, carry elevated statues for their contribution to Parry Sound.

First among these is the Red Rock Light Tower, which cuts a solitary silhouette in the open waters of Georgian Bay. The lighthouse is three stories tall, with an unusual elliptical footprint cast deep within a protruding rock just above the water's surface. Built in 1911 to replace earlier, less sturdy versions, the lighthouse and dwelling that eventually stood the test of time are uniquely Canadian creations.

The Snug Harbour Range Rear Lighthouse would serve as the alignment aid for boats after they cleared Red Rock on their way to the Jones Island Light Towers and Parry Sound. The dwelling and tower withstood the elements remarkably, with minimal repairs and updates needed since its original 1894 construction.

Finally, the two Jones Island Light Towers also date back to 1894, completing the navigational system in service of Parry Sound. The Front Range Light Tower utilized a simple yet highly effective build that assisted boaters as they neared the entrance to Parry Sound. The Rear Range Light Tower sports a more distinctive dwelling and tower design, with the lower more akin to a late 18th-century schoolhouse.

Discover even more in Parry Sound

Parry Sound is a celebrated community that offers a bespoke and fulfilling one-of-a-kind lifestyle. With a gorgeous real estate market offering something for everyone and a location that blends the best of rural and urban living, Parry Sound is a perfect choice for prospective homeowners seeking tranquility, luxury, and close-knit community life. If you are intrigued by the impressive architecture in Parry Sound and want to find a beautiful cottage or waterfront property in the area, contact Halloran & Associates for guidance.