Bowmanville is the largest community in the Municipality of Clarington (formerly known as the Town of Newcastle) in Durham Region, Ontario, Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario about 75 km east of Toronto and 15 km east of Oshawa along Highway 2. The Town of Bowmanville was a stand-alone incorporated municipality from 1858 to 1973.
Bowmanville is surrounded by rural areas on three sides, and Lake Ontario to the south. Farmland formerly covered central Bowmanville until the population increased, thus establishing a nascent downtown core by the early 19th century. There is a harbour to the south of Bowmanville in Port Darlington.
Settlers were attracted to the area by the farmland, and creeks for water mills, first (including one still standing, now called Vanstone's Mill) at Bowmanville (originally Barber) Creek, at the present-day intersection of King Street and Scugog St., from which businesses and housing spread east, and later on Soper Creek (including another mill still standing as the municipality's Visual Arts Centre).
The lands which would later become Bowmanville were first purchased by John Burk, who later sold it to Lewis Lewis. Lewis opened the first store in what was then called Darlington Mills. The store was purchased in about 1824 by Charles Bowman (for whom the town was eventually named) who then established the first post office. Its first postmaster was Robert Fairbairn, who ran the post office from 1828 to 1857.
By 1866, Bowmanville was a Town with a population of about 3,500 in the township of Darlington, County Durham. It was a station of the Grand Trunk Railway. It was established on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It possessed a good harbour and there was extensive water power in the vicinity. The surrounding country was fertile.
The success of the Vanstone Mill, fueled by the machinery of the Crown's land grant program, led to the rapid expansion of the Bowmanville settlement in the early years of the 19th century. Under the generous yet discriminate eyes of wealthy local merchants such as John Simpson and Charles Bowman, small properties would often be sold to promote settlement and small business. The town soon developed a balanced economy; all the while gradually establishing itself as a moderate player in shipping, rail transport, metal works and common minor business (including tanneries, liveries, stables and everyday mercantile commodity exchange).
By the time of Confederation, Bowmanville was a vital, prosperous and growing town, home to a largely Scots-Presbyterian community with all manner of farmers, working, and professional class making the town their home. With local economic stability and accessible, abundant land available for the construction of housing, the town soon sported several new churches, each designated to house both Free and Auld Kirk, Anglican and Protestant congregations, including the Bible Christian Church, later to be a major stream of Canadian Methodism.
At present, St. John's Anglican Church. St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, St. Paul's United Church and the impressively ornate Trinity United Church (site of an old Auld Kirk church) still serve the community. All of these edifices, appropriately, lie on or are in close proximity to present-day Church Street.
In the 19th century, in 1857, the Ontario Bank was founded in Bowmanville, with local resident John Simpson as its first president. The bank, while appearing to be a local enterprise, was primarily controlled by 16 Montreal businessmen. The Ontario bank eventually opened local branches including locations in Whitby, Oshawa, and Port Hope. In 1874, it was moved to Toronto, and would later become insolvent as a result of investing in speculative stocks in 1906. The historic Ontario Bank building at the intersection of King and Temperance was demolished in 1971.
In 1884, Scottish immigrant John McKay opened the Cream of Barley Mill next to Soper Creek to manufacture a cereal of his own creation. "Cream of Barley" was shipped throughout the British Empire.
Local business organized and modernized in the 20th century, with the Dominion Organ and Piano factory, Specialty Paper Company, the Bowmanville Foundry, and the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (1910) all providing steady work for Bowmanville's ever-growing working populations. Goodyear even went so far as to provide affordable housing for its employees, and present day Carlisle Ave. (built by magnanimous Goodyear president W.C. Carlisle) in the 1910s still stands as one of Ontario's best preserved examples of industrial housing. The land on which the Bowmanville Hospital was built was donated by J.W. Alexander, the owner of the then-prospering Dominion Organ and Piano factory.
Formal education evolved in-step with Ryersonian philosophies of the day, and the advent of the Central Public School (1889) and the Bowmanville High School (1890), (both designed by Whitby architect A.A. Post) were the finishing touches to the town that was a model of then-Ontario Premier Oliver Mowat's philosophy of education, expansion and innovation for the citizens of the province.
The 20th century saw a steady rise in the construction of area schools, with Vincent Massey P.S. (1955); Waverley P.S. (1978); Dr. Ross Tilley P.S. (1993); John M. James P.S. (1999) and Harold Longworth P.S. (2003) all accommodating gradual population increases and building developments in specific demographic areas of the town. The local school board was amalgamated with neighboring jurisdictions to form the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board in 1997.
As the town grew and prospered, so arrived Bowmanville's grand era of architectural building and refinement. Many excellently maintained specimens of Italianate, Gothic Revival, Colonial Brick and Queen Anne architecture remain in Bowmanville's older central neighborhoods. Much of Bowmanville's residential and commercial architectural heritage was either lost or threatened by demolition and modern development from 1950 to 1980, but a 25 year renaissance in appreciation and awareness (led largely by local historians and LACAC members) helped to preserve the precious remnants of days gone by.
Bowmanville was incorporated as a village in 1852 and as a town in 1858. In 1974, the town was amalgamated with neighbouring Clarke Township and Darlington Township to form the Town of Newcastle as part of the municipal restructuring that created the Regional Municipality of Durham. The Town of Newcastle was renamed Municipality of Clarington in 1994.
Subdivided housing developments first arrived in the 1950s, with a significant increase in housing development through the 1980s and 1990s. The population rose to about 10,000 in the 1970s, about 20,000 in the 1980s, about 25,000 in the 1990s and today is about 35,000. Transportation improvements in the 1980s included a widening of Highway 401 (first built through Bowmanville in 1952) to six lanes and of Highway 2 to 4/5 lanes. Many have referred to this as the "Lane Era" of Bowmanville.