History is one of those amazing topics that brings you into its story and helps you to appreciate where we’ve been and exactly how we’ve reached the place we’re in now.

Life in the Past Lane

Settlers started arriving in Cobourg in the 1790s which, at the time, was known for its 40 houses, 2 inns, 4 stores, several distilleries, a grist mill and a whopping population of 350! From the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre to the historic and iconic Victoria Hall (circa 1850), Cobourg has seen quite a few changes. It was once known as a “turn of the century” American summer resort which brought Cobourg a certain social cachet and style. When visiting, you’ll also want to stop in to see the Old Bailey Courtroom which was the location for the sensational trial that has been called “The Last Battle of the Great War.” This year we’ll observe our Armistice – 100 years of peace so you’ll want to be part of the celebration!

Then we have our infamous James Cockburn, Cobourg’s Father of Confederation. Born in England he moved to Montréal with his family in 1832. After his father’s death that same year, his mother moved the family to York, now known as Toronto. Cockburn received his law degree at Osgoode and moved to Cobourg to open his law practice with D’Arcy Boulton. After stints with Cobourg Council, Cockburn would go on to federal politics becoming Solicitor-General, one of the Fathers of Confederation and Speaker of the House. He helped to build the constitutional foundations for a new country called the Dominion of Canada.

In December of last year, Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized the national historic importance of James Cockburn as a person of national historic significance. If you visit the West Wing of Victoria Hall you can see his Office — the office that helped to shape our nation. If you’re lucky, on occasion, you might see his chair. Your friends will be green with envy.

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Armistice 18
Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre

The Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre is housed in one long stone building, commonly called “the barracks” and an 1870s workman’s cottage. The volunteers that help keep the place running will tell you that they don’t have a lot of space and they like it that way because everywhere you look is part of the story.

The land on which the museum stands was once owned by James Calcutt, an Irishman who immigrated to Canada in 1832 and built a brewery to successfully meet the needs of thirsty Cobourgers. Whether he built “the barracks” or just took it over from the local military remains a mystery.

In 1999 a local group, including Doug Sifton and David Cook, formed the Cobourg Museum Foundation to rescue the building before it completely collapsed and was demolished.

The Centre opened to the public in 2012 and each year since a different part of the area’s history has been told. When you stop in be sure to bring the kids for a chance to see the 1/20 scale model of the historic Cobourg and Peterborough Railway and its famous Rice Lake Bridge.