The community of Orleans started out as a small French-Canadian settlement, built around a Roman Catholic Church that was constructed in the 1830s in the Parish of St. Joseph. The name of the community is thought to have come from the village’s first postmaster, Theodore Besserer, who was born on Ile d’Orleans near Quebec City. Orleans is also a city in France, where Joan of Arc led the French army to victory during the Hundred Years War in the 15th century, and this connection is commemorated in the naming of Jeanne d’Arc Boulevard, one of the main roads in the community.
To the east of Orleans, the township of Cumberland was incorporated in 1800, taking its name from the Duke of Cumberland. It took nearly 200 years for Cumberland to officially become a city in 1999, although this status was exceptionally short lived as Cumberland was amalgamated into the City of Ottawa in 2001.
Orleans remained mostly rural in nature up until the late 1960s when the construction of suburban subdivisions and shopping malls started to boom. The community has been steadily expanding ever since. Cumberland, on the other hand, has remained mainly rural with historic villages that form bedroom communities around the edge of the city of Ottawa.
Today, Orleans covers the areas that were previously part of the City of Gloucester to the west, and Cumberland to the east. With a population of over 116,000 people, the area’s French Canadian heritage remains with more than a third of the residents speaking French; the area is also home to a number of French Catholic and French public schools.
Covering such a wide area, there is much to do and see in the Orleans and Cumberland communities in the summer.
The Cumberland Heritage Village Museum is very family-friendly and an interesting visit for history buffs. Located just off Old Montreal Road, the village is a reproduction of rural life throughout the 1920s and 30s, with true-to-the-era buildings that include a general store, one-room schoolhouse and village garage filled with antique vehicles. It’s a lot like a miniature Upper Canada Village, but without the road trip.
On July 22 and August 19, the Museum features model steam train demonstrations and railroad history lessons from The Ottawa Valley Live Steamers and Model Engineers.
For art enthusiasts, the Shenkman Arts Centre is a creative hub that features two theatres, seven galleries and 17 studios. Just east of the Place d’Orleans shopping mall, Shenkman offers a wide variety of summer classes and camps that cover everything from drawing and painting to jewelry making, pottery and photography.
On display in the gallery from July 19 to August 21 will be an exhibit by Anna Wagner-Ott who uses a painting technique that dates back to 100 AD Egypt to create images that combine textile patterns over top of classic landscapes. Also check out the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition on August 25.
Orleans has a lot of natural beauty and is home to some of the most Instagram-worthy views in the city.
The Princess Louise Falls is a slice of paradise located only a stone’s throw from St. Joseph Boulevard, just south of Petrie Island. This multi-level waterfall is fed by an underground river system that was buried under suburban home construction. The area around the falls has some good walking trails that are fairly easy to navigate.
The Mer Bleue Bog in south Gloucester just west of Orleans is one of the largest bogs in southern Ontario and considered the most important natural area in Ottawa’s Greenbelt. The bog is a Northern Boreal environment, which is unusual for the Ottawa Valley, and is closer to the nature you would find in the arctic. Mer Bleue is over 7,000 years old and is home to a number of rare plants, birds and wildlife.The NCC has installed a network of wooden boardwalks to easily explore the landscape.
New to Cumberland is the Humanics Sanctuary and Sculpture Park. The sanctuary opened last year and has nine acres of natural forest with hiking trails that meander through a wooded ravine and over a creek. Highlights include more than 60 sculptures brought into Ottawa from all corners of the world.
The Sanctuary is a unique multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-generational Canadian institution focused on promoting principles of non-violence, human development, justice and peace. Visitors can take time to reflect, meditate and enjoy the peace of nature and the unique art on display.