Aurora (2011 Population 53,203) is an affluent town in York Region, approximately 20 km north of the city of Toronto. It is partially situated on the Oak Ridges Moraine, and is a part of the Greater Toronto Area and Golden Horseshoe of Southern Ontario. In the Canada 2011 Census, the municipal population of Aurora was the 95th largest in Canada, compared to 97th for the 2006 Census.
Many Aurora residents commute to Toronto and surrounding communities.
Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe gave the order for Yonge Street to be extended to Holland Landing in 1793, and the way was paved for the establishment of a community where Aurora now stands.
In 1804, Richard Machell became the first merchant at the cross roads of Yonge and Wellington and the hamlet soon became known as Machell’s Corners.
Charles Doan was another early businessman at Machell’s Corners and became the first postmaster and later the first reeve. As postmaster, he was influential in renaming the village Aurora.
With the coming of the railway in 1853, Aurora emerged as an important centre north of Toronto. The Fleury plow works was established soon after and Aurora was on its way to becoming a flourishing industrial town.
The population of Aurora in 1863 was 700, and by 1888 it had grown to become a town of 2,107 residents. With some ups and downs in growth over the years, Aurora is now a flourishing town with a strong commercial and industrial base.
The town’s first school was built by John Merritt, and was named after a famous doctor from the area, G. W. Williams. The school is still open today.
Worthy of note is the fact that Aurora was the childhood home of Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968, when his father, Rev. Edwin Pearson, was the Methodist minister.
Aurora is noted for preserving its historical built form and in 2008 was awarded The Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership. In 2009 the town received the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Community Leadership in heritage conservation and promotion.
On April 8, 2010, the town re-opened the historic and fully renovated Church Street School as the Aurora Cultural Centre.
Aurora is twinned with Leksand, Sweden.
The Town of Aurora municipal government is composed of a mayor and eight councillors elected on an “at large” basis. The councillor with the highest votes becomes the deputy mayor and may proxy for the mayor. The mayor is a member of York Regional Council. In the municipal elections of 25 October 2010, Geoff Dawe was elected mayor. The town is part of the federal riding of Newmarket—Aurora. The riding was formerly represented by Belinda Stronach, a member of the Liberal Party of Canada, and is now represented by Lois Brown of the Conservative Party of Canada, who was elected MP in the 2008 federal election. Aurora is also part of the provincial riding of Newmarket—Aurora. The member of Provincial Parliament is Frank Klees, who was elected in the 2007 Ontario general election. Klees belongs to the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario and resides in Aurora.
Local police services are provided by the York Regional Police, who serve all of the municipalities of the region. Fire protection services are provided by Central York Fire Services, a shared arrangement with the town of Newmarket.
Public health services are managed by York Region. There is no hospital within Aurora’s boundaries; the nearest is Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket.
Aurora is served by three publicly funded school boards: the York Region District School Board (the English Public Board), the York Catholic District School Board (the English Catholic Board), and Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud (the French-language Catholic Board).
Both publicly funded English boards maintain head offices in Aurora. The York Region District School Board is located at 60 Wellington Street West, just west of the historical downtown area, and the York Catholic District School Board is located at 320 Bloomington Road West. Both boards operate a number of elementary schools in Aurora. Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud operates only one elementary school in Aurora: École St. Jean.
The York Region District School Board operates two high schools in Aurora:
- Dr. G.W. Williams Secondary School
- Aurora High School
The York Catholic District School Board operates two high schools in Aurora:
- Cardinal Carter Catholic High School
- St. Maximillian Kolbe Catholic High School
Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud operates one high school in Aurora:
- École secondaire catholique Renaissance (formerly ÉSC Cardinal-Carter).
St. Andrew’s College, a private, independent school for boys, also operates in Aurora.
Aurora residents have access to a wide range of other educational facilities including daycares and nurseries. The Aurora Public Library is a public library funded and operated by the town.
Currently, a largely undeveloped portion of Aurora is subject to the Ontario Government’s Greenbelt legislation which enforces limits on growth in designated Green Belt locations. In Aurora, this affects mostly the south-eastern areas of the town.
Growth is occurring in the north-eastern locations, particularly in the form of high-density residential homes and townhouses along Bayview Ave and north of Wellington St. E. (also known as “Aurora Rd.”), and commerce along Wellington St. E. on Aurora’s eastern border between Leslie St. and Hwy. 404.
Future growth will be concentrated in two greenfield areas of the Town: the 2C Lands, located on the east and west sides of Leslie Street, running north from Aurora Road to the town limit, just north of the St. John’s Sideroad. As part of its current Official Plan review, Aurora Town Council will soon be considering a plan that will see employment lands, worth approximately 6,000 jobs, preserved on the east side of Leslie Street, with residential restricted to the west side of Leslie Street.
The Aurora Promenade
One other area of growth will be via intensification along the Yonge and Wellington Street corridors. As part of the Town’s Official Plan review, a sub-committee of Council developed a plan in 2010, called The Aurora Promenade, that sets out new and redevelopment for the coming years. More than 30 public meetings, open-houses and workshops were held to create the plan. It is anticipated that 2,930 additional residents will live along the Yonge and Wellington Street corridors, close to new major transportation systems being implemented by VIVA. The study was expected to stimulate new and redevelopment along both corridors in the coming years and to reinvigorate the downtown core.
The Aurora Public Library is located in the northeast corner of the intersection of Yonge Street and Church Street. A library was first established in Aurora in 1855, and was moved to the current location in 2001. The library is open all days of the week, but closed on Sundays between May 17 and September 11, and between December 20 and January 2.
Historic Aurora Train Station
Major roads running through Aurora include Bathurst Street at its western border, Yonge Street, Bayview Avenue, Leslie Street, and Highway 404 at its eastern border and Bloomington Road at the southern border. Wellington Street is the town’s major east-west road, with the Yonge-Wellington area having the busiest traffic volume in Aurora.
The town of Aurora’s public transit is serviced by York Region Transit (YRT) and VIVA. The Aurora GO Station is on the Barrie line and is served by five trains southbound to Toronto each weekday morning and five trains northbound each afternoon, except holidays. GO Transit buses provide hourly (or better) non-stop service to and from the Union Station Bus Terminal from early morning until late night. The Aurora GO Station is also served by five YRT bus routes.
Local media include The Banner (formerly the Era Banner) and The Auroran newspapers and Aurora programming provided by Rogers Cable (formerly Aurora Cable Internet).
Radio stations from Toronto are typically available, as in the nearby towns of Newmarket, south into Richmond Hill and Bradford.
Aurora has a long history of theatre, with its own community theatre group, Theatre Aurora. Founded in 1958 as the Aurora Drama Workshop, the group joined with the Aurora Musical Society in 1973 to form Theatre Aurora. The next year the group moved into its current home at the Factory Theatre on Henderson Drive. The group has performed a wide variety of shows, and currently produces five shows each year, along with two youth shows.
The auto parts giant Magna International, founded by Frank Stronach, is based in Aurora.
State Farm’s Canadian head office is located in Aurora.