Gravenhurst was first known as McCabes Landing and later as Sawdust City. Gravenhurst was named by a postal official who was reading Gravenhurst or Thoughts on Good and Evil, a treatise by William Smith.
Gravenhurst's economic prosperity stemmed from the construction of a colonization road in the 1850s. Steamboating on the Muskoka lakes began in the 1860s. The town was located strategically at the northern terminus of the Toronto, Simcoe and Muskoka Junction Railway. The town is positioned as the "Gateway to Muskoka".
Between 1940 and 1946 Gravenhurst was home to a German prisoner-of-war camp known as Camp 20. The camp is also referred to as Camp Calydor and Muskoka Officer’s Club. Many describe Camp 20 as a vacation for the prisoners of war. The camp had a swimming area fenced in on Lake Muskoka where the prisoners could bathe. By the end of the first summer, Camp 20 held 489 prisoners. They were taken around Gravenhurst to work on various projects. The prisoners of war built a set of stone steps leading down to the waterfront which can still be seen at Gull Lake Park today. They also built a light house in the park.
The Muskoka Wharf located in Lake Muskoka in Gravenhurst was completed in 2005. The project cost $170 million and spreads across 89 acres. Before the new development was built, the wharf used to be used for lumber and boat building industries. It was also the entry point to the lakes. Years ago, a train would arrive at the wharf three times a day with passengers coming to Muskoka looking to settle.
* Norman Bethune - born in Gravenhurst and his family's home there has been preserved as a Canadian National Historic Site.
* Steve Barnes (born 1970) - is a former professional hockey defenceman who won the BH Cup as a member of the Manchester Storm.
* Graeme Murray (Born 1984) - Paralympic Medalist and World Champion with the Men's National Para-Ice Hockey Team.
Home port of the RMS Segwun, the oldest vessel powered by a working steam engine in North America.
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