The Towns and Cities of Northern Ontario
Espanola Ontario - Rainbow Country
The small paper mill town of Espanola has a colourful history. It was originally founded by a group of men who created the Spanish River Pulp and Paper Company and chose the site only as a second choice after learning that the owners of land in Webbwood (father west on the river and already a booming settlement) wanted too high a price to sell their land. They chose instead Webbwood Falls and Espanola was born.
One of it's interesting periods was during the Second World War when the mill becoming a POW camp (Camp 21). The prisoners had recreation programs, learned to play hockey, had dances, and had gifts thrown to them by the young women in town. Espanola proved to be as accommodating to it's visitors then as it is today.
Espanola also boasts an early history of dealing with the French separatist issue. Not long after Espanola became a proper town many French speaking people began to move into the area, most choosing to live within one area of town. This section became known, unofficially, as Frenchtown and still is to this day by long time local residents. What I find fun is the fact that as early as 1927 an attempt was made to incorporate Frenchtown separately from Espanola. It seems this is an issue that has been around for Canadians a long time....
Lois Maxwell, James Bond's faithful secretary Miss Moneypenny, lived in Espanola for 18 years and stared in the locally filmed series Adventures in Rainbow Country. Only 26 episodes were filmed during but the short run series proved more popular internationally than locally and was shown throughout Great Brittan, Europe, and Australia. As late as the 80's I watched weekly reruns in the United States and I'm told you can still catch it today, three times a day, on the DejaView channel.
Espanola quickly became known as the Gateway to Rainbow Country. As it's fame spread more of Northern Ontario claimed a part and today Rainbow Country includes much of the North Shore and the Sudbury area. For me Rainbow Country will always be the area starting in Espanola and running south toward Manitoulin Island. Spend one day in that area in late September and you'll understand why.
Today Espanola is still very much a paper mill town. It's population has continued to hover near the number for the last 30-40 years. It has a beautiful golf course that lies along the Spanish River, several motels, camp grounds and restaurants for visitors, and is the largest shopping area between Sudbury and . Here you can find the old stand bys like McDonalds, Wendy's, Dairy Queen, and Tim Horton's, the only town between the two larger centers that can say that.
Espanola sits at the heart of one of the world's great beauty areas. Lakes are everywhere and a walk from anywhere in town can find you deep in "the bush" in a matter of minutes.