Pembroke is a city in the Canadian province of Ontario at the confluence of the Muskrat River and the Ottawa River in the Ottawa Valley. Pembroke is the location of the administrative headquarters of Renfrew County, though the city itself is politically independent. It is 145 kilometres northwest of Ottawa. Originally named Miramichi, Pembroke became a police village in 1856. Pembroke is indirectly named after Sidney Herbert, First Admiralty Secretary from 1841 to 1845 and son of George Herbert, 11th Earl of Pembroke.
Pembroke was incorporated as a town in 1878 and as a city in 1971. It was named seat for Renfrew County in 1861. This set the stage for construction shortly thereafter on the Renfrew County Courthouse, which was finished in 1867, and the arrival of many civil servants, much wealth and much construction. In the 20-year period following 1861, Pembroke basically became the city it is today in terms of layout and buildings, although many homes and other structures have been lost to time. A fire in 1918 destroyed much of Pembroke's downtown. From 2005 to 2007, the courthouse and (now disused) jail was re-constructed into one building and historic renovations were also completed. Visitors on weekdays can view the original 1867 jail cells in the basement, and the original courtroom, complete with a huge replica of the original brass light fixture. County meetings were held here for many years. Three hangings occurred at the indoor gallows inside the Courthouse, two in the 1870s and one in 1952. Other historic buildings that survive in Pembroke include a historic synagogue, two original hospitals, the Dunlop mansion (Grey Gables Manor Bed & Breakfast), the 'Munroe Block' downtown, and two houses belonging to the White family. A fire in 1918 downtown destroyed many buildings, including the Pembroke Opera House.
Pembroke is the largest commercial centre between North Bay and Ottawa. Historically, forestry and farming formed the backbone of the local economy and remain important today. Local timber products include lumber, plywood, veneer, hydro poles and fibreboard. Other local manufacturing operations produce office furniture. CFB Petawawa in nearby Petawawa and Chalk River Laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited in Chalk River are also regional employers. Chalk River Laboratories is being restructured to a GOCO (Government Owned, Contractor Operated) Laboratory. The economy also benefits from tourism, aided partly by Pembroke's location on the Trans-Canada Highway. Pembroke is a gateway to natural adventures on the Petawawa and Ottawa Rivers, Algonquin Park and to world-class white water rafting a short distance to the southwest.
The Pembroke Forest Fire District was founded by Ontario's former Department of Lands and Forests (now the MNR) in 1922 as one of 17 districts to help protect Ontario's forests from fire by early detection from fire towers. The headquarters for the district were housed in the town. It was the central location for 15 fire tower lookouts, including the towers in Algonquin Park. The 15 towers included: Wilberforce, Mt. Edna, Sherwood, Murchison, Preston, Clancy, Fitzgerald, Brent, Big Crow Lake, White Trout Lake, Stonecliffe, Deux Rivières, Osler, Lauder and Skymount. When a fire was spotted in the forest a Towerman would get the degree bearings from his respective tower and radio back the information to headquarters. When one or more Towermen from other towers in the area would also call in their bearings, the forest rangers at headquarters could get a 'triangulation' read and plot the exact location of the fire on their map. This way a team of forest firefighters could be dispatched as soon as possible to get the fire under control. These towers would all be phased out after aerial fire fighting techniques were employed in the 1970s.
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