The County was founded as the District of Colborne in 1838, centered around Peterborough, which became the County of Peterborough in 1850. In 1862, the County was re-divided into Peterborough County, Haliburton County, and Victoria County (now the City of Kawartha Lakes). In June of that year, the district magistrates, with the Hon. Thomas Stewart ruling, approved the construction of a court house and jail. Joseph Scobell's plans for the buildings were accepted and the foundation stone was laid by Sir George Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada on August 25, 1838. At a cost of over 7000 Lire, the court house was completed in 1840 and the jail in 1842 with stone quarried from Jackson's Park, adding to the community structures of notable size and design.
In 1862, various municipal changes resulted in the distinguished stone building becoming the headquarters for the County of Peterborough solely. During the mid-1900's, a registry office was added to the south end of the building, and in the years following, the jail was built at the rear of the Court House. Renovations in 1878 removed the original cupola which lit the courtrooms, and various renovations over the years have changed the appearance of the entrance and central section of the building. The matching stone north wing was built during 1927-1929. Considered, architecturally, to be one of the finest court houses in Ontario, the historical significance of Peterborough County's Court House was designated by the Archaeological and Historical Sites Board of Ontario in 1958. Renovations during 1959-1960 resulted in the modern south wing, once occupied by the registry office, but now occupied by County offices.
The historic County Jail was built in 1845 and was operated by the Province of Ontario as a jail facility until 2001 when an inmate riot structurally damaged the building and it was permanently closed. In 2016, County Council approved the respectful strategic demolition of the historic Peterborough County Jail and the creation of the Heritage Jail Park. During the demolition, staff and contractors located an original time capsule that was placed at the site by the original constructors in 1846. We have maintained a large part of the original structure, doors and cells so that visitors can get an appreciation for life and work at this amazing site. In 2017, as part of the County's 150th celebrations, we plan to place interpretive panels at the site to tell the stories and history throughout the years.
There are two First Nations communities in the Peterborough County area.
Curve Lake First Nation
Curve Lake First Nation (CLFN) is located approximately 25 kms northeast of Peterborough. The First Nation territory consists of a mainland peninsula and large island (Fox Island) on Buckhorn and Chemong Lake. Curve Lake First Nation also co-owns smaller islands located throughout the Trent Severn Waterway system. The total land base of the First Nation is approximately 900 hectares.
Curve Lake First Nation is governed by an elected Council comprising of a Chief and eight (8) Councillors.
Hiawatha First Nation
The Hiawatha Reserve is an Ojibway First Nations reserve located on the north shore of Rice Lake east of the Otonabee River. It is found in Otonabee Township approximately 30 kms south of Peterborough. The reserve consists of approximately 2145 acres of land of which 1523 are under certificates of possession.
Hiawatha First Nation is governed by a Chief and four (4) Councillors.
Peterborough County is the upper tier level of municipal government that is composed of eight diverse lower tier municipalities: