The community of Wahnapitae is located east of Sudbury along Highway 17. It was the first settlement to be established in Nickel Centre and was supposed to be the main community within the Sudbury district because it was located along a major waterway. Originally, it was thought that Sudbury would be just a small settlement in the area, but with the discovery of ore and a shift from logging to mining, Sudbury became the focal point of the district and Wahnapitae was relegated to a smaller role.
The word "Wahnapitae" has many meanings within the Native language. Some of these include "a place to cross the river", "wrinkled by the wind", or "a place where people gather beside the water". The latter definition certainly applied to the community. In the early days of the town, logging was the major industry of the area. Many lumber companies established their operations along the Wanapitei River and the river itself was used to send the harvested logs to Southern Ontario for processing. Workers and their families, as well as various entrepreneurs, established a community along the river bank that was eventually known as Wahnapitae. In its heyday, Wahnapitae was a large, booming community that boasted a number of banks, general stores, clothing stores, hotels, and various other enterprises. It also possessed its own separate school (St. Peter) and public school (Wahnapitae Public School) and even had a water tower and a train station (it was located along the East West main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway).
As the number of viable trees for harvesting dwindled and mining began to take hold, the community of Wahnapitae lost its momentum. Suddenly, people were choosing mining towns over Wahnapitae and eventually the town became a shadow of its former glory. Wahnapitae remained an unorganized township until the amalgamation of the Regional Municipality of Sudbury in 1973 and in 2001, it became part of the City of Greater Sudbury.
The town that began as a logging and farming settlement is today mostly a residential community.
Material compiled from Nickel Centre Yesterdays.