History is always in the making.
The Georgian Bay Township Historical Society (GBTHS) is a volunteer organization interested in actively preserving our local history. We are focused in the areas around Georgian Bay and in particular, Port Severn, where the historic Trent Severn Waterway connects with Ontario’s Great Lakes.
Bringing the past, forward.
It all began in 1992 with the Bressette Homestead. This Victorian Gothic home, built by Edmund Bressette in 1885 from lumber cut at the Christie’s Sawmill in Port Severn, was scheduled for demolition.
Highway 400 was being expanded and this original homestead was in its way. Thankfully a group of local residents and business owners rescued it from this fate. With their concerted efforts, the Ministry of Transport gifted them both the house and barn, which were painstakingly moved to their present location, and then carefully restored.
During the next quarter century the home has provided valuable office space for the OPP, the Southeast Georgian Bay Chamber of Commerce, and Muskoka Tourism.
In partnership with the Township of Georgian Bay, our historical society has maintained the integrity of the homestead with period appropriate finishings, historical gardens and artifact displays both in the house and barn.
Through the waves of our past.
But the Bressette homestead was just the beginning. Over the years, with additional acquisitions, GBTHS has now established what we call the “Bressette Homestead Heritage Park”. The original TS Waterway’s Lock 45 Lock Master’s Office was relocated here, from just down the road, and has been authentically preserved using appropriate artifacts.
A 3 foot propeller from the steamship, ‘City of Dover”, was commemorated to the park. This early 1900’s boat was originally commissioned to carry passengers and fish around Lake Erie but spend most of its purpose as an excursion boat in Georgian Bay, eventually breaking up on the shores of Port Severn’s Little Lake.
A picture speaks a 1000 words.
Of course our most recent addition is the Milne Cabin. David Milne, one of Canada’s most prominent artists of the 20th century, spent from 1933 to 1939 in a very basic cabin he built on Six Mile Lake. Here he completed many of his most beautiful paintings of our rugged landscape, local residents, and still life studies. Through the Township of Georgian Bay we obtained this rustic cabin altered through the years by subsequent property owners. Over three years, and with a great deal of volunteer help, local artifact donors, community support, and fundraising, the cabin has been restored and furbished to reflect its original condition. Milne’s journal and historical research guided us to recreate his lakeside retreat with great authenticity.
Through the generous donations of several local families, GBTHS has also gathered a collection of 8 reproductions of Milne’s work, painted from this cabin. They are presently on display in the township offices.
Historical Park Gallery
Providing our story to our community.
Since its inception, the GBTHS has continued to offer educational opportunities to the community and planned out excursions, and presentations of historical interest for members and residents alike. We are always looking for ways to continue this journey of lifelong learning together. Our most recent presentation included David Milne Jr. at our grand opening of his father’s cabin. This was very well attended and enjoyed by local citizens, dignitaries and distinguished guests including the curator from the prestigious Art Gallery of Ontario.
GBTHS considers itself an integral part of this community. Recently we have enthusiastically participated in major events like the Port Severn’s “Just Add Water” festival - debuting our ‘Timber to Tourism’ display; Canada 150 celebration - to share our kick-off of the David Milne Legacy Project; the 100th anniversary of Lock 45 - with our historic first lockage re-enactment; and the annual Port Severn Santa Claus parades, with our float complete with an antique sleigh for Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Meeting the goals of the future.
We purposed our website to align with these objectives. Although some functionality is still under development we are intending to provide a capability for visitors to research topics from our archives, as well as participate by submitting items of interest into the archives. We feel that “if something is of interest then it should be remembered”. To so many of us this is our home and even if a topic is not destined for Hollywood it is still worth sharing. And to us, history is anything older than “yesterday’s news”.
Our successes would not have been possible without the dedication of our hard working executive/directors and tireless volunteers, our enthusiastic event participants, our many grants, our thoughtful artifact donors, our generous local businesses, and our community organizations. It is through partnering with the Township of Georgian Bay, the Southeast Georgian Bay Chamber of Commerce, Six Mile Cottagers Association and Gloucester Pool Cottagers Association that so many of our projects have been made possible.
We look forward to continuing our exciting work of preserving our past to enhance our future.