In 1853, a northern terminus of the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railroad was needed to connect Georgian Bay with Lake Ontario. It was due to the foresight of the railway engineers who recognized the potential of the facilities that this area was established and renamed Collingwood, in honour of an English Admiral. The town, literally, was to spring up right out of the bush.
The northern railway terminus extended all the way to the already busy deep water harbour servicing freight and passengers north through Georgian Bay and Lake Huron to the "Great West and North" and south to Toronto and Southern Ontario. With the opening of the new dry dock, shipbuilding was flourishing as was the lumber and fishing industries. "Palace Steamer" ran regularly between Collingwood, Chicago, Sault Ste. Marie, Owen Sound and other ports of call, all contributing to Collingwood as an important harbour and industrial center. By 1900, all of this activity and commerce had earned the Collingwood community the nickname "Chicago of the North".
The painting, Memories of Collingwood Harbour - 1915, depicts the busy Harbour on a typical afternoon in 1915 while highlighting the various activities for which it was famous. In the background steamers are alongside the dominant profile of the big grain elevator, a conspicuous landmark that could be seen from Duntroon Hills to Christian Island. In the distance, box cars wait on the wooden wharf. Engine number 2462 has just started to haul freight cars out of the Grand Trunk freight shed. Alongside, the "City of Collingwood" is taking on passengers for her daily trip. "Chicora" a magnificent passenger ship is getting up steam to make ready her 1,000 mile run to Prince Arthur’s Landing, while a local Ford pick-up is making a delivery of dry goods for the long trip. Onlookers watch the activity aboard a small fishing vessel and in the calm waters of the harbour some Watts’ fishing boats, that were built right in Collingwood, are securing their rigging and nets as another one sails in from the mornings catch.
"Memories of Collingwood Harbour - 1915" was painted by renowned Ontario watercolourist, Ray Davidson. Limited Edition reproduction of this remarkable image are available at Georgian Frame Gallery, 172 Hurontario Street, Collingwood. Call, 705-445-4477 to reserve your copy of Collingwood history today.
By Margot Nicolson-Trott, owner Georgian Frame Gallery