Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fort William and Port Arthur.....more old and new!

Fort William's first town hall 1892-1903 was actually located in front courtyard of the present city hall property. In those days it was a multi purpose building and also used for live theatre until the motion picture industry started in 1912. It was constantly being updated with newer plumbing and lighting through those years, however the structure burned down on Mar 6, 1903 devastating extremely important documents of the day, such as papers between the city and the Canadian Pacific Railway. The fire was a terrible blow to the community.
The generosity of sister city Port Arthur proved very helpful with the rebuilding of a new city hall which was completed only 2 years later in 1905. This was a much more decorative and ornate structure than the first.(The original photo of this building with the tower is shown in the top right corner.)
The tower of the new city hall was removed in the 1940's as the building had deteriorated somewhat by then. Many updates and renovations took place through the years and it stood as a testimony of strength until 1966. The current city hall building was built behind the old structure and was torn down when the new one was completed. In 1970 when Fort William and Port Arthur amalgamated, the newer building became Thunder Bay's one and only city hall. The new city hall was completely renovated last year in 2009 and is shown in the bottom left corner of the photo.

On November 11, 1916 after a number of name changes and ownerships, the Port Arthur "News Chronicle" came into existence. It was originally located on Lorne Street in Port Arthur for 39 years and in 1955 was moved into the former Customs Building which was built in 1914, shown above behind the Pagota. This location is Water and Red River Road(formerly Arthur Street). It continued there and in 1972, 2 years after the cities amalgamated the Port Arthur News Chronicle merged with the Fort William Times Journal to become the present day Thunder Bay "Chronicle Journal". The paper continued in this location until 1977 to 75 S. Cumberland Street and continues there to this day. The colour photo in the top corner shows the relatively new government building in its place. A Pagota story will be coming soon.

Ten acres of land was donated to the Parks and Cemetery Committee of 1902 by Catherine Vickers, with the stipulation that the park be a memoriam for her late husband John Joseph Vickers. In 1912, four large boulders were placed on the corners of the property and inscribed with the names John Vickers, Catherine Vickers, John McKellar and John McIntyre as a memorial of Catherine, her husband and their friends. The careers of these gentlemen were pivotal in the early years of the City of Fort William's development. Vickers Park remains one of the oldest parks in the former city of Fort William and the boulders are in place to this day.
No fewer than 8 people have claimed they are the mother and daughter in this photo, but in fact they are Verlie(child) and Sally Umpherson. Sally was a close friend of my mother and father in the 1930's and 1940's and still lives a healthy life to this day. I knew Verlie in high school and Sally's son Ken and his wife Sue are old friends of ours as well.

This first photo here shows a photo of Boulevard Lake from the bluffs extracted from a 1960 Ontario Travel brochure and the fall shot on the right was taken in the last couple of years. We are very fortunate to have wonderful scenery around our city as long as these parks and views are kept up and not forgotten by our city fathers.
Click on photos once or twice to enlarge!


michael Vickers said...

My oh my. JJ Vickers was my grt-grand-father. Never knew about this park. At one time JJ owned 7000 acres at the Lakehead. Often wondered what happened to em. He had a large family. They say it takes three generations to go through a substantial inheritance. In this instance it would seem it was two. JJ had good relations with the Ojibway folk along the Northland route of his Express company—of course it was important he did. ...Amazing what emerges in this internet age. Interesting. A sort of mini-Wells-Fargo experience. Would make a great film for some enterprising Canadian film-maker. ...My oh my. And so the cycle turns. Small world.

Dr Michael Vickers,
East Grinstead, Sussex, UK

Dave said...

Dr Vickers, Thank you for your comment and great addition to this particular story.