Lake of Bays Marine Museum and
|In a country where unfortunately so little of the past has survived,
the opportunity to grasp at the last few floating straws of our heritage
before they disappear forever is overwhelmingly precious. Sadly due
to fire and neglect much of the original Muskoka tourist infrastructure
of buildings and boats has disappeared leaving us with only faded
photographs and fading memories of a time when the 'world's elite'
came to the Muskoka Lakes for their summers.
The Bigwin Inn once one of the world's top resorts is now a mere
shadow of its former glory. Once the wonder of its age, the spectacular
ballroom became the latest jewel to disappear through sheer neglect
However, there is one last remnant of the passing pageant that
has been rescued at the 11th hour that is capable of turning back
the clock for tens of thousands of people. The Bigwin ferry was
raised, literally from the bottom of the lake where she had been
rotting for decades by a dedicated band of volunteers. To restore
this nearly one hundred-year-old vessel to its original glory so
that thousand can once again see a wonderful part of our past brought
back to life.
|To restore the Bigwin Steamboat to its original 1910
condition as the centerpiece of a new Lake of Bays Marine Museum to
be located in Dorset on the historic Olde Clayton Property. Total
cost for purchasing and upgrading the land, buildings and restoring
the Bigwin is $1.3 million.
This is the last of the original fleet of steam ferryboats that
plied the Lake in the late 19th to mid 20th century that is available
for restoration. The success of the Segwun, the Wanda III and now
the Wenonah II on Lake Muskoka clearly indicate the popularity of
our Muskoka marine heritage. The restoration work, docking site
purchase, and preparation though substantial are modest compared
to the enormous benefit of saving a priceless part of our history
from near extinction to the benefit of today's and tomorrow's generations.
|The Bigwin is 66' in length with 11' 8" beam and
depth of 6' 1" with a registered weight of 25 tons. After years
of neglect, the boat sat partially submerged on the bottom of her
slip at Bigwin Inn. The Bigwin was purchased in 1991 and after considerable
volunteer effort, she was raised and floated to dry dock in South
A permanent Docking Facility has been identified in Dorset known
as the Clayton property wharf and building were used by the Huntsville,
Lake of Bays Navigation Company and the Bigwin Livery Company. The
building was used for selling tickets and storing shipments and
mail. The upstairs was used as sleeping quarters by the ship captains
of the Mohawk Belle and the Iroquois steamboats.
The Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society have secured
an option to purchase this property. We are in the process of raising
money to help us save this historic site. The Marine Museum is offering
the unique opportunity for families, individuals or corporations
to have their name displayed in perpetuity on Lake of Bays for future
generations of families to see.
The Steamboat operators used the wharf area since 1885 and ticket
office standing directly beside the wharf since approximately 1918
as the centre for steamboat traffic across Lake of Bays. The steamboat
companies were responsible for allowing settlers, farmers, trappers,
tourists and others to come to this lake before roads were developed.
It is this wharf; ticket office and land that served this region
and help make it what it is today. Unfortunately this property has
been neglected for over 10 years and we fear that if not protected
by our Marine Museum the building may be lost forever. It is the
intention of the Marine Museum to restore the ticket office and
wharf. The Bigwin steamboat has been moved to this property, which
we hope will be its permanent home.
|For a relatively modest investment, a part of our heritage can be
brought back to life for thousands to enjoy. The proposal would see
the restoration of the Bigwin ferry and the historic Huntsville Navigation
Company building and dock. This was part of the original infrastructure
that opened up the lake to settlers and tourists in the last century
or so. The Lakes and rivers were the highways and the steamers the
transport that plied them. The restoration will provide an opportunity
for both residents and visitors in the area to relive an experience
that otherwise will be lost forever. A hundred years from now, people
will say thank you to the foresight and generosity of those who brought
this spectacular boat and docking facilities back to life.
The restoration process is actually underway and progressing well.
Thanks to a grant from the Trillium Foundation we have removed and
replaced 10 steel frames in the stern of the boat and replaced them.
We now getting the hull prepared for planking, which we hope to
begin in April of 2003. In phase 1 we plan to complete the following
||Repair all steel frames, clean and
prime with rust inhibiting paint.
||Plank the hull.
||Replace the keel and deadwood.
||Repair the deck on the bow, stern
||Rebuild the Wheelhouse.
||Purchase, refurbish and install steam
engine, propeller shaft and propeller.
||Install new windows.
||Install submersible pumps and put Bigwin in the water moored to the wharf in Dorset.
The objects for which the corporation is incorporated are:
To promote public interest in the marine and navigational heritage of the Lake of Bays region, in the District of Muskoka, and to that end;
To preserve, restore, construct and reconstruct, maintain, display and demonstrate to the public antique, classic and heritage vessels and boats;
To establish, maintain and operate dockage and storage facilities for the Society's vessels;
To establish a public museum displaying artifacts, pictures, displays, memorabilia and models; and to collect oral and written historical recollections concerning marine history of the Lake and area;
To conduct programs designed to acquaint the public with the marine history and traditions of the area.