St. Marys Museum as it looked in 1902.
The Castle in the Bush
The community museum for the Town of St. Marys is located in a lovely old home sitting on a hilltop in a park at 177 Church Street South. It was constructed from locally quarried limestone in 1854. When George Tracy, an early settler to St. Marys, built it for his family, it was by far the largest home in the small village of log shanties. Almost immediately, it was nicknamed the Castle in the Bush. It has been the location of the St. Marys Museum since 1959.
Visitors interested in 19th-century construction are welcome to visit at any time throughout the year. They will see exhibits and materials on local history and can also explore the interior of the house itself. Although it has not been restored to any fixed historic period, it contains a great number of original features from 1854: pine flooring, four fireplaces, plaster crown moldings, high ceilings and strange sets of small rooms off larger chambers.
Community archives opened in 2006.
Local history research
A popular feature of the St. Marys Museum is the area for research into local history. A new wing for this community archives was opened in June 2006. The addition to the north of the original building is completely accessible and is well used by researchers throughout the year.
As well as municipal records, census indexes, listings for area cemeteries, local marriage, birth and death records, maps, photographs, family and community histories, this archives features St. Marys newspapers dating back to 1857. The newspaper archival materials were officially donated to the Museum in March 2007 by their last private owner. In recognition, the research area has been named: R. Lorne Eedy Archives.
Friends of the Museum
The Museum may look quiet from the outside, but the winter months are among the busiest of the year.
help keep winter busy
Staff and volunteers at the Museum are not just quietly waiting for warmer weather and the return of tourists. In fact the winter months are among the busiest of the year. Although there are fewer visitors to the exhibit area, researchers do not let nasty weather deter their quest for information. If they can’t visit the reference area in person, they make contact by email, letter or telephone. Staff report that they have been inundated with research requests since early February.
The annual seminar series also brings visitors to the Museum. There are two more presentations this season. On March 27, staff will explain the care of heritage quilts. This session will include a behind-the-scenes tour of the quilt storage area to show best practices in conservation of these treasures. On April 24, the much anticipated seminar, Central School Manor, will start with a brief history of the former school’s place in the history of elementary education followed by a chance to see inside the newly repurposed building. Watch this website for more information.
Museum personnel are also preparing for spring and summer. Applications have been submitted for grants to hire students to help with a full schedule of exhibits and activities. In the meantime, the Museum’s regular volunteers are on hand each week. Their work includes helping to care for the collection, placing archival documents in proper storage, researching property histories and answering genealogical requests.
Changes are happening outside the building in spite of winter. Recently, an attractive new sign was installed facing Church Street. It identifies the Museum and also directs visitors to the accessible main entrance off Tracy Street. A major project, the restoration of the back veranda overlooking Cadzow Pool, is almost complete. The contractors are just waiting for better weather to wrap up the work. The Horticultural Society is also waiting for spring so that the flower beds, disrupted in the construction process, can be remade.
Annual General Meeting: The Friends of the St. Marys Museum are holding the organization’s AGM Monday, March 24, at 7 p.m. at the Museum. Although everyone is welcome to attend, only current members are entitled to vote. If you do not have a membership for 2014, it is not too late. Click below for the membership renewal form and return it to the Museum.
Show your support for the St. Marys Museum. Buy a membership during your next visit or download a membership form.