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
Richard Holt signs a copy of The Fallen for Wendy Aitken at a book launching reception December 12 at the Museum.
Visits, donations add
to successful 2014
The St. Marys Museum has been enjoying a successful year in 2014, reporting significant increases in school programming, donations at the door and visitor numbers. Manager Trisha McKibbin believes that the effects of the recession from a few years ago and restrictions at border crossings are finally being overcome for this area in general. As well as tourist numbers, local visitor numbers have increased. Thanks to various initiatives, such as Melodies at the Museum, the profile of the St. Marys Museum in the community is currently “in a good place.”
Great gift ideas
The Museum’s gift shop has some great items for holiday giving, including local history books, historic photographs ready for framing, postcards and greeting cards. A very popular choice is Richard Holt’s new book, The Fallen. It was released December 12 and has already sold dozens of copies. This quality paperback presents brief biographies of the 140 men listed on the war memorials in St. Marys and Blanshard, concentrating on their time in the Canadian Forces. In relating the details of their deaths, Holt recreates the historic and social context of the two world wars and the impact of the loss of these men on families and communities. The Fallen costs $25 and can be purchased at the Museum. Copies are also available at M & M Variety in downtown St. Marys.
The Museum’s seminar series gets underway again in January. Ken Telfer will present the history and some of the strange stories associated with early hotels and taverns in the St. Marys area. Many people are looking forward to “Set ‘em Up, Barkeep,” Thursday evening, January 15. Further information about upcoming seminars can be found on the Museum’s Facebook page.
“First World War Letters,” excerpts from correspondence between St. Marys-area soldiers and their families, has been installed in the Military Gallery on the second floor and will remain in place until November 2015.
“A 1914 Christmas” can be viewed in the main exhibit rooms on the first floor until mid-January. It will be replaced by “Picture Perfect” from February until May 2015. This exhibit will showcase the Museum’s collection of paintings by some remarkable artists who studied and worked in the St. Marys area.
Show your support for the St. Marys Museum. Buy a membership during your next visit or download a membership form.