(An Organization for Our Community) by Lynda Whitson
To view the original article and others in the 2022 series please visit the Cottage Shack online magazine
Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM) opened to the public in Canada’s Centennial year 1967. But did you know that the folks who originated the not-for-profit Coldwater Canadiana organization in 1964 had no idea at the time that they would become the owners of the old Woodrow Homestead, now the flagship of our unique museum?
Digging through our wonderful archives reveals to those of us who are newer members of the organization the true origins of how our beloved museum and the organization who runs it came about. In the early 1960s a famous local singer and actress by the name of Isabel Alonso had the brainchild of an idea for celebrating Huronia region’s history, heritage and culture. The plan was to have the headquarters in Coldwater and for the organization to sponsor a wide range of cultural events.
Following a meeting in the autumn of 1964 a board was formed including the founding members: Rev. Doug Jacques, Ruth Woodward, Morley Yon, Mary Lovering, Bill Wyley, Earl Brandon, Harvey Wallace, and Eileen Peters. The organization enthusiastically undertook a number of events in the following years that included sponsoring baseball games, parades, horse races and, perhaps most notably, funding the monument to George Gray (1865-1933), who held the shot – putting record of Canada and the United States for 17 years, is enshrined in the Canadiana Sports Hall of Fame.
The organization helped to fund themselves by opening a store selling consignment goods of local and Canadiana type crafts. The store was rented somewhere on the south end of the Main Street (if anyone remembers where, let us know) and was named Cowan’s Trading Post after its historic namesake at the Chimneys down river from Coldwater.
In 1966, the organization became aware that the Woodrow Homestead was for sale. The Coldwater Canadiana group, who had so far only dreamt of having a museum, did not hesitate but acted to purchase the lovely historic home. In July of 1966 for an approximate price of $3,000 the old log structure and 6.2 acres on the Coldwater River became the property of the organization who then began the process of lovingly restoring the building closer to its original appearance.
First off, they removed the pine siding which covered the beautifully dovetailed log construction. The rear section of the home, which is the oldest and quite possibly dates back to the 1830s, needed the most tender-loving care. In all likelihood the original floor was first but it had been covered with pine boards which were quite rotten. These were replaced with a stone floor. The focal point of the room was and still is its stone fireplace. This had been completely covered over and the members of the organization were delighted to reveal the original fireplace with its unique pine mantel. One can imagine the Woodrow family cooking and warming themselves around the hearth a century and a half ago.
The newer front addition built by the Woodrows, circa 1864, was spruced up and included further exhibits and a gift shop. The organization continued to collect historical artifacts for display and were soon hosting events, Devon teas and expanding with more and more historic buildings coming on site to join the original log house.
To this day we are all thrilled to be part of sharing this treasure from our past. The log house remains a testament to time. From its early wilderness days located on the ancient trail between the Narrows and Georgian Bay, first trodden by the generations of Indigenous people, it witnessed the trail becoming a stage coach road, funneling in settlers and soldiers. And now the old log house watches as trans-Canada traffic races by in the thousands every single day.
Come take a walk back in time with us when CCHM reopens in the Spring.