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A piece of Collingwood's history has ties to Alcatraz

A gate and fence rescued from Collingwood's shipyards may have come from the same company that made steel for the cells at Alcatraz

This week’s photograph of the Northern Navigation Company’s buildings on Huron Street has helped to solve somewhat of a mystery at the Collingwood Museum.

A beautiful iron fence (Photograph 2) was added to the museum’s east gardens approximately ten years ago and staff understood it originated from the Collingwood Shipyards’ property; however, little else was known.

The fence, in its original location, is featured in today’s photograph, extending along Huron Street from the last of the three featured buildings. The original fence appears to have consisted of numerous panels that varied in size. Today, the portion that is preserved on the Museum’s grounds consists of three sections, including the decorative gate, measuring just over 18 feet long.

The iron fence was manufactured by The Stewart Iron Works in Cincinnati, Ohio (Photograph 3). The same company made the steel cell blocks for Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.

A quick online search reveals many similar gates. A promotional flyer from 1900 grabbed the interest of staff as the featured gate appears to be the same as Collingwood’s model (Photograph 4). Staff has purchased the flyer to help flesh out the fence’s history and eagerly await its arrival.

The fence is advertised by the company as “Our Leader / Positively the Best Fence ever produced for the Price. Cheaper than a Wood Fence”. The remaining details are difficult to decipher.

The three buildings in today’s photograph were used by the Northern Navigation Company. The two-storey brick building on the left housed the warehouse, and the smaller centre building is identified as the “Shore Stewards Office.” The more decorative two-storey brick building, with wooden cresting along its roofline, was also used as an office. The windows of the latter building feature closed awnings.

The photograph was taken in May, 1913. The Huron Institute records the Northern Navigation Company’s offices closed in the spring of 1914, and The Collingwood Shipyards Ltd. used the office until 1939.

If you have any information to share about today’s featured photograph, please contact Collingwood Museum staff at [email protected].

Remember This is a weekly series of historic photographs submitted by the Collingwood Museum to These photographs were originally collected and documented by the Huron Institute in an historical catalogue entitled Huron Institute Paper and Records: Volume III. Much of Collingwood’s early history has been preserved due to the dedication and foresight of the early museum’s founders, namely its secretary-curator David Williams, upon its establishment in 1904.