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'Pioneer buildings' lined First Street in early 1900s

More than 100 years ago, where Loblaw Great Food stands now, was a mud road and wood-clad buildings

Not one of these early wood-clad buildings continues to stand in Downtown Collingwood.

At first glance, the buildings appear quite derelict, leaning into and away from one another along the muddy street. Three pedestrians stroll along the sidewalk at the photograph’s right side and a small sign is visible but illegible on the furthest building.

These “pioneer buildings”, as described by the Huron Institute, lined the south side of First Street, between Hurontario and Pine Streets, when this photograph was taken on November 23, 1912.

Today, this entire length of street is home to Loblaw Great Food and the once muddy street now boasts five paved lanes for vehicular traffic.

The tall building on the left is recorded to have been built by John Merrill for a billiard room. It was later used as the Sons of Scotland Hall. In 1915, the building was partially burned and eventually torn down. Fire Insurance Plans in the Collingwood Museum’s collection indicate this structure also housed a “Junk and second Hand” store sometime between 1904 and 1915.

On closer inspection, the buildings’ simple designs hold a particular charm that takes one back to the earliest photographs of Collingwood’s downtown. Each of the buildings in today’s featured photograph appear on the hand-drawn 1875 Bird’s Eye View Map of Collingwood (Photograph 2). The section under review is underlined in red.

Today’s featured photograph, Huron Institute No. 1755, is a stand-in for a missing photograph numbered 227. According to the Huron Institute’s Historical Catalogue, both photographs were taken on the same day in November, but the missing photograph documents the pioneer buildings along the north side of First Street, the first of which is recorded to have been the Orange Hall. The backsides of these buildings are included in the Bird’s Eye View Map, but their storefronts will remain unknown until the photograph is found by staff.

The missing photograph was originally displayed and stored in one of the many scrapbooks created by the Huron Institute. Following the Library fire of 1963, these scrapbooks were salvaged and their contents disassembled to allow the photographs to recover from extensive water damage.

If you have any information to share about today’s featured photograph, please contact Museum Supervisor Melissa Shaw 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.