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Heritage home walking tours help keep town's history alive

'Learning about your community is so valuable,' says former heritage committee chair local architecture conservancy advocate
400 Maple Street
The old Victoria School annex building at 400 Maple Street photographed November 2020.

From railways and remnants of its shipbuilding days, to heritage homes scattered throughout town, Collingwood’s colourful history takes you on a journey — and there are walking tours to guide you on the journey.

Created as a special project by the Heritage Advisory Committee, the Discover Collingwood Heritage Walks aim to capture historic highlights and unique buildings in and around downtown Collingwood. There are four separate tours that each cover a different area or architectural feature of Collingwood. Each tour is accessible and all of them start and end at town hall. 

“People are so appreciative of the tours because it helps them recognize and respect what we have here,” said Margaret Mooy, local representative of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) on the Collingwood Heritage Advisory Committee. 

Prior to her position representing the ACO, Mooy served two full terms on the Heritage Advisory Committee as both chair and vice-chair. The Heritage Walks were a special project created while Mooy held her position as chair, in collaboration with the Collingwood Museum, the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA), the Collingwood Library and the ACO, among others. 

“There were a lot of different groups that worked together to make this happen. I think it’s fantastic, the stronger and more diverse the group, the better,” said Mooy. 

The four tours include a Downtown Heritage Walk, West Heritage Walk, East Heritage Walk, and the Look Up tour, celebrating features and forms of downtown Collingwood. The downtown tour is approximately one kilometre long and takes 20 minutes to complete. The east and west tours are estimated to take about an hour, walking approximately three kilometres around the east and west residential areas in Collingwood. 

“I’ve met some wonderful people working on this project and I just think our history in this town gives us a sense of place,” said Mooy. 

All of the tours were edited and fact-checked by Laurel Lane-Moore. She is the author of Collingwood: Historic Homes and Buildings, which was published in 1989. 

There are currently fewer than 100 copies of each tour’s brochure left, so Mooy is in the process of working with the committee to get more printed. While the town works to modernize the downtown and has put all of the walking tours online, Mooy still sees the value in holding a printed copy as you explore the area. 

This past year, the tours became especially popular as they were a safe activity locals could do during the pandemic. 

“It was a good adventure people could do safely during COVID,” said Mooy. “It made me really happy, seeing people going out for walks and looking up.”

One of Mooy’s long-term goals is to get the brochures in classrooms as well, to teach the younger generations more about Collingwood’s history and community involvement. 

“Learning about your community is so valuable,” Mooy added. 

Mooy herself moved to Collingwood almost two decades ago, but it wasn’t until she started learning about the history of the town that she really started to feel at home here. 

“When my husband first wanted to move here, I didn’t want to,” Mooy laughed. “But once I started learning about the history, I wouldn’t go back. There is so much here.”

Mooy got involved with the Collingwood Library to learn more about the heritage of the house she lived in — which happened to be one of the Trott houses.  

“It certainly has increased my enthusiasm for living here in Collingwood,” said Mooy. “This is where I belong ... there is such a history here. I just caught fire with it and ran with it I guess.”

The Heritage Advisory Committee recently celebrated winning one of its biggest “fights” after spending over a decade advocating to save the old Victoria Annex on the corner of Fifth and Maple Street. The former school was designated by the town as a property of cultural heritage value or interest under the Ontario Heritage Act. A developer has made a plan to add housing to the site and adapt the Annex building into residential homes.

Mooy currently has her sights set on saving the Collingwood Terminals, and has been working with a committee to see their adaptive reuse as well. 

“You can probably tell I am still excited about the history of this town and I am willing to fight to preserve what we have,” said Mooy. “Because once you lose it, you can’t get it back.”

Mooy was recently recognized by the town as a community hero for the work she has done involving heritage preservation. 

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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