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Historical Park has Grand Plans PDF Print E-mail

Historical park has grand plans
Friday, May 23, 2008

From an amphitheatre to a flashy new website, the Fort William Historical Park has five large-scale projects in the works that general manager Sergio Buonocore hopes will help shine the spotlight on the entire region as a tourist destination.
The amphitheatre, which Buonocore said will have a capacity of about 50,000 people, is set to open in mid-August for the Anishnawbe Keeshigun festival.

“It‘s very much a community facility – anyone can rent it from us for any type of function,” said Buonocore, who added that the “world-class” facility is designed in a Roman-style bowl shape to ensure clear views all around for people attending events there.
Another major project set to open in mid-August is a centre to promote the park to American tourists.

“We‘re opening the Fort William Historical Park Canada Gateway Centre,” said Buonocore, who noted that there are several thousand cars that go to Grand Marais each day from various locations in Minnesota and area. “Only 350 of those 6,000 cars go to the Ontario border . . . we‘re going to go fishing where the fish are, as the saying goes, and build the facility there.”

The organization is also working on an intensive “place-branding” campaign to draw in Canadian tourists by advertising Fort William Historical Park at the airport, in hotel lobbies, tourist information centres and sporting facilities. As well, Buonocore says they‘re going to have about 60 billboards placed across Canada and near Minneapolis and Duluth.
“We are going out this year into Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, southern Ontario and Quebec with French boards – again all branding Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, Ont.,” he said.
In about a month, they will also be launching a new website that Buonocore says will include educational components like downloadable videos, audio files and stories about the history of the fur trade.

Finally, the park is at work on a $48-million proposal to construct an aboriginal village that will illustrate the pre-European contact-era in Canada‘s history. Buonocore said it‘s something they‘re working on in partnership with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
In addition to the village, this would include a residence or accommodation property for workers (“Our hope is that we‘d be able to bring in aboriginal youth from First Nations all over Northern Ontario as employees,” Buonocore said), an IMAX theatre and an RV park.
“We‘ve already conducted preliminary studies and our next step is to move towards an engineering and architectural study, a business plan, a market analysis and so on,” said Buonocore. “That‘s where we‘re at right now.”

Copyright © Tuesday, July 29, 2008 All material contained herein is copyrighted by
The Chronicle Journal, a division of Continental Newspapers Canada Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.


Fortís Quick Cleanup Gets Praise From Tourism Minister PDF Print E-mail

Fort’s quick cleanup gets praise from Tourism Minister
By Alana Toulin
Saturday, June 28, 2008

After experiencing some flooding earlier this month, things have returned to normal at Fort William Historical Park just in time for the summer tourist season. The site was a hotbed of activity Friday during its free Community Appreciation Day, even drawing Ontario Tourism Minister Peter Fonseca to come check out the action.

Fonseca toured the site with Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro and Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle and after greeting children and spending time in the woodworking shop, he said he was “delighted” the site was able to clean up and reopen so quickly.
“It‘s great,” he said of the popular tourist attraction. “Fort William Historical Park is so well-branded and marketed here in Thunder Bay and across Northwestern Ontario and stateside. Sergio Buonocore and his team here have really put together a marvelous experience.”
While Fonseca acknowledged some of the challenges facing Ontario‘s tourism sector –including high gas prices and the slumping U.S. economy – he said the province is doing fairly well in attracting visitors overall.

“When we look at the numbers, we‘ve actually experienced growth in our tourism compared to other jurisdictions like B.C. and Quebec, which have (declined),” he said. “This is partly because of great attractions like Fort William Historical Park and all the things we have to do and see here in Ontario; as well as some specific marketing campaigns you may have seen on TV or in print.”
Fonseca added that he encourages people to visit www.ontariotravel.net to check out all the vacation experiences Ontario has to offer.

Copyright © Tuesday, July 29, 2008 All material contained herein is copyrighted by
The Chronicle Journal, a division of Continental Newspapers Canada Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.


Brigade Arrives in Thunder Bay PDF Print E-mail

Brigade arrives in Thunder Bay
By Alana Toulin
Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sixty-three days and over 3,300 kilometres is a long time to spend in a canoe, but for the paddlers who have spent the last few months retracing explorer and fur trader David Thompson‘s two-hundred-year-old path, it was well worth it.
“It was a once in a lifetime trip,” said Andrew Dorion Saturday at Fort William Historical Park, where around 160 paddlers from the David Thompson Brigade wrapped up their epic journey. He and his six-member Team Black Bart come from the Cumberland House Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and completed the whole journey from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., to Thunder Bay.

“It‘s unexplainable right now because of all the excitement. . . . Everyone‘s so happy and it‘s great to be here after so many days.”
Their team braved unpredictable weather including snow and hail and put in long hours (10 and sometimes even 12 hours a day) to complete the route, sometimes travelling more than 100 kilometres a day. They trained hard and made sure to pack light and had a clear goal in mind.
“Two guys in the boat represent aboriginals all across Canada. Us younger guys represent the youth all across Canada and the older guys represent residential school survivors,” said Dorion. “That‘s why we‘re doing this.”

For Lavern Thompson, being part of the David Thompson Brigade had special significance. He‘s a seventh-generation ancestor of the explorer and said it‘s been a way to explore history and learn more about a relative he is very proud to have in his family tree.
“I‘ve had my heritage handed to me on a silver platter,” said the Toronto native, adding that the people he met along the way showed and taught him much about his famous ancestor.
Jokingly comparing the experience to “summer camp on steroids,” Thompson said the experience was a phenomenal one that made him proud to be Canadian.

“The brigade is a touchstone to history and the past. We don‘t tend to celebrate our heroes in Canada. David Thompson was surely a hero – he‘s surely a hero of mine,” he said.
Soaking up adulation from the crowds that gathered to greet the brigade and take part in the Fort‘s Great Rendezvous event was David Bates – dressed in period costume and standing in as the man himself.

“I had the incredible luck to be chosen to be David Thompson,” he said, adding that Thompson was most famed for his fur trade career with the North West Company and the Hudson‘s Bay Company and his mapmaking skills.
“He is the embodiment of all that is good about the fur trade. The fur trade was on occasion a nasty business, but Thompson embodied all the virtues.”


Victory is Ours PDF Print E-mail

Victory is ours
Monday, July 28, 2008

Cannonfire and musket shots echoed through Fort William Historical Park this weekend during the “Battle of Fort William”.
Park staff and historical re-enactors from Canada and the U.S. came together Saturday and Sunday to stage a fictional conflict between the fort‘s inhabitants and invading French and American troops.

The two armies faced off in an open field on the edge of the park.
When the smoke cleared, the local forces had prevailed, and park officials say the event was as much a victory as the battle was.
“The re-enactors that have come from out of town have been quite enthusiastic,” park communications officer Marty Mascarin said Sunday, “and they really enjoy our historic site.”

Between 40 and 50 history enthusiasts from Thunder Bay, Manitoba, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois participated in the battle.
Among them was history teacher Michael Mathews, who came with 15 others from Minnesota for the event.
“We‘ve been to Canada many times for events, and it‘s always been a very positive experience,” said Mathews.

He said he was pleased by the park visitors‘ historical curiosity.
“One thing we like about coming to Canada is the people here ask such intelligent questions,” said Mathews. “We don‘t get asked ’is that uniform hot?‘ . . . we get questions about ’where was your regiment in 1814.‘”

The Battle of Fort William is a recently-developed biennial event at the park.
It was created to give park visitors a better understanding of battle tactics used in early 19th century conflicts like the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars.
“Something like this makes (history) more tangible, and it stands out in (the spectators‘) minds better than reading about it,” said Mascarin.

Copyright © Tuesday, July 29, 2008 All material contained herein is copyrighted by
The Chronicle Journal, a division of Continental Newspapers Canada Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.


A Brief History of the Historical Units PDF Print E-mail
During the War of 1812, the potential American invasion in British North America posed a direct threat to both the British Government and to the North West Company (NWC).

For fur trade operations such as the NWC, armed conflict meant disruption of trade and potential ruin. Each July, the NWC used the locks at Sault Ste. Marie to tranship an entire year's supply of furs and trade goods. Situated nearby at St. Josephs Island were large warehouses containing stores of firearms, gunpowder and liquor.  If the Americans secured either of these establishments, they would control access to Lake Superior and threaten British holdings in North America as well as the very existence of the NWC. 

As it was less than one day's travel to Sault Ste. Marie from Fort Mackinac, it was advantageous to the British and the North West Company to secure the American establishment.  In July 1812, a force consisting of 180 voyageurs, 300 Indians, and 45 regulars of the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion stationed at St. Josephs Island departed for Fort Mackinac.  On July 18th, the force managed to take the American fort by surprise, partly due to the fact that the men stationed there were unaware war had been declared.

In October 1812, North West Company Chief Director William McGillivray was given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and instructed to form a company of voyageurs made up of North West Company engagés.  Officers of this newly formed corps came from the Scottish gentlemen partners and clerks of the Company. 

The carefree demeanour and lack of discipline of the voyageurs often drove their officers to distraction but they did manage to see some action during their brief six-month tenure as militia.

The Corps disbanded March 1813 in Lachine, Quebec after serving in engagements at St. Regis, 23rd October and LaColle, 20th November 1812.

Count DeMeuron's Swiss Regiment

Originally raised by the Swiss Count DeMeuron for the Dutch East India Company (1781), the regiment subsequently transferred its service to the British and fought in the second Mysore campaign under Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington).  It was in this campaign that the regiment's first battle honour was won during the siege of Serengapatam.

In 1813, the regiment was transferred to North America where it distinguished itself in covering the retreat from the Battle for Plattsburg.  In 1816, the unit was disbanded.

Lord Selkirk of the Hudson's Bay Company then employed 90 discharged soldiers of the former DeMeuron and DeWattville regiments (these included 80 DeMeurons) to serve as soldier/settlers and help protect his Red River settlement, the presence of which had incurred the wrath of the North West Company. Selkirk had been en route from Sault Ste. Marie with his newly acquired force when he learned of the "massacre" at Seven Oaks, whereby twenty-two of his settlers were killed in conflict with Métis buffalo hunters employed by the NWC. In retaliation for the killings at Seven Oaks, Lord Selkirk would seize Fort William on August 13th 1816, accusing the Nor'Westers of murder.

A Brief History of the Modern Re-enactment Unit

The Canadian Corps of Voyageurs was formed in 1976 to interpret the voyageurs as a soldier and his use of firearms and artillery as a North West Company engagé. In this role, Corps members participate in special events at Fort William Historic Park as well as demonstrate historic interpretation.

In 1981, Fort William supplied Corps members with reproduction DeMeuron uniforms to enhance the re-enactment of Lord Selkirk's occupation of Fort William. This encouraged several members to take the King's shilling and acquire their own uniforms and interpret the regular soldier of the War of 1812 in addition to their voyageur militia interpretation.  Since then, Corps members have attended battle re-enactments at several historic sites in southern Ontario and the United States.

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Contact Information

Fort William Historical Park     
1350 King Road
Thunder Bay, Ontario
P7K 1L7

Reservations: 807-473-2344
Admissions: 807-473-2347
Administration: 807-577-8461
Emergency After Hours: 807-473-9750
Event Hotline: 807-473-2333
Giftshop: 807-473-2308

Administration Fax: (807) 473-2327
General Manager Fax: (807) 473-2336
Admissions Fax: (807) 473-2312

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