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May 11, 2007

Doors Open North Bay


One of the best heritage ideas to come along in a long time is the opening of interesting historical buildings for the public to see and hear about.  The idea started in Europe in 1984 and spread widely there before coming to Toronto in 1984.  Since then it has spread across Ontario and North America, and has finally come to North Bay. 

Eleven buildings will be open for you to drop in and have a look, a tour, and ask questions to people assigned by the North Bay Museum (Discovery North Bay).  The museum in the old CPR Train Station is on the list and is the best place to start and get maps and other details.  You can start at any one of the sites and see any or all from 10-4pm, free of charge.  The Friday Nugget will have a full and detailed supplement on the event. 

The following are featured: 

Canadian Pacific Railway Station/Discovery North Bay

Capitol Centre

W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery

Clothes Encounters (of the 2nd Kind)

Empire Living Centre

King George V School

Lefebvreís Outdoor Sports/Vested Interest

North Bay Collegiate Institute and Vocational School Ecole Seconaire Catholique Algonquin

Northeast Mental Health Centre

St. Johnís Anglican Church

Trinity United Church

North Bay Masonic Temple 

The Empire Living Centre

I was asked to be a guide at the Empire Living Centre and will be there from 10-4.  I recall one or two nights there years ago while in town on business when it was the Empire Hotel and I recall several visits to the restaurant after I retired to the area. 

The Empire Hotel, Discovery North Bay Photo.

The museum gave me an item on the hotel written by a late Living Centre resident Claire Baldasaro who got her information from the Nugget in 1928 at the hotel opening.  Two general contractors from Timmins built the hotel.  They used a large local work force and purchased their supplies here.  There was a drug store, barber shop and restaurant along with porters and bellhops.  A richly adorned marquee, and rotunda were features as were mosaic tile floors laid by master craftsmen.  The hotel in the heart of North Bay and close to two railway stations was considered the best in Northern Ontario. 

The Hotel was eventually bought and refurbished as a leisure living centre.  A large addition was later added.  Many of our senior citizens live there and enjoy the beautiful setting, food, housekeeping and recreation. 

Ann Montemurro at the Empire Living Centre, D.Mackey Photo.

I had the recent pleasure of visiting with resident Ann Montemurro who has lived there for three years and is very satisfied with her stay.  She recalled riding her bicycle to the hotel with friends while still a teenager to watch the people dancing through the large window.  She met her husband Richard before the war and when he came back and they married their reception was held at the hotel.  They lived on Scollard Street when it was just being built up and had three children.  They visited the hotel on occasion, and especially at Christmas over the years.  Her children loved the Chinese food. 

She recalled the making of the James Cagney movie Captain of the Clouds and their stay at the Empire.  Cagney, when a little under the influence, opened his hotel window and yelled at the kids and threw $5 bills to the crowd below.  She also remembers riding her bike with friends to see the movie being made.  Ann also remembered formal dances where a dozen couples would rent a room and leave their coats and walk down the big staircase as a group to the dance.  The staircase remains.  Ann showed me the nicely done family history she has prepared on the Montemurro and Mitchell families.  She also mentioned her connection with John Macfie the outstanding local historian from Parry Sound. 

Camera Frontera 

For those with the interest and the stamina there are 12 venues in the same general area as Doors Open that are displaying some 20 outstanding photographers.  Three are at the Museum and three are at the Kennedy Gallery which are in Doors Open.  A catalogue and map for Camera Frontera is available for $5. 

Motherís Day Studio Tour 

Another great spring excursion is the Country Roads Studio and garden tour May 12 & 13.  Pick up a brochure at the Chamber of Commerce on Seymour Street or log on to www.countryroadstour.com or call 752-3663. 

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