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In 1958 the Huntsville Rotary Club was aware of the growing number of family artifacts that were showing up at community events. So they set up a temporary small pioneer museum and began to collect and sort these artifacts in an empty school building on Caroline St. Not long after, two members of the local Rotary came up with the idea of a pioneer village and other Rotarians agreed.
They found a site just off Brunel Road 33 acres very close to Huntsville's downtown and equipped with its very own beaver pond which was, and is, a pristine slice of natural Muskoka.
In 1961 the Huntsville Town Council approved the purchase of the acreage while the Rotary Club maintained the management of the property.
From the modest dreams of two people, Muskoka Heritage Place has grown steadily to represent a pioneer crossroads community as it was between 1860 and 1910.
By 1964, three pioneer buildings had been moved to the site, with the assistance of the winter works program.
From Hillside, between Huntsville and Dwight, came a board and batten house belonging to Rev. Robert Norton Hill.
From Stephenson Township came the log home of the Hares family. And from the village of Aspdin came another log home previously inhabited by James Darling and family.
The Watson Woodwork shop arrived.
With support from the Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments, The Rotary Club built the present museum and opened it in June.
By now, a log schoolhouse from Etwell, the E.W. Hay General Store from Falkenburg, and the Blacksmith shop from Novar were permanent fixtures at M.H.P. Also in this year, a volunteer group known as The Friends of Muskoka Pioneer Village was organized to assist the Rotarians.
It is believed that this was the first time the term "Friends" had ever been used in Ontario.
A two story barn on site became a reception and display area.
The Livery was built on site to house the team of horses used for wagon rides.
The Sawmill was purchased and moved to the site from Ardbeg.
Saw the arrival of the Wesley Methodist church from Milford Bay, and the Daniel Bray house from Aspdin Road.
The Rotary Club, with much anguish, decided to withdraw from being the main operating body in the village and joined with the members of the Friends. This new amalgamation would be known as The Muskoka Pioneer Village Committee.
The biggest project of all was the on-site reconstruction of the Spence Inn from Old Nipissing Road. It was opened in this year by the Lieutenant-Governor, John Aird. Also in this year the first Director-Curator was hired.
The Huntsville and Lake of Bays Rail Society was formed, comprised of volunteers dedicated to the restoration, maintenance and enjoyment of antique rail systems.
The Maw house was moved to the site and initially used as staff headquarters. Ashworth Hall was under construction.
The museum display "Muskoka at Work and Play" was completed and assembled by volunteers with generous donations from Huntsville businesses.
The Muskoka Pioneer Village name changes to include the rail division and a possible marine component at a later date. It is now known as Muskoka Heritage Place.
An additional 66 acres were utilized to facilitate the largest undertaking thus far, the laying of 1 km. of rail track from the Rotary Village Station to Camp Kitchen along the shore of the Muskoka River almost out to Fairy Lake for the Portage Flyer Steam Train. It had operated up until 1959 between North and South Portage located on Peninsula Lake and Lake of Bays near Dwight Ontario.
The Portage Flyer made its maiden voyage and changed the landscape of Muskoka Heritage Place.
A limited food service outlet was installed in the barn for light lunches and to facilitate group box lunches.
A First Nations static display in the museum as well as an onsite encampment was added to Muskoka Heritage Place.
Unveiled was the "Muskoka at War" exhibit, an elaborate display representing Muskoka's connection to war.
We enjoy our first ever winter rail operation with "A Portage Flyer Christmas" that took place on the Saturday prior to Christmas Eve.
We open "Muskoka Creative" exhibit in the Muskoka Museum
We enjoyed our 50th Anniversary and celebrated on July 26th. A 50th anniversary video was produced and released to both capture our essence and to live on for future generations as a true window into what Muskoka Heritage Place was, and is, all about. We introduced First Nations Story Teller Mondays to our programming.
We relocate our train station and our yard track to make room for the new G8 Centre. This means we are without the Portage Flyer for this season but look forward to getting back on track in 2010.
We also relocate our rail museum exhibit "The Story of Steam" to serve as our feature exhibit in the Muskoka Museum.
Huntsville is hosting the G8 World Summit at Deerhurst and it is our opportunity to showcase our product through any extra media coverage. Our train station is now 100 feet closer to Look-Out Rd, on the opposite side of the tracks and spun around 180 degrees. The new location offers a better view of the Muskoka River and provides easier accessibility.