Birthplace of Dionne quintuplets moved after yearlong grassroots campaign

Birthplace of Dionne quintuplets moved after yearlong grassroots campaign

NORTH BAY, Ont. — The birthplace of the Dionne quintuplets weathered a treacherous trek down the dark, snow-blanketed streets of a northeastern Ontario city on Sunday as it was once again uprooted and hauled to a new location.

A handful of supporters gathered before dawn to see the historic log cabin, now split in two and attached to trucks, gingerly wind its way to its new spot in downtown North Bay.

The roughly two-kilometre journey took about an hour — less than organizers had originally anticipated, despite the blast of wintry weather.

Crews drove the bottom half of the house onto the designated site and brought the roof nearby, to be lifted into place and reattached on Monday.

Ed Valenti, president of the Dionne Quints Heritage Board, arrived at 6:30 a.m. to watch the home make the trip.

"It's the move, it's our big day. We wouldn't get much sleep anyway the night before this thing," he said.

The move is the culmination of a yearlong grassroots campaign to keep the home in North Bay, an effort that started after officials proposed transferring the cabin to a nearby community and handing any related artifacts to museums and universities.

The two surviving quintuplets, Cecile and Annette Dionne, threw their support behind the campaign, arguing the city had a moral obligation to safeguard the home and its legacy.

A spokesman for the 83-year-old sisters said they are proud to see the landmark preserved and grateful to those who rallied to save it.

But Carlo Tarini said the sisters hope governments will step up to ensure consistent funding so the home can reopen and continue to operate as a museum. The city recently denied a request for money and the board said it will reach out to provincial and federal officials.

The sisters want to travel to North Bay from their home in Montreal for the opening date, which has yet to be set, Tarini said.

The board said it hopes to have the museum up and running by June 1, but noted much rests on securing financial support.

"The next step up is to get prepped for opening day and to begin the process of showing the home," Valenti said. "It's something we're looking forward to tackling, the big thing was getting it here."

Kassidy Allard waited at the new location to see the home arrive safely. The 11-year-old was one of those who fought to keep the house in North Bay, bringing a petition to school and attending city council meetings with her parents.

"I'm very relieved that it's staying here," she said.

"It's just respect for the Dionne quintuplets and it's our heritage and I think kids my age should be able to see it and go in the museum and learn about the history of it," she said.

The quintuplets were considered a medical miracle when they were born in 1934, and their story made headlines around the world.

Many tried to capitalize on their fame, including the Ontario government, which took the quints from their parents and turned them into a tourist attraction for the first nine years of their lives.

They drew throngs of visitors to the area, spurring the local economy and generating roughly $500 million in income for the province.

Their birth home was bought by the City of North Bay and brought there from the nearby community of Corbeil, Ont., in 1985, then turned into a museum dedicated to the family's story.

The Dionne Museum closed to the public in 2015 after the city's chamber of commerce stopped running it, and the resulting struggle to find a replacement prompted officials to suggest moving it to the nearby community of Strong, Ont.

A group of residents rallied against the proposal, lobbying city council for months until it was voted down in favour of moving the home locally.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misstated the amount of income the quintuplets generated for the Ontario government.