The Township Empire: the Historical Centre

·3 min read

In our series on the Township of Uxbridge’s properties, we come to the one with the most individual structures: the Uxbridge Historical Centre (UHC).

It was the idea of local history buff Isobel St. John to found the Uxbridge-Scott Museum in 1972, on the site of the recently-closed Quaker Hill School. The Uxbridge-Scott Historical Society was founded to administer the museum, and continues to play a key role in fundraising and volunteer support, although the Township took over as owner and operator in 1997. Allan McGillivray of Zephyr was the museum’s first and long-time curator, and continues to lend his expertise as a historical resource.

The Buildings: Over the years, a number of structures were added to keep the schoolhouse company. There are now 11 principal buildings on the site, eight of heritage significance, and three as support (but built to resemble period structures). They are:

Management: The Township is supported by the six-member Museum Advisory Committee, which plays a major policy role and according to museum standards, must put its stamp on various heritage procedures. Since the Township took over the Centre, it has never had full-time, year-round employees. Curatorial and programming staff are contracted spring to fall, often supported by summer students. The Centre’s director, Amanda Ferraro, wears a number of similar hats with the Township. Uxbridge’s Manager of Cultural Services and Tourism, Lisa John-Mackenzie, only recently added the museum to her other roles. Programming and Events Coordinator Annabelle Kolomeisky is on a seasonal contract. This summer, the UHC was assisted by six students (facilitated by grants awarded to the Historical Society, a registered charity, as well as others arranged by staff) in areas ranging from summer camps to maintenance to digital cataloguing of the Centre’s artifacts and archives.

Funding: The Township’s annual budget for the operation of the UHC approximately $170,000. About $100K goes to wages and benefits, with the other principal expenses being maintenance of the buildings and grounds at $40K, and utilities at $10K. Revenue-wise, the Township budgets to recover about a quarter of the budget, mostly through grants (although the province’s operating grant only amounts to $12K, and hasn’t risen to reflect the Centre’s steady growth). User fees (building rentals, admissions, programming fees) don’t currently contribute a significant amount on the revenue side, though the Centre plans to market more aggressively to both tourists and locals in the future.

What is Scott? – If you’re not an area old-timer, you may not be familiar with why “Scott” was part of the museum’s original name, and is retained in the name of the Historical Society. The reason is that the northern half of the Township, above Davis Dr., used to be a separate municipality, Scott Township. In 1973, a year after the founding of the museum, Scott amalgamated with the Town of Uxbridge and the original Township of Uxbridge to form the new Township, as part of a province-initiated amalgamation movement.

Under a Tree – It was a stroke of good fortune that most of the UHC’s buildings sustained little damage from the May 21 tornado, nothing that some paint and patching won’t fix. The Lodge Hall, however, wasn’t so lucky. A very large tree fell on its eastern half, and was only carefully removed last week.

“The good news,” says Ferraro, “is that all artifacts that were in the Lodge Hall during the tornado have been recovered with minimal damage. As for the building, we are preserving as much of the Hall as possible. Right now it looks like the front vestibule can be saved and half of the standing side wall. We’ll continue to look at options to re-build a replica building using the saveable standing walls. This will most likely happen in the spring. We will protect what is left standing over the winter.”

Conrad Boyce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Uxbridge Cosmos