By Lorraine Payette - Emcst Lawrence
On Aug. 4, after weeks of careful preparation and packing, the St. Lawrence Islands National Park in Mallorytown Landing bid a fond farewell to the gunboat which had been housed at the facility for more than 40 years.
In 1967, the remains of an 1812 British gunboat were raised by the Parks Canada Underwater Archaeology team. With extreme care and respect, the boat was placed in a cool, dark boathouse at the St. Lawrence Islands National Park, Mallorytown Landing, Ontario, where it has remained to be observed and admired by those who come to visit the Park throughout its season.
But time takes its toll. The old boathouse was suffering, the piers below it rotting away and endangering the overall structure.
Parks Canada took a long hard look, and decided that instead of trying to do a patchwork repair to the old building, it would be better to create a new exhibit and facility for the gunboat at Fort Wellington in Prescott.
"Fort Wellington National Historic Site, located in the historic town of Prescott, is a British fort built during the War of 1812 to protect the St. Lawrence River, the main shipping and communication line between Montreal and Upper Canada during the 19th century," said Bruce MacMillan, Partnering Engagement and Communications Officer for the Eastern Ontario Field Unit of Parks Canada. "In addition to being home to Fort
Wellington, Prescott Ontario was an important British gunboat station during the conflict. It was also the home port for three British gunboats used on the river to aid in battle, as well as to protect and escort convoys of bateaux loaded with valuable military equipment and supplies.
A new visitor centre at Fort Wellington is being constructed to accommodate this significant artifact, increase exhibit space and better orient visitors to foster greater public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the fort and its history.
"The gunboat was raised from the river in 1967, during the centennial for Canada. It only seems appropriate that we would conduct this project now, during the 100th anniversary of parks Canada, and that the unveiling ceremonies are to take place in May, 2012, in time for the bicentennial of the War of 1812."