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THE MUSEUM SHIP NORGOMA

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BUILDING COMMUNITIES, FLOATING DREAMS FOR OVER 60 YEARS

 

Thursday, June 20, 2013 by: Connie Carello

Since 1975, the Norgoma vessel has been a part of the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront landscape as a reminder of the deep historical roots our community has.

 

On September 12, 1963, the Norgoma took its last run from Owen Sound to Sault Ste. Marie as a tourist attraction and package vessel.

 

Launched at Collinwood Shipyards in the spring of 1950, the Norgoma was a 190-foot vessel intended to provide passenger and cargo services along the North Shore.

 

Weekend cruises were available taking passengers and cargo from Owen Sound to Killarney, Little Current, Kagawong and Gore Bay, Meldrum and Cockburn Island.

 

The ship would then cross the North Channel to visit Thessalon, Hilton Beach and Richards Landing before docking in Sault Ste. Marie and continuing onward through the Soo Locks and Whitefish Island.

 

The ship would return to Sault Ste. Marie and continue the cyclical journey all over again.

 

However, in 1960 the Norgoma’s services had lost their usefulness as the communities along the Turkey Trail no longer needed a coastal shipping service.

 

Transportation routes built for trucks and trains were able to provide necessities to these previously remote communities.

 

The vessel’s engine was converted from steam to diesel and continued to operate as a car ferry after 1963, running twice daily from Tobermory to South Baymouth until 1974.

 

The Norgoma was then retired and replaced by the Chi-Cheemaun which was able to house 140 vehicles.

 

The Norgoma was then docked in the Sault Ste. Marie harbour as a symbolic icon of its historical voyages in the Algoma region – a vessel that provided thousands the opportunity to witness the majestic beauty of the Northern Ontario landscape.

 

Since then, the Norgoma has operated as a museum and is open to the public weekdays from 11 a.m to 7 p.m.

 

With a newly installed ramp, the Norgoma is open for the summer season offering seven stations for patrons to visit and interact with on a self-guided tour.

 

Adults are required to pay a fee of $6 while children under five are free.

 

For Chairman of the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre, Gordon Smedley, it is important for the public to become aware of the historical presence of the Norgoma in the Sault Ste. Marie harbour.

 

“We enjoy people who come aboard and who are willing to learn about the Norgoma. It is important for everyone to develop an understanding of the history of the area. We should all really pay attention to how things developed and appreciate the significance of the St. Marys River and the part it played in building up several communities including Sault Ste. Marie. The Norgoma is a valuable part of our waterfront attractions, among many,” he said.

 

After 37 years of involvement with the Norgoma and its operation as a museum, Smedley is looking forward to upgrading parts of the vessel into a future bed and breakfast.

 

“We intend to renovate some of these old cabins into rooms for tourists to stay and have a bed and breakfast. Some will remain in their original condition. However, we are far away from completing the project at this time.”

 

Due to tight finances, the Norgoma is in search of available funding to achieve renovation goals and is currently operating on funds received from museum visitors and volunteer staff.

 

With ample space to host events, Smedley intends to continue to promote awareness about possible opportunities to use the space as a venue for weddings, business events, and other community activities.

 

A full upper deck is open for use for various events and has a capacity for approximately 80 patrons.

 

The dining room area has also been reviewed for possible catering purposes for restaurants willing to bring in food to the establishment.

 

After touring the Norgoma, you can surely understand the significance of its presence in the local community as the tour provides an educational journey into the past.

 

With several areas of the ship maintained in its original condition, visitors are thrown back into a time period where electronic devices were not relied upon and traveling was at a much leisured, slower pace.

 

If you have never been aboard the Norgoma, the local attraction is one worth experiencing.

 

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Cockburn one of the stops on the Turkey Trail during one of its early duties.