24 May 2013

100 Years of Delivering Mail in Belleville

Travis Shalla, Letter Carrier Supervisor at Canada Post's Belleville Operations, approached the Historical Society and Community Archives last year about their celebration for the 100th anniversary of mail delivery service in Belleville.  Travis began collecting historical information from the letter carriers (active and retired), and the Archive Angels researched the collections at the Community Archives for information about the post office and postal service in Belleville.

The results of that work became apparent last week.  Travis give a short presentation at the Historical Society's meeting on May 21, describing the history of letter carriers in Belleville.  Some of the images he featured are in the Archives collections, including the photograph below of the posties assembled on the steps of the old post office at the corner of Pinnacle and Bridge Streets at 11 am on May 24, 1913 - just before the very first delivery mail in Belleville.

But the highlight of the week was the celebration at the Belleville Operations building on on the actual 100th anniversary date of May 24, 2013, with the unveiling of the cancellation stamp, pictured right, that will be used in Belleville from that afternoon until the end of the year.

The image of the old post office used on the cancellation stamp is based on a silk screen print, pictured left, that is part of the Mika collection in the Community Archives.

At the May 24th celebration, the Historical Society and the Community Archives were presented with one of the commemorative numbered prints showing a view of the old post office with the anniversary cancellation stamp.  Print #2, shown below, will be preserved at the Community Archives for future generations.

Story Nick White / Sharon White. Picture of Travis Shalla, Nick White, other images from Community Archives.

21 May 2013

The Masts of Hasting County

Our monthly meeting featured a talk by Lloyd Jones on the Masts of Hastings County.

Tacking into an area that would have been topical when European settlers first came to what is now Hastings County, Lloyd discussed the importance of the majestic white pine - the first tree harvested commercially in North America.

He outlined how early colonists realized that North America was full of these massive trees, and started harvesting the pine.  Not without controversy as evidenced by the Pine Tree Riot.

He discussed how the pine logs, up to 120 feet long and 3 feet in diameter were not easy to harvest.  Special crews and techniques were required to fell the trees and special equipment needed to haul the timbers out of the woods to a waterway for their journey to the shipbuilder's yard.

Lloyd touched on events that happened at the start of the 19th century, recounting how Napoleon blockaded wood shipments through the Baltic Sea to Great Britain, forcing the Royal Navy to find alternative supplies of this strategic shipbuilding material.  With the United States allied with the French, supplies from Canada became even more important.

There was also naval action close to home.  The HMS Royal George, shown above with Durham boats in a 2010 painting by Armata, was an example of the ships constucted in Canada to counter the US threat.

Lloyd discussed such famous ships as Nelson's flagship HMS Victory and the Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad which fought (on opposite sides) at the battle of Trafalgar and concluded with HMS Warrior which, although equipped with steam engines, was ship rigged and had a sail area of 48,400 square feet.

With the coming of the dreadnoughts, the age of wind powered warships and the need for those mighty Ontario pines drew to an end.

Addition information about Lloyd's talk can be read in the June edition of our Newsletter Outlook.

Story and picture Nick White, painting of the Royal George by Armata courtesy of Lloyd Jones

06 May 2013

Fifty Years of Walking Around Belleville - Part 4

Sunday May 5th 2013

The third Jane’s Walk, titled Down by the Bay, was held the next day.

Led by landscape architect Kevin Tribble, a designer of the city’s widely used Bayshore Trail, and Doug Moses, previously the City’s director of Parks and Recreation, the walk started at the boat launch at the end of South George Street and proceeded eastward along the Bay to the CN memorial. 

Talks along the trail featured an eclectic mixture of topics: the geological history of the land, its evolving ecology since the settlement of Belleville and the challenges of building the trail and the hopes for its future extension.

After passing by the sewage treatment facility the walkers had great views of the turtles sunbathing in the artificial ponds - see the album link below.

The walk ended at the CN monument with stories from Belleville’s days as a major railway centre.

Story: Nick White & Anthea Weese; pictures Nick White

Fifty Years of Walking Around Belleville - Part 3

Saturday May 4th 2013

The second walk, Back Side for Your Backside, was an accessible fitness trip following the Riverfront Trail along the Moira River.

Led by fitness expert Ashton Calnan, geologist Hannah Chittenden, and BDIA executive director Sarah Tummon, around 50 participants explored downtown's back side the buildings on the west side of Front Street and the east side of Coleman Street.

Guest speakers included the Greenleys, erstwhile booksellers, and Shane Ross, owner of The Old Firehouse restaurant, who discussed the history of their buildings.  Lots of stories, including how the former Eddie Thomas Cigar Store (now Earl & Angelo's) hosted a 30-year-long gambling game on the second floor.  Police department insiders would tip off the gaming room in advance of any police raids.  Two house rules: answer phone calls immediately, and don’t spit on the floor.

As the leaders wrapped up the Walk, one participant declared it to be “fabulous, nobody wanted it to end.”
And another observed, “History and fitness, life doesn’t get any better!”

Story: Nick White & Anthea Weese; photos Marianne Scott.

Fifty Years of Walking Around Belleville - Part 2

Saturday May 4th 2013

Trailed by around 150 explorers, Orland French led the Meet Me at the Four Corners walk a celebration of downtown with a poke into history, an introduction to present downtown uses and culture, and an exploration of issues and possibilities for the future.

Orland fed the walkers on a diet of juicy historical tidbits along the downtown Front Street route, and was joined by downtowners such as restaurateur Paul Dinkel and Funk 'n' Gruven's Mike Malachowski who introduced the crowd to the charming courtyard alley behind their establishments.

Richard Courneyea discussed his family's decision to “put their money where their mouth is” and to make the move to living downtown, above his Richard Davis store.

Returning to the market, Don Wilson told how, with the participation of his grandchildren, seven generations of Wilsons have now been market merchants in downtown Belleville.  That’s a story in itself.

Story: Nick White & Anthea Weese; photos Kim Stinson

Fifty Years of Walking Around Belleville - Part 1

November 11th, 1963

It isn’t know when the first walking tours of Belleville were held, but Jane’s Walks continue a tradition.

It has been nearly fifty years since the Intelligencer announced on August 26, 1963 that the Hastings County Historical Society would hold it’s first “experimental Walking Tour”.

The event must have been successful as the Walking Tour of Lower Front Street held on September 1st was followed by six additional walks in October and November of that year.

As evidenced by the pictures, believed to have been taken on November 11, 1963, the weather wasn't always as pleasant at that time of year as that we experienced on the three Jane’s Walks held this year.

Photos and clipping from the HCHS scrapbooks at the Community Archives

01 May 2013

2013 Ontario Volunteer Recognition

Six people were nominated for volunteer awards this year by the Society.  The awards, made by MPPs Todd Smith and Rob Milligan on behalf of the Provincial government, recognise each five years of continuous volunteer work performed by a person to the nominating organisation.

In this picture, taken after the awards ceremony at the Banquet Centre in Belleville, from left to right, Gerry Boyce (56 years), Orland French, Mike Shaw, Elizabeth Mitchell Dick Hughes (back) and Nick White (foreground).  Picture taken in very difficult lighting conditions by Sharon White.