The Museum of Lennox & Addington is definitely not the boring, deserted cobweb filled space often presented in movies. In contrast, this community hub is filled with exciting activities, engaging exhibits, and a wealth of opportunities. Residents and tourists can discover and contribute to the incredible collection of archives, artifacts, and displays.
Curator JoAnne Himmelman and her team: Heather Wilson Archivist, Alannah MacGregor, Programs and Exhibitions Co-ordinator, and Nicole Mulder, Digital Content and Social Media Assistant, keep the museum relevant and interesting for today’s guests.
As individuals, and as a community, there are many lessons we can learn from our past. We can dive into family history by spending time in the genealogical archives, or learn about the industrialists and entrepreneurs that put Lennox & Addington on the map, provincially, nationally, and even internationally!
One such character was Miles Wesley Simkins, who from modest beginnings with only $4.50 to his name, but a natural talent for selling, built a very successful business in Kingston selling and repairing sewing machines. Manifesting his success, he built a large house in Newburgh.
Arriving in Napanee in 1842, John Herring established a foundry which by 1865 employed fifteen men in the manufacture of agricultural implements. Developing a reaping machine known as the Jersey Campaigner and a combined reaper-mower named the Buckeye, the works grew into a huge concern occupying a three story workshop with a production capacity of two hundred reapers a year. They company was responsible for casting the columns supporting Kingston’s Town Hall. In 1904 the foundry closed and four years later was destroyed by fire.
William Normille, a Napanee resident and councilor was primarily responsible for popularizing the bicycle. After twenty years experience making carriages for Webster & Boyes, he ventured out on his own. Though he was an agent for Cleveland and Massey Harris, he began to sell bicycles under his own name. A serial entrepreneur, he moved with the times and by 1914 the renamed business, the Napanee Bicycle and Automotive Works, became the area’s first Ford dealer.
Ontario’s first female landowner, Madeleine de Roybon d’Allonne bought property off Rene-Robert Cavelier de La Salle, in the south-eastern part of the county. He used the money to fund further explorations of Canada. Originally from France, she came to Canada around 1679, and built a house and farm on the property, eventually developing a small trading post. Eight years later her home was burned down and she was taken prisoner by the Iroquois. Released, she moved to Montreal, where she remained for the rest of her life.
The museum also provides the opportunity to engage with the history of the First Peoples, those who originally traveled through and then settled in the area. One can follow the journeys of immigrant settlers, explore their modes of transportation and see examples of the tools they used in daily life, from activities as diverse as cider and tea making, to iron work, glass, and furniture manufacture and even musical instruments,
Located at 97 Thomas Street East, the building itself has a rich earlier identity as the home of the county gaol. Author James A. Eadie notes in his book, Behind the Limestone Walls, that the gaol’s “forbidding old limestone walls encompassed almost 125 years of suffering, drama, injustice and even humour.”
Opened in 1956, the original County Museum was located in the nearby County Memorial Building. After extensive renovations to the former gaol, the Lennox & Addington County Museum officially opened at the current site on October 6, 1976.
Another historical location, Macpherson House, was built around 1826. Originally the home of Allan Macpherson, the large house at 180 Elizabeth Street in Napanee remained in his family until 1896. The Lennox & Addington Historical Society bought the property in 1961 and oversaw the restoration. Officially opened in 1968 the site has had thousands of visitors from near and far in the decades since. Both the Historical Society and Macpherson House were brought under Museum care in 2014.
Between 1884 and 1923, Lennox &Addington cheese factories produced over six million pounds of cheese annually. Of the thirty two then in operation, Wilton Cheese Factory is the only one remaining in the county.
A collection of handwritten postcards on display until spring 2024 provide insight into “Greetings From…” all over the world…written either to or from residents in the county. The exhibition is designed to encourage visitors to think about how people experienced the world before travel was commonplace and before the internet. It demonstrates how the worldview of previous generations was shaped through items such as postcards.
Continuing the theme of personal experiences, “Welcome Home: Conversations with New Neighbours” tells the stories of those newcomers…first person accounts by individuals about their experiences, their parents, or grandparents as they immigrated to Canada and adjusted to a new life.
From newcomers to longtime residents…kids and teens to seniors, the museum aims to provide programming and displays for all ages, learning styles, and walks of life. Regular workshops are available on timely topics. Museum Kids and Teen Takeover events get kids and teens involved in interactive activities, crafts, and games. School programs are also available for classrooms to visit as a group.
Workshops explore a variety of traditions and heritages. Offerings have included divination stones with, Turkish mosaic lamps, and Firefly sun catchers. Talks have included such diverse topics as menopause nutrition, Canadian fishing, and a screening of the BBC documentary Creatures of the Deep. For PA. Days, heritage arts and crafts and special events provide year round opportunities to get involved. Why not try your hand at Irish wreath making. Visiting Macpherson House in July or August, has become an annual summer tradition for many families.
Two recently opened exhibits currently on display are: “Nocturne: Into the Night Together” exploring the mysticism of the night. In partnership with the Organization of Kingston Women Artists, this multimedia experience features member’s work, encouraging us to explore what meanings and experiences night may hold for us and to be more present in our nightly experiences, commutes, and interactions.
The second exhibit, “Health in Space: Daring to Explore,” was developed by the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency. With a focus on living and working in space, the importance of research on gravity, radiation, and isolation is highlighted for future life and travel in space, as well as life on Earth. Scientific discoveries can help prevent bone density loss (osteoporosis), blurred vision (optic nerve swelling) and falls (Parkinson’s or other neurological disorders). All very important concerns for an aging society with longer life expectancy, a more sedentary lifestyle, and increased space exploration.
These two exhibitions are available to view into early 2024. Keep an eye on the museum website for new events beginning in February and March Break activities for all ages.
A Winter’s Eve Light
Tuesday, December 12, 2023. From 6:00-9:00 PM
Once again, the Museum of Lennox & Addington will light up the night with this incredible outdoor event. Entertainment is provided by the Spin Starlets, Toronto’s hottest hoop troupe, comprising three talented circus artists who combine LED technology with beautiful choreography, costumes, and the latest beats. Don’t miss the performances by Rhythm Works, a bucket drumming duo, combining high energy and comedy, who have delighted audiences across Canada. Please dress for the weather. Opportunities will be provided to warm up, explore the galleries, and listen to live music inside the museum. Free admission for all and no registration required.
Regular Museum Hours are Monday through Saturday 10am – 5pm.
Regular Archives Hours are Monday through Friday 10am-12pm and 1pm – 4pm.
Please visit https://countymuseum.ca/ for more information.
Did you know that County Road 2 was the first paved road in Canada? The stretch between Kingston and York (now Toronto) was completed in 1937 and some of the original milestones can still be seen.