A Brief History of the Building
In 1857, J & W Gibson & Co. established a lumber mill at the mouth of the Seguin River. This was the first white settlement at the site which later became known as Parry Sound. In 1863, J & W Beatty of Thorold bought the mill and surrounding timber limits and founded the town of Parry Sound. Communication with the “outside” was by boat only in the early years until the Parry Sound Road to Bracebridge was completed (in the late 1860s) a horrendous route in places and one much affected by the weather.
By 1879, dreams of a railroad which would be less affected by the weather than the existing water- or road-travel were being replaced with actual plans. In 1897, the Ottawa, Arnprior, and Parry Sound Railways was completed to nearby Depot Harbour on Parry Island. In 1901, a 3-mile section connecting this line to the town, the final stage in a planned connection to James Bay, was built.
The final railway to reach town was the CPR which built its spectacular bridge over the Seguin River (105 ft high, 1695 ft long) in 1907. It opened its station to the first west-bound passenger trains in 1908. Some of the most prominent citizens in town who had their homes on Church and Waubeek Streets moved to accommodate this station and rail line.
The CPR continued to have a ticket agent at the station until 1986 when VIA Rail Canada took over the station. Passenger tickets were sold by a travel agent located downtown. On January 14, 1990, the last westbound passenger train pulled into the station.
A More Recent History of the Building
To save the 1908 station from decay and demolition, Parry Sound council bought it from CP Rail in the 1990’s after passenger service was dropped on the line to Sudbury and Western Canada. The town offered to lease the station to the local arts and crafts association.
Members of this group felt they didn’t have the skills or experience to mount a full-scale rehabilitation effort so they promoted formation of a non-profit community corporation to do the job. Ralph Smith, a retired high school teacher, railway buff, and amateur builder, took on the no-pay position of project coordinator. Using a $150,000 restoration grant from the town, he stretched the money over two years to complete what architects estimate to be a $300,000 undertaking.
Opening in Summer of 2001, after 6 years as the Parry Sound Station Gallery, the non-profit group closed the doors due to financial problems.
Current History – “The Festival Station Office”
After about 5 years of the CP or Parry Sound Station Gallery building being used for short term leases from the Town of Parry Sound such as art and yoga classes, the Festival of the Sound put in a proposal to take over the building in 2013. With the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts hosting its summer events, the 35-year-old Festival of the Sound wanted to have their own permanent space in town year-round. The Station Gallery was the perfect fit.
The Festival Station Office continues to maintain and respect its heritage and honour the volunteers that restored the building. Festival of the Sound hopes to create a space where visual art, music, culture, and community meet. Recently, the office has also doubled as an intimate performance venue hosting our off-season events. This has allowed our local patrons an exclusive opportunity to be up close and personal, as well as promoting interaction with our artists.
Please stop by and learn about the legacy of the building and its bright future as the year-round home of the Festival of the Sound!