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Eric Conroy president and CEO of the Friends of the Keewatin - Date unknown Andrew Mendler.
28 July 2017
Have You Toured Port McNicoll's Historic SS Keewatin?


Port McNicoll Ontario - The SS Keewatin isn't going anywhere.
 
Ever since Skyline Investments sold its 334 hectares along the Port McNicoll waterfront, rumours have been swirling about what might happen with the historic ship.
 
Eric Conroy has squashed those rumours.
 
"My plan is to stay here. I didn't go to all that trouble to build that million dollar dock to move," said Conroy.
 
"We have no plans to do anything other than what we have been doing,"
 
In early July, a brand new dock was unveiled in front of the Keewatin down at 311 Talbot Street.
 
The dock is just one of the many projects the Friends of the Keewatin has undertaken over the past six years to improve the ship.
 
"This has very much been a community project," said Conroy, who serves as the president and CEO of Friends of the Keewatin, a charitable foundation established in 2012 when the ship was brought back to Port McNicoll.
 
Volunteers are currently working on repainting the entire ship.
 
The far side of the Keewatin will be repainted over the course of the summer months, before the dock side of the vessel gets a new coat in the fall.
 
All of the hard work from the foundation and its many volunteers has paid off.
 
In 2012, Skyline invested a total of $2.5 million to purchase the ship, get it seaworthy, and towed it from Michigan to its current location.
 
"Last year we had it appraised by the Smithsonian's marine division and they appraised it at $32.5 million," said Conroy.
 
Part of the reason it's value is so high is due to its deep, often unknown, connection to Canadian history.
 
The SS Keewatin and SS Assiniboia, both part of the Canadian Pacific Railway's Great Lakes fleet, played an integral role in helping populate Alberta and Saskatchewan.
 
In the early 1900s, the two ships carried thousands of immigrants from Port McNicoll west to Fort William and Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay).
 
They'd then carry thousands of tons of grain back east.
 
The ships were an essential connector to the railways in the eastern and western halves of the country.
 
"When people think about the building of western Canada they don't know anything about these ships.
 
They don't know that they put hundreds of thousands of people into those farms in western Canada.
 
It wasn't just the trains, it was the Canadian Pacific Railway steamships," said Conroy.
 
The other reason the ship carries so much value, is the many authentic antiques and artifacts found aboard.
 
Rooms on the ship have all been decorated with donated items dating anywhere from 1907 to 1965.
 
Conroy, who was a waiter on the Keewatin in 1963, 1964, has his uniform hanging in one of the rooms.
 
"This ship is an absolute treasure," said Conroy, noting a lot of items were donated by locals when the ship returned in 2012.
 
The unique, popular tourist attraction averages of 10,000 visitors every year.
 
While the Keewatin has every intention of staying put, the foundation still needs to work out an agreement with Tay Township to lease the refurbished docks.
 
Andrew Mendler.

Quoted under the provisions in Section 29
of the Canadian Copyright Modernization Act.
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