St. Marys Museum as it looked in 1902.
The Castle in the Bush
The community museum for the Town of St. Marys is located in a lovely old home sitting on a hilltop in a park at 177 Church Street South. It was constructed from locally quarried limestone in 1854. When George Tracy, an early settler to St. Marys, built it for his family, it was by far the largest home in the small village of log shanties. Almost immediately, it was nicknamed the Castle in the Bush. It has been the location of the St. Marys Museum since 1959.
Visitors interested in 19th-century construction are welcome to visit at any time throughout the year. They will see exhibits and materials on local history and can also explore the interior of the house itself. Although it has not been restored to any fixed historic period, it contains a great number of original features from 1854: pine flooring, four fireplaces, plaster crown moldings, high ceilings and strange sets of small rooms off larger chambers.
Community archives opened in 2006.
Local history research
A popular feature of the St. Marys Museum is the area for research into local history. A new wing for this community archives was opened in June 2006. The addition to the north of the original building is completely accessible and is well used by researchers throughout the year.
As well as municipal records, census indexes, listings for area cemeteries, local marriage, birth and death records, maps, photographs, family and community histories, this archives features St. Marys newspapers dating back to 1857. The newspaper archival materials were officially donated to the Museum in March 2007 by their last private owner. In recognition, the research area has been named: R. Lorne Eedy Archives.
Curator/Archives Assistant Amy Cubberley looks over various articles on loan for the December exhibit, Christmas in the 1950s.
Toys of 1950s on view
in Christmas exhibit
The St. Marys Museum is gearing up for a busy December. Following the annual Open House, Sunday afternoon, December 1, school programming gets underway. This year’s theme is Christmas in the 1950s. So that visiting classes will have a chance to see some of the gifts popular when their grandparents were children, Museum staff have asked various friends and contacts to lend items that have survived the past six or so decades. So far they have received model cars, table games, dolls and various doll accessories, building sets, books and other gifts that were popular at that time.
Classes will also learn about some holiday decorations from the 1950s through actual examples and photographs. These might include coloured Christmas trees – one family remembers an all-pink tree – as well as lots of tinsel and large coloured Noma lights. A number of vinyl records are also on loan, including an album of songs from the TV shows Wyatt Earp, Cheyenne Kid and other favourites.
Museum Gift Shop
The St. Marys Museum is a great place to pick up gifts for Christmas or for any other special occasion. It has this area’s best selection of books relating to local history. For example, Larry Pfaff’s two books, Early St. Marys and Historic St. Marys, are always in stock and always sell well. A few copies remain of last year’s popular book of historic photographs, published by the Museum to mark the centennial of the St. Marys Cement Company, 1912–2012.
This year, the gift shop also has copies of the most recent book by former St. Marys resident James R. (Dick) Stevens: Dead Men Flying. It tells the well-researched story of several airmen of Bomber Command in World War II, including two young flyers from the St. Marys area, Gordon McKay and Ross Nairn, who did not survive this dangerous service.
The gift shop has other items including a supply of Gord Strathdee’s St. Marys greeting cards, postcards and fridge magnets as well as a selection of historic prints, ready for framing, from the Museum’s photograph collection. Contact the Museum for more information on costs and out-of-town shipping.
Show your support for the St. Marys Museum. Buy a membership during your next visit or download a membership form.