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Local magazine celebrates 200th birthday. You're invited to the party!

A former powder magazine, the Clergue Blockhouse is getting a three-day birthday blast this summer
Originally built as a Northwest Company powder magazine, the Clergue Blockhouse is considered one of Sault Ste. Marie's most significant buildings. David Helwig/SooToday

The Clergue Blockhouse at Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site turns 200 this year, and everyone's invited to a birthday celebration there on July 18, 19 and 20.

"Stark and simple in its design, this former powder magazine is an example of unadorned, wilderness architecture used by early fur trading companies," says, a federal/provincial/territorial collaborative website maintained by Parks Canada.

Francis H. Clergue, the Sault's pioneering industrialist, used the primitive building as his home and office, adding the upper log structure in 1894.

"The stone walls of the Clergue Blockhouse were constructed in 1819 of uncut fieldstone and are the only remains of the North West Company post in Sault Ste. Marie," says the website.

"The original location of this 'bachelor apartment' at the St. Mary's Paper plant allowed Clergue to survey early industries under his control including a hydroelectric plant, a pulp-and-paper mill, a steel plant, and a rail and marine transportation network at the industrial site located at the confluence of Lake Superior and Lake Huron, adjacent to the Canadian canal."

"The blockhouse continued to be used as a residence for some years, however it gradually fell into disuse and was badly burned in 1974. In 1996, the blockhouse was moved to its current site [Bay and Pim] where through community efforts, it has been restored for interpretation as a historic site," the website states.

Kathy Fisher, curator at Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, had few details on Wednesday when she disclosed the coming event.

The birthday bash is to be held in conjunction with the Downtown Association's street party on July 18.

Fisher said the 17-year-old moving, talking holographic image of Clergue, originally projected on a mannequin crafted to resemble photographs of the businessman, is no longer working.

Efforts are being made to develop an alternative depiction of Clergue before the blockhouse re-opens this spring.

In other news, Silvana Casola was elected Wednesday as the historic sites board's new chair.

Rick Webb will be vice-chair.

Free admission on Family Day

The Ermatinger-Clergue site will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18 (Family Day) with free admission.

Activities will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with bonfire and bannock, soup and snowshoeing and cookies and crafts.

Heritage-inspired comestibles will be available for purchase.

After that, the nearby Clergue Park Skating Trail will be open until 9:30 p.m. with a bonfire and S’mores.

Other 2019 events planned at the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site:

  • Easter Egg Hunt on Apr. 12-13. This event is BYOB (bring your own basket).
  • Lilac and Lavender Tea on June 7-9. Victorian High Tea with an historic talk.
  • Parade of Paddles - July 1. Paddle from the Sault Ste. Marie Canal to Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site.
  • Poutine Fest - June 28-July 1. Potatoes are vegetables. Poutine is Canada's favourite salad!
  • Blueberry Festival on Aug. 17-18. Victorian High Tea one day, Pancake breakfast the next.
  • Annual Fall Rendezvous runs Sept. 19-22. Come and smell the gunpowder!
  • Christmas Around the World Nov. 25 - Jan. 1. See how Christmas is celebrated by the Sault's diversity of cultures.
  • Evening in the Summer Kitchen on Nov. 1-2. Themed dinners, served beside Sault Ste. Marie's most romantic fireside.
  • Christmas Tea - Dec. 6. Don't hold up your pinky when drinking their fine teas. It's rude, okay?


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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