Memories made but not lost at the now closed Alexander Henry Museum, Kingston Ontario. By Jim Eadie from Pure Ontario



Standing atop the Alexander Henry ship in Kingston Ontario  for the last time in July 2016.

In July of 2016 my home was filled with exuberance, anticipation and excitement as we, my daughter and I, were getting ready to explore the “ship”, as referred to by my daughter. This level of excitement stemmed from her first visit, to the ‘ship”, in July 2015. She loved exploring the “ship”, and had actually talked about it throughout the winter, as she couldn’t wait to go back in the summer of 2016.  The “ship”, as referred to by my daughter, is the “Alexander Henry” located at the Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston, Ontario. Driving along Kingston’s waterfront the Alexander Henry could not be be missed. The drive itself is picturesque with views of Lake Ontario’s crystal blue water. As we approach our destination, the Alexander Henry can easily be seen standing tall beside the large informative docking museum with it’s prominent red and white.


After a great day of exploring in July 2015 who knew that a year later this gem of a museum would close. This historical  museum filled with information and culture presently sits closed (as of August 2016). In a city debacle, this treasure was sold and the doors were officially closed in the summer of 2016. The historic site was sold to a real estate developer to build waterfront condos. This would have been listed as a #PureOntario destination, however, developers and a dropped ball by the city of Kingston (When visiting this summer several locals said the city could have bought the sight for $1.00) leave one less attraction in the beautiful Limestone city.


The memories, history, photographic backdrops, and uniqueness of exploring inside the ship will be missed but not forgotten. My daughter and I personally have many great memories and experiences with this fascinating location, as have many tourists. The photo below showcases the steering on the South side of the ship facing Lake Ontario, my daughter literally felt like she was driving the ship at this point. Through the ship you could explore private docks, old boarding and command rooms,the old kitchen, and several secret staircases and rooms providing a full learning experience to those of all ages, allowing you to imagine and see how life really was on the Alexander Henry.


The inside of the museums was massive. Boasting artifacts, interactive learning tools, the pump room (as shown below) and several exhibits that could be explored for hours.



Leaving  the “ship” for the last time, was bittersweet.  Holding hands with my daughter as we carefully walked down the stairs and wind through the  intricate parts of the ship. There was a feeling of content but also of loss,  having to explain to her that this is the last time we can visit the “ship” and that it will no longer be there.


This was a simple review and tribute, a beautiful reflection and story on a true #PureOntario gem that should be remembered and not forgotten.

The Museum has technically moved east of downtown to nearby Portsmouth Olympic Harbor (Article Source from the Kingston Whig Standard )  It is great news there is a reflection and pulse to keep the museum alive, there is still the bitter part of how it went down and why, losing the ship and originality that once was at 55 Ontario street will never fully boast the same feeling again .

Jim Eadie, Pure Ontario
Enjoys travel + hiking + waterfalls + a sports fan. Pork Industry Entrepreneur and #PureOntario

History of the Museum (source Wikipedia)

The Kingston Marine Museum was incorporated by letters patent on August 29, 1975 with objectives to collect, conserve and display artifacts related to Great Lakes marine history, shipping and shipbuilding, construct an exhibition area for special exhibitions of both marine and non-marine character, encourage public participation in events and activities, develop a marine resource centre of archival material, books, publications, ephemera and items to permit research activity related to Great Lakes marine history by the public, students, researchers and historians and to develop educational programmes.[6]

As of 2012, the Museum consists of seven galleries. The temporary gallery features changing exhibits (such as a Kingston Warships 1812–1814 exhibit for the War of 1812 bicentennial). The six permanent galleries include the Donald Page gallery which examines several stories including the Age of Sail on the Great Lakes, life as a sailor and changing ship technology. This room used to be the Air Compressor and Tool room of the shipyards. The newest gallery, the Eco gallery, explores issues such as pollution, water diversion and conservation, invasive species and sustainable development as they relate to the Great Lakes. The Shipwreck Gallery leads from the early days of wooden ship building through to the construction of modern “Lakers”. This room used to be the shipyard’s Dynamo room. The Calvin Gallery covers Garden Island, where the Calvin family ran a shipbuilding and logging business and includes stories from Kingston’s maritime past. This used to be the shipyard’s boiler room. The Pump Room explores the complexity of operating a shipbuilding dry dock. The pumps and engines in this room were used to drain the dry dock and move the dock’s caisson gate.

The CCGS Alexander Henry serves as a permanent on-site museum ship.

The Kingston Drydock buildings were converted into a year-round museum in the 1970s; the CCGS Alexander Henry was decommissioned in 1985 and added to the site in 1986 as a museum ship .[8]

The Alexander Henry is a retired Canadian Coast Guard Ship. The Henry was built in 1959 at Port Arthur Shipyards in what is now Thunder Bay. She was in service until 1985 when she became the museum’s largest artifact. The ship’s main responsibilities included buoy and beacon work, station and site re-supply and personnel transfer, as well as route and facility ice breaking for the safe and efficient movement of marine traffic. For the purposes, she was built with a special ice breaking hull, bow, and engine. The Henry was manned by a crew of 34 but had a capacity to sleep 51 people.

Displays cover Great Lakes shipping since 1678;[9] artifacts and exhibits include ship’s models and engines,[10] relics and instruments of lake vessels under both sail and steam,[11] the drydock pumps and engine room of the original factory, glass and china salvaged from Great Lakes shipwrecks, ship’s bells, anchors, binnacles, navigational instruments and equipment,[6] a gallery of artistic paintings about the sea and the history of the Calvin and Son shipyard which once employed 700 workers[12] on Garden Island.[13]

The museum has photographed historic shipwrecks at risk of being hidden by encrustations of zebra mussels which infested the Great Lakes in the 1990s.[14] Archaeological exhibits commemorating the War of 1812 on the Great Lakes were added for that war’s bicentennial.[15]

Publications of the museum include “FreshWater”, a journal of Great Lakes marine history, a “Jib Gems” museum newsletter and several books on local marine history. Extensive archives and collections are maintained with the assistance of Queen’s University,[16] documenting 19th and 20th century Canadian Great Lakes marine heritage and ships and shipping from vessel design and construction through a ship’s working life to shipwreck or retirement.[17]




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