Saturday, 27 June 2015

Collingwood's Terminal Building, the Beacon of Georgian Bay

For many, one of Collingwood’s most iconic structures is our majestic “Collingwood Terminals Limited” building standing proudly on the shore of Georgian Bay.  From the moment one crosses the rise in Duntroon with all of Collingwood and Georgian Bay laid out before them, the Terminals stands like a beacon, welcoming all to our beautiful town.  Few however will most likely realize that this was not the first structure of it’s kind to watch over our town.

The present structure, completed in 1930, is actually the third in a series of buildings devoted to the receiving, storage and dispatching of grain arriving by rail and by steamers.  The first structure pre-dates 1870 and little is known of it other than it was destroyed by fire.  It was replaced by a beautiful mansard roofed wooden structure constructed in 1870-1871.  Towering 150 feet over the harbour, it was reputed to have been designed by Frederick W. Cumberland who in addition to being a noted Toronto architect was also the manager of the Northern Railway Company.  A majestic and imposing addition to our waterfront, it’s outer beauty was complemented by the fact that it was indeed practical being entirely cased in iron for safety measures.

The first schooner to use the facility arrived from Chicago on September 16th, 1871 and was named the “Potomac.” It brought with it a cargo of 16,000 bushels of corn which was a mere drop in the bucket as the new terminal storage facility had a minimum capacity of 160,000 bushes.  There are reports that at times there would be as many as 150 schooners tied up in the harbour waiting patiently to unload their cargoes.

But as grain shipments arriving via rail continued to increase, it soon became abundantly clear that this structure was inadequate to meet the requirements of a growing economy. By 1888, the now renamed Grand Trunk Railway began to draw up plans for a new larger structure with a minimum storage capacity of 700,000 bushels.  Plans were drawn, but it wasn’t until 1929 that construction of a new poured concrete structure began.  Completed in 1930, the newly established Collingwood Terminals Limited boasted one of the tallest structures north of Toronto, and an astounding storage capacity of 2 million bushels.

Though rendered obsolete by it’s new concrete cousin, the old structure continued providing service, indeed being leased to a Chicago grain company for several years.  As with most wood structures of it’s imposing stature, it was threatened with fire over the years but each time was saved by the quick actions of the local fire department.  The two terminals stood side by side, a gateway to the bay.  But as the economy began it’s downward fall along with the water levels, this beautiful building was soon facing it’s demise.  Seventy years after construction, the oldest elevator on the Great Lakes was finally torn down in 1937.  Like the grain dust it once held, it’s memory now scattered to the winds of history and time. 


  1. A historical landmark should be preserved regardless of how old it could truly be. The foundation of the structure might not be that sturdy after a period of time but reworks could be done instead of simply tearing the whole building down. Regardless of whether it is a terminal centre or a storage facility, landmarks should be admired and appreciated.

    1. Thank you Paul for your comment, and I couldn't agree more. Would you believe that only the front half of this structure is even designated as "historic?" There are some in Collingwood who would like to see it razed, also incredible. It's sad how some seem to have such a lack of respect for our historical structures.

  2. Hi there, I think we tried to connect last year, but I didn't realize that you'd commented back to me on the blog. I'd love to see if there is a time my class could meet you near the Osler Castle site to hear from an expert ;) We are doing a unit again this year called Biking Through Time: A History of Collingwood. If possible could you please email me back at Thanks so much! -Chris