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Dionne Quintuplets home made history with move to North Bay waterfront (12 photos)

'Its great to finally see this get here. I'm really looking forward to next year when the snow is gone and we can start up operations,' says Dionne Quints Heritage Board chair

Even before most people were awake, history was already being made in North Bay Sunday morning.

The log cabin which was once home to the Dionne Quintuplets and later the Dionne Quints Museum, was transported in three pieces from Seymour Street, down Laurier Avenue, and onto Fisher Street, eventually weaving its way to its new location between the Discovery North Bay Museum and the Marina Point Retirement Residence.

Ed Valenti, chair of the Dionne Quints Heritage Board says the remaining two sisters, Cecile and Annette, were able to watch the move.

“I’m loading pictures up as we go and video, so they’re able to view it which is great. They get to be part of it even though they’re back in Montreal,” said Valenti.

“They’re very excited about this, and that’s the nicest part about it, especially when people talk about the history. Obviously, there was a difficult history back in the 30’s with the girls, but they seem to have got behind this project and they really believe it’s important to keep the history, and never forget it.”

The early morning move went off without a hitch.

“The main frame, the first level, was lowered onto the foundation today, and then on Monday they’ll lift it up to install the walls, which is going to have a crawl space underneath it, and the crane will be here as well, to lift the roof onto the first level, and then it’s a matter of putting all the pieces back together again,” said Valenti.

“It’s great to finally see this get here. I’m really looking forward to next year when the snow is gone, and we can start up operations.”

Jeff Fournier, vice-president of the board, says it was a huge relief, seeing the home being transferred to its new location.

"It's emotional in the sense we put so much effort into this," said Fournier.

"It was a little surreal early this morning, standing there in the dark and watching the roof and the house sitting there, but overall, I’m very pleased with the outcome of the over one year fight, and really happy to have it finally at the waterfront.”

Board member Sandy O’Grady, explains the home has been moved several times over the years.

“Now it’s going to have a permanent home in North Bay. It’s been quite a journey, and we’re thrilled this has been so successful today,” said O’Grady.

“We take it for granted in North Bay. Really, when you look at the social history of the 20th century, I would think the birth of the Dionne Quintuplets is one of the most outstanding moments in that entire century. And we have this lovely little home right here, and we’re thrilled.”   

The event attracted media from across the province and as far away as New York.

Local residents also got up early to watch the move, taking pictures from various locations along the route.

Shawna Latimer was waiting at the waterfront for the trucks to roll in. She was 18 years old when she landed a job at the museum when it was located on Pinewood Park Drive.

“The Dionne Quint’s Museum was my first job out of high school back in ’82. I gave tours and sold souvenirs. We had regular tours coming through back then, so it was pretty busy most of the time. It was really a great experience. I’m so happy that we kept it here because it is part of our heritage, it was really important that we do this.”

Rod Porter was up early to watch the building being moved down Laurier Avenue.

"I guess they had to do it, it's just a shame to see it moved off the location where it was. I thought it was an ideal place, on Seymour Street near the highway. I used to look at it all the time as I was going by the intersection," said Porter.

 "We were here back in the 60's and the Dionne's were always of interest for a lot of people. I guess it is, what it is."

Peter Ruck stood in the cold, taking pictures to capture the moment.

"I think it should have stayed where it was, but I think at least down by the museum maybe it will get more people to see it and go through it, because it is part of our heritage, right?" said Ruck

Dr. Allan Dafoe was the Physician to the Quintuplets. His former home and practice, is where the the Callander Bay Heritage Museum is now situated.

Museum Curator Natasha Wiatr, says it is important to preserve this piece of local history.

"I'm very glad that the house has been saved and that it's staying in the region, as it certainly completes a bit of the trifecta of the story in the area. At our museum we have Dr. Dafoe's house and just down the road is the original site, and now the Dionne homestead is in North Bay. Between everybody we can all work together to really preserve the story and make sure it's told," said Wiatr.

"It's not necessarily a story to be celebrated, but it's important that it's commemorated and remembered simply because there is still a lot of hurt around the Dionne family members and the story in general. We'll work together in order to present the most respectful and historical view of what had happened here and ensure the wishes of the Dionne sisters are respected, and that their story is not forgotten."

The building will be sealed up for the winter, and the board will work at opening it up in the spring, so it's ready for the public in the summer.