Historic Recognition: CCGS Alexander Henry Designated a National Historic Site

The Alexander Henry awaits Coast Guard Day!
The Alexander Henry awaits Coast Guard Day!

Legacy of Maritime Service on the Great Lakes from 1959 to 1985 Celebrated

A storied chapter of Canada’s maritime history is celebrated today as the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the designation of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Alexander Henry as a national historic site under the auspices of Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration. This initiative underscores the crucial episodes of our nation’s narrative, enriching the Canadian identity with a nuanced understanding of its historical timeline.

Wally Peterson, Chair of the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society, expressed the collective honor and pride of the Transportation Museum of Thunder Bay in hosting the former Canadian Coast Guard Ship, now a museum ship, recognizing the Alexander Henry’s historical importance in Canadian maritime history. “The Board of Directors of the Transportation Museum of Thunder Bay (TMTB) is honoured that the former Canadian Coast Guard Ship, Alexander Henry – built in Thunder Bay and now a museum ship with TMTB – has been officially designated a national historic site in recognition of Alexander Henry’s historical importance in Canadian maritime history.”

Maritime Marvel Docked in Thunder Bay

The image of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Alexander Henry, peacefully docked in Thunder Bay, Ontario, 2022, evokes the glorious days of its service. This retired light icebreaker, buoy tender, and navigational aid ship was an emblem of maritime diligence on the Great Lakes from 1959 to 1985. It stands as a profound reminder of the Government of Canada’s dedication to facilitating marine navigation during an epoch of burgeoning industrial shipping and commerce.

As the premier icebreaker serving Lake Superior, the CCGS Alexander Henry was instrumental in extending the shipping season, breaking ice channels from the Lakehead at the northernmost ports during the early winter freeze-up and spring thaw. Besides, it played a crucial role in maintaining navigational aids, supplying lighthouse keepers, and executing life-saving search and rescue missions.

Historic Significance Celebrated

The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, honors notable individuals, locales, and events that have molded the Canadian narrative. Unveiling these stories nurtures a deeper understanding and contemplation of the rich tapestry of histories, cultures, and legacies that define Canada’s past and present.

The public-driven designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration has, till now, commemorated over 2,200 designations nationwide. This program invites citizens to nominate significant people, places, or historic events in their communities, further enriching the national historical landscape.

A Testimony to Canada’s Nautical Heritage

In the words of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, “The former Canadian Coast Guard Ship Alexander Henry is a part of that history and it is an honour to officially designate the ship as a national historic site… National historic designations, like the Alexander Henry, encourage us to acknowledge the full scope of our history and help us reflect on how this history connects us to build a more inclusive society for present and future generations.”

Echoing similar sentiments, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier emphasized the integral role the CCGS Alexander Henry played in supporting the shipping industry and mariners on the Great Lakes. She noted the designation as a wonderful acknowledgment of its contributions to Canada’s maritime history.

Quick Facts

The CCGS Alexander Henry’s design was conceived by the Montréal naval architectural firm German & Milne and brought to life by the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Launched on 18 July 1958, its historical journey commenced on the lands and waters within the territories of the Anishinabeg signatories of the Robinson-Superior Treaty (Thunder Bay). The vessel, retired in July 1985, transitioned into a museum ship, initially hosted at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston, and later acquired by the Transportation Museum of Thunder Bay in 2017, where it continues to welcome visitors every summer.

Through the coordinated efforts of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada, the CCGS Alexander Henry’s designation as a national historic site is a momentous step in preserving and narrating Canada’s rich maritime legacy, reflecting a more inclusive recounting of Canada’s complex history for generations to come.

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