A visual history, Pembroke Heritage murals

Eager for a getaway, I was very happy when my dear friend O. invited us over, in the city where she’s been living for a while: Pembroke. Five hours from Toronto didn’t seem too long when the landscape we passed by was amazing, especially after we got off the main Highway 401. Nestled on the shores of the highlands of Ottawa River, the little and cozy city of Pembroke was first settled in 1828, due to the developing logging industry, as the first settlers found a rich region of white and red pines.

Pembroke mural - POINTER BOATS
POINTER BOATS painted by Craig Campbell 1990 In 1858 John Cockburn, an immigrant from England, established a boat building business on Pembroke’s waterfront: it was family run for 100 years. The Pointer boat was designed with two high pointed ends, and ranged from 18 feet to 50 feet. A fifty foot Pointer weighed 1/2 ton and could float in one and a half inches of water: known as the ‘boat that could float on heavy dew’. It was stable, tough, easy to handle, had quick response yet graceful in appearance.

Evidence of this rich past can be found in the architectural style still visible on the main street, and even though I visited the city during the weekend, and the city looked a bit deserted,

I was amazed at the energy generated by the walls of the buildings who spoke by themselves through some paintings.

Pembroke mural - STREET LIGHTS around 1925
PEMBROKE STREET LIGHTS painted by Pierre Hardy 1991. Pembroke was the first community in Canada to have commercial electric lighting: streetlights.

Walking through Pembroke’s downtown I started to see more and more murals, and actually I found out later that there are more than 30 large-scale murals depicting the history, settlement and heritage of the Ottawa Valley, painted by both local and national artists.  A true outdoor gallery, probably the largest in Canada.

Pembroke mural - THE HOCKEY PLAYERS
THE HOCKEY PLAYERS painted by Stefan Bell 1990. A tribute to three of the original inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame, all born in Pembroke: Harold (Harry) Cameron, Hughie Lehman, Frank Nighbor.

Some images are worth a thousand of words, bringing the time back: they all are an opened history book, reminding us where we came from, and where we headed to, making us realize all our achievements, and accomplishments.

THE LUMBERING INDUSTRY mural was painted by 1400 people who attended the International Plowing Match held in September 1994 under the watchful eye of Artist, David Yeatman 1994. The lumber camps were the primary industry here from 1828 until about 1980, and is a significant part of the cultural heritage of this region.
Pembroke mural - THE TIMBER RAFT
THE TIMBER RAFT painted by Pierre Hardy 2004. A free-standing mural with three dimensional components consisting of a square timber crib model, red and white pine trees, shrubs and boulders built into a berm.
Pembroke mural - THE STEAMBOAT
THE STEAMBOAT painted in 1995 by Karole Marois. It is 15 feet high and 69 running feet long. Pembroke has a rich history of boats on the Ottawa and Muskrat Rivers.

A lesson of history, moreover when it is combined with a lesson of art, it makes a perfect way to capture attention.

GRAND TRUNK UNION STATION painted by Robin Burgesse 1996, and it is illustrating Union Station in the 1950’s. Pembroke was the junction of several railway lines in the early 1900’s. In 1899, local businessmen built a rail service from Pembroke to Golden Lake known as the Pembroke Southern. From 1905 to 1914, The Grand Trunk Railway acquired Booth Rail, Pembroke Southern and other lines; it built Union Station and served trains from Canadian Northern. The final rail system from 1923 – 1960 was called the Canadian National Railway.
Pembroke mural - THE OLD GAS PUMP
THE OLD GAS PUMP painted by Robin Burgesse 1999. Circa early 1950s, two well known entrepreneurs (Hugo G. TerMarsch and A.J. Green) are illustrated in this trompe l’oieul style mural. Hugo G. TerMarsch & Son still operate today.

Once I saw the first mural I kind of knew there are more, and then I started my walking tour through the Pembroke little downtown. There is a map of all of them which I didn’t know at that time; anyway the majority of the murals can’t be missed as they are so close to each other.

Pembroke mural - PETER WHITE
PETER WHITE was painted in 1991 by Pembroke’s youngest Mural Artist, Robert Garneau. This mural commemorates Peter White, one of Pembroke’s first settlers (May 28th, 1828) who came to this area seeking lumber rights. He is shown here with his wife Cecilia and his daughter Elizabeth, the first European child born in this area on New Year’s Day, 1829
Pembroke mural - A CENTURY OF SERVICE
CENTURY OF SERVICE 1896-1997 painted by Karole Marois 2006. This Mural is a tribute to 100 years of health care excellence by the former Cottage and Civic Hospitals.

One amazing thing that happened to me while trying to make a photo of the 264 foot long mural Marching Toward the Millennium was when a lady who was driving a truck had stopped in the middle of the street to let me take the photo, as I was on the other side of the street. Kind souls, I was really impressed, as they give priority to the tourists rather than the traffic.

Pembroke mural - Marching Toward The Millennium
Marching Toward The Millennium – “A celebration of the pioneer and entrepreneurial spirit of the people of Pembroke since 1828”. A 264 foot long mural beginning with Pembroke’s Founder, Peter White 1794-1878, and ending with Pembroke’s millennium baby and her Mom. 201 likenesses of people who lived in Pembroke over the decades in a parade style arrangement. Clothing and styles of transportation mark the passage of time.

Great place to spend the evening was the Marina: to observe the swallows, or the river, to fish, or simply watch the sunset. Famous for fishing, we took our chances in Ottawa River and tended our rods while admiring the views. We had a moment of joy when we noticed a bold eagle on the other side of the Muskrat River, who perched for more than half an hour on the top of a tree.Pembroke-Bald Eagle

We admired the unmistakable gliding of the famous swallows, playing and flying above our heads.

PEMBROKE SWALLOWS – CANADA’S CAPISTRANO is the first mural in Pembroke, painted by Neil Blackwell in June 1990. At one time, the swallow roost at the Marina would be home to over 100,000 swallows. However, the roost could not sustain so many birds – it began to break up around 1998.

And of course the quiet and the peaceful sunset.Pembroke Marina

** visited in July 2019

Thank you for reading! Have a wonderful summer, wherever you are! Happy travels, wherever you go!



12 thoughts on “A visual history, Pembroke Heritage murals

  1. This was a marvelous gallery of very fine murals, Christie. Murals are not easy to photograph with light, pedestrians, and most of all, big size to contend with — and you did so well. Even did a good job presenting the 3D Timber Raft mural with wood and flora included. I enjoyed each mural; the tribute, art design, colors and presentation. It must have been so exhilarating to walk by one after another after another. It’s quite extraordinary. When I came to the lumber mural that was painted by 1,400 people I read and re-read it to make sure I had that right. Crazy! Thanks for this lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jet for your nice words. Indeed, it was exhilarating to walk by through the city, especially because I didn’t expect such a great street exhibition in a small city. I actually missed some of the murals, as I didn’t know there is a map with all of them, but definitely lucky to be able to learn a little bit of history while enjoying the art.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s