City Hall Time Capsule

On July 18, 2008, an exciting discovery was made in the Thunder Bay City Hall during renovations: a time capsule. This time capsule was found behind a placard in the entrance of City Hall. It contained artifacts, pictures and documents from 1903 that had been deposited in a time capsule during the reconstruction after the fire. Numerous additions were made to this collection in 1966 with the opening of Fort William's new City Hall. 

A second time capsule was also discovered in the base of a podium that had been built for the occasion of the 1939 royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. This podium was constructed out of old office furnishings and scrap materials by city engineers, and later was re-finished in 1973 for a second royal visit. The base of the podium contained two letters and a poster for the events of the 1939 visit.

The official opening of both time capsules occurred on July 22, 2008 at the City Hall by Mayor Lynn Peterson, with many city staff, members of the public, and local media in attendance.

During the renovation, items from the capsule were placed on display in a cabinet in the Victoriaville Mall, while the rest of the collection remained in the Archives until the renovations were complete. All items were returned to a new time capsule that was placed in City Hall after the renovations. Items from the current era were added to the time capsule, and it was sealed once again. The Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society ran a contest for the public's opinion on what the new additions should be to the time capsule. The time capsule was reinstalled in City Hall, which officially reopened on November 3, 2009.

The City of Thunder Bay also created a time capsule in 1995 on the 25th anniversary of amalgamation. This time capsule is housed at the Archives and will be opened during the City's 50th anniversary celebrations in 2020.

Items Found in the Main Time Capsule:

 Daily Times-Journal, October 10, 1903

The Daily Times-Journal was in print from 1893-1972. This edition has eight pages featuring local and global news, jokes, anecdotes and advertisements.


A black and white newspaper showing only the front page


 1874 pamphlet: Mining on the North Shore by Peter McKellar

The earliest document included in the time capsule is this informative pamphlet from 1874, "Mining on the North Shore" by Peter McKellar, who was a geologist and mining pioneer in Fort William. It discusses the countless mines in the area, as well as providing geological information on the rocks in the area.


A biege piece of paper with type set writing on the front

 Canadian Trade Review, September 1, 1899, featuring an article on Fort William

Published in Montreal on September 1st, 1899, The Canadian Trade Review Finance and Insurance Record is one of several items in the time capsule that is over 100 years old. An article in this Montreal publication (a page shown below) describes Fort William's growing importance and prosperity as a town, citing the proximity to the lakes for cargo, efficiency of the municipal council and the railway facilities as just a few of the strengths that Fort William possessed.


A typed and printed document with various font headings

A black and white paper with various fonts and type sets

 Industrial Review and Greater Ontario Business Directory, October 1, 1903

The 1903 Industrial Review and Greater Ontario Business Directory provided news concerning commerce and industry in the town of Fort William, particularly in mining. Articles and advertisements on the pages were all geared towards business operating in Fort William and "Greater Ontario."


A blue paper with black writing that says industrial review at the top

 Fort William Financial Statement, 1901

One of the oldest documents in the Time Capsule, this 1901 Financial Report discusses in detail the spending by the Town on the Board of Health, utilities, construction and maintenance of the Town, and the public and high school boards. The total amount spent by Fort William in this year was $98,201.


A blue paper with black writing detailing the finances for Fort William

 Fort William List of Voters, 1902


This booklet, published in 1902, is the only existing copy of that year's Voter's List, as all the others were destroyed in the fire of 1903. The text that is part of the booklet reads:

"List of Voters for the Town of Fort William for the year 1902, Fort William: The Daily Times-Journal Press. 1902."

The hand-written text reads:

"This is the only copy of the Voters' List in existence, with the exception of the copy as signed by the Judge. This list was used at By Law Election to vote money for the new City Hall. All voters Lists were burned on March 9/03 - when the Town Hall was destroyed. A. McNaughton, Clerk"


A pink sheet with black typed writing on it detailing voters lists

 Coins and stamps from 1903 and from 1966

These stamps and coins were sealed in the first time capsule in 1903. The stamps depict both Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, and were issued between 1897 and 1903. The coins were issued between 1901 and 1903, and are worth, from the left, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 1¢, 1¢.


A black sheet with various small coins and stamps taped to it

Various small coins and stamps are taped to a black sheet


Souvenir booklet from the formal opening of City Hall, 1966

The Souvenir Booklet for the 1966 Opening Ceremonies at City Hall features the mural that was unveiled for the City Hall's decoration. Inside the booklet are a number of interesting historical facts about Fort William. Shown are pages 10-11, which outline the program for the day.


A blue pamphlet with a depiction of various landmarks from around Thunder Bay

Two white pages opened from a booklet have red writing

List of Visitors for City Hall opening ceremony, 1966

This copy of the 1966 visitors' guestbook for the Opening Ceremonies of the new City Hall contains the names of the people who were in attendance. Most of the signatures are from either Fort William or Port Arthur, but a few visitors came from Montreal, Kenora, Assiniboia (Saskatchewan), Nova Scotia and Vancouver.

A white page with black writing detailing visitors to the region


 Photograph of ribbon-cutting ceremony, 1966

Minister of Municipal Affairs, J.W. Spooner, cuts the ribbon for the opening ceremonies at the new City Hall. A portion of the original ribbon is attached to the photograph. The text on the ribbon reads:



A black and white photo of a man cutting a ribbon with an axe - a piece of red ribbon is attached

 Photograph of unveiling of mural at new City Hall, 1966

This mural was created by the Group of Eight Mural Artists, and it depicts significant events and landmarks in the history of Fort William. The unveiling of the mural at the new City Hall in May of 1966 was a highlight of the programme. This mural is now located in the Victoriaville Civic Centre.

From left to right: M. Freeman, C. Lovelady, F. Quackenbush, A. Scollie, R. Owen, H. Strickland, T. Harasymchuk, and O. Widnall.

A group of people standing in front of a mural indoors wearing fancy attire


 Photograph of 1966 City Council and Executive

This photograph was taken of the City Council and Executive just before the opening ceremonies of the 1966 City Hall. The photo appeared in the Daily Times-Journal on May 26th, 1966 (one day before the ceremonies). The men are seated in the new Council Chamber, where business ran as usual for months before the official opening.

From the top, clockwise: Mayor E.H. Reed, City Clerk D. Morris, T.H. Carroll, M. Hennessy, H.J. Cook, H. Lockwood, W.A. Nealin, L.M. Baarts, Personnel Supervisor R.W. Wilson, Planning and Development Officer W.D. Thompson, City Treasurer S. Splawski, City Solicitor R.B. Andrews, R.J. McCranor, M. Chicorli, A. Anderson, J.H. Jessiman, R.H. Knight, W.M. Assef.


A group of people sitting around a squared off table in an official council chamber


 Photograph of old City Hall

This photograph was taken across the street from the second City Hall, when there was a park located opposite the building. Behind the tree on the far right side, the Cenotaph can be seen in its original location on the right-hand corner of the lawn.


A black and white photo of a large brick building with a large lawn in front

 Photograph of new City Hall

This photograph of the new Fort William City Hall in 1966 shows the grounds without landscaping; it remained this way for months after the demolition of the previous City Hall.


An aerial photo of a large building taken as the plane approached from the front

 Official Program of the Fort William Diamond Jubilee Celebration

This programme was published to celebrate Fort William's 60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee in 1952. The booklet features many historical photos, as well as a brief history of the city of Fort William.


A blue paper with blue text and photos showing portraits of two men and a building

 Fort William, "Seaport of the Prairies" brochure

This brochure from the 1960s outlines the key industries of the City of Fort William, as well providing numerous other facts concerning climate and distances from other major cities. It was produced by Fort William's City Council and Chamber of Commerce.

A colourful pamphlet showing a map of the shore of Lake Superior

 Fort William Statistical Information, 1963-1964

The Statistical Information booklet from 1963-1964 contains various data for the City of Fort William, including a record of sports teams, age groups, radio stations, industries and clubs and societies, to name a few. The cover displays drawings of different buildings in the City, representing new and modern development.

A blue paper, with blue drawings and writing showing various locations in Fort William

 Lakehead Henderson Directory, 1966

Also found in the time capsule was the 1966 Henderson Directory. The Henderson Directories were printed in Winnipeg, and for decades provided an inventory of who occupied each building on each street, as well as a reverse directory which allowed one to look up a name of a person or a business and find out where they were located.


A book with red, white and black on the cover and advertisements from the 1960s


 Lakehead Telephone Directory, 1966

The Lakehead Telephone Directory from 1966 features an artist's depiction of the new Fort William City Hall on its cover. This phone book is noticeably thinner than the ones we use today in the City of Thunder Bay.


A staples booklet with a drawing of the new city hall on the cover in colour

Report, The Municipal and Public Utilities Building of the Corporation of the City of Fort William, 1966

This document found in the time capsule is a five page physical description the new Fort William City Hall building.


A typed document detailing the municipal and public utilities expenditure

 Fort William Voter's Lists, 1965

The 1965 Voters' List contained a list of the eligible voters in Fort William, who were distinguished in the book by different polling subdivisions.

A blue and beige booklet detailing the voter's lists for Fort William

 City Treasurer's and Personnel Report, 1965

The 1965 City Treasurer's and Personnel Report gives a detailed report on topics such as utilities, the City Hall Staff, Police, Fire Fighters and Debenture Debt. The total amount spent by the City in 1965 was $8,223,208.


A brown document with black writing on it that reads "City Treasurer's and Personnel Report 1965"

 Greetings from City Hall Staff of 1966

 A card signed by all 1966 City Hall staff was found in the time capsule. There are 88 names on this card.

A white piece of paper with greetings at the top hand signed by 88 individuals

 Municipal Manual, 1963-1964

The 1963-1964 Municipal Manual provided statistical information for the city of Fort William, as well as other information regarding facilities such as Fort William Gardens and the Public Library, and the origin of various street names (which tended to be named after influential figures in the city).

A reddish brown booklet with black type faced writing that reads "Municipal Manual"

 Committee Members for Civic Recreation Committee and Parks Board, 1966-1967

 This document includes the signatures of those who were on the Civic Recreation Committee for 1966-1967.

A document with the Fort William crest and headings with hand written names below

 Estimates for Fort William Tax Rate, 1966

The City Treasurer's Office wrote these final estimates of the 1966 tax rates on April 11th, 1966. The document describes the costs of the City's functioning for one year, including the costs of the Public Library, Transit Department Operation, Fire Protection, Street Lighting and General Administration, and other services.

A typed document that is stapled together detailing estimates for taxes

 Two maps of Fort William from the Planning and Development Office 1965

 A map folded up with nature photographs and the word Esso at the top right

Eaton's Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1966

This hardcover Eaton's Catalogue, for the spring and summer of 1966, is an interesting find in the time capsule, and depicts some of the fashions of the day. Thunder Bay's last Eaton's store was located in Keskus Mall and closed over a decade ago.


A catalogue cover with a woman dressed in fancy attire and Eaton's in red

 Book: In the Face of Danger, by G.F.G. Stanley

This copy of the novel "In the Face of Danger" was donated to Fort William from Port Arthur when the new City Hall was opening in 1966. The book was written by G.F.G. Stanley in the late 1950s/early '60s, and tells the story of the Lake Superior Regiment in World War II.

A coloured book cover with trees and an ominous scene

 Fort William Male Choir 1965 Christmas program

The Time Capsule contained a copy of the programme for the Fort William Male Choir's Christmas Concert of 1965.

A green cover with a christmas tree detailed in pink

A white booklet with pink writing detailing songs being sung by the male choir

 Unopened Envelope from the Fort William Male Choir

This letter from the Fort William Male Choir given for the time capsule has not yet been opened, so its contents remain unknown.

A white envelope with writing on the top left hand corner

 Penny, 1966

A penny from 1966 was donated to the time capsule by the Blake family.


A penny taped to a piece of lined paper with writing above and below

The items below were also present in the time capsule:

  • Tales of the Tom-Tom booklet
  • Audio recording produced by CJLX broadcasting
  • Daily Times-Journal, March 29, 1966
  • Daily Times-Journal, Thursday May 26, 1966
  • Daily Times-Journal, Saturday May 28, 1966
  • Two LPs produced by the Fort William Male Choir: Moods in Music and Men of Music
  • Program of the Fort William Male Choir Conductor's 20th Anniversary Concert, 1966

Items found in the podium time capsule:

 Two (2) letters regarding the royal visits of 1939 and 1973

These letters were found in the podium stand, regarding the royal visits of 1939 and 1973. The first letter reads:

"This stand was built in May 1939 to hold the visitors book of the City of Fort William Ontario Canada. Made by Mr. Charlie Mack for the occasion of the visit of their Royal Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on May 23rd - 1939. Built by the order of the Engineering Staff of the City of Fort William in they City Hall from scrap furnishings of the City Hall. Members of the Engineering Staff at the time of the event as follows:

City Engineer - Mr. C.B. Symes

Assistant City Engineer Mr. H.M. Woodhouse

Works Superintendent - Mr. H.J. Paddington

Building Inspector - Mr. W.E. Mclennan

Inspector - Mr. A. Coombes

Instrument Man - Mr. C. Robinson

Stenographer - Miss. A. O'Farrell

Chain Man - Mr. J. Lightfoote

Helper - Mr. A. Wilson

Mayor - Mr. C.M. Ross

City Clerk - Mr. A. McNaughton

Timekeeper - Mr. T. Dewar

Assistant Timekeeper - Mr. A. Boughton

Waterworks Superintendent - R. C. Halonen

Typed this 9th Day of May 1939 By. Mr. R. Johnson."

A letter typed in blue ink with a red Fort William City crest at the top


The second letter from 1973 reads:

"This stand was refinished by Wilfred Springgay for the occasion of the visit of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth on July 3, 1973."

A typed letter that is very faded


Sports Week Advertisement for Royal Visit, 1939

During the royal visit of Queen Elizabeth and King George VI in 1939, this poster was used as an advertisement for the celebrations surrounding the visit, including parades, sports competitions, dances, and fireworks over the four-day period. (Note: The span of time was actually five days, but Sunday did not hold any events, as most facilities were closed on this day.) The poster was found in the Podium time capsule, along with two letters regarding the use of the podium itself for the royal visits.

The main text of the poster reads:

"Canada Welcomes their Majesties, Fort William's Salute to Summer Sports, Royal Visit, Sports Week, Four Days Gala Celebration, May 20th to May 24th, Sports - Ball Games - Street Parades - Band Concerts - Fireworks"

A poster with red, black and blue writing detailing a sports week

Digital restoration of this poster is thanks to Callen Banning




About this exhibit:

The Port Arthur, Fort William and Thunder Bay City Hall exhibits and the Time Capsule display were made possible by the City of Thunder Bay Summer Student Employment Program.

Special thanks must be given to:

City of Thunder Bay Archives series used for research include Port Arthur City Clerk's Files, Fort William City Clerk's Files, Thunder Bay City Clerk's Files, Aerial Photographs, Thunder Bay City Clerk's Photographs, and Thunder Bay Planning Department Photographs.

Other reference sources used in this exhibit are:

  • Beaulieu, M. "In Public's demand: Entertainment in Fort William's First Town Hall, 1892-1903." Papers and Records XXXI(2003): 3-20.
  • Cleveland, Jacquie. "McGillivray Square." August 1982: 1-12.
  • Ed. Epp, A. E. and T. J. Tronrud. Thunder Bay: From Rivalry to Unity. Thunder Bay: The Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society Inc., 1995.
  • Mauro, J. M. The Golden Gateway of the Great Northwest: A History of Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay: Lehto Printers Limited, 1981.
  • Scollie, F.B. Thunder Bay Mayors & Councillors 1873-1945. Thunder Bay: The Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society Inc., 2000.

To learn more about this subject, as well as any other historical information on Thunder Bay that interests you, please visit or contact the City of Thunder Bay Archives.



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