Oshawa Museum (formerly known as Henry House Museum) officially opened May 21, 1960, with fanfare and long lines. Founders of the Oshawa (and District) Historical Society put in a lot of effort and hard work to set up the first community museum in Oshawa.
Henry House was in poor condition by the late 1950s, and this became the impetus for the establishment of the Historical Society in 1957. A historical museum for Oshawa was first proposed by alderman Walter Lane that year. “An institution of this kind was long overdue in Oshawa. The alderman told the council that countless items of historical significance were being lost for future generations every day and were discarded when the old people died.”
Members of the Oshawa Historical Society had thought about making Henry House into a museum and were delighted when they received news that the ODHS could own the building. On March 20, 1959, members of the society received news that Henry House would soon become a local museum. The house and collection would need to be made public within just over a year.
In 1960, at 2:30 p.m. on May 21, Oshawa Museum officially opened as a museum. Mayor Michael Starr of Oshawa and former Labour Minister B.L. Cathcart were the official ribbon cutters, who were accompanied by a group of photographers and videographers. Also speaking were Mayor Lyman A. Gifford and MPP T.D. Thomas. The event included a period parlor, farm implements, antique uniforms, weapons, books and pictures, and guests were invited to listen to the speakers outside of the house before viewing the exhibits inside. Through the afternoon, members of the ODHS led tours and answered questions.
In the period of May 21 to October 10, 1960, more than 1000 people visited the new museum. “One young boy spent 15 cents of his 25 cents per week allowance on visits to the museum every week during the summer.” With the opening of the Robinson House Museum at the end of the decade, the ODHS’s Museum responsibilities doubled. By the turn of the millennium, they unified operations and began to explore adding Guy House, which happened in 1984 and opened in 1985.
It was becoming increasingly difficult for the home to maintain itself with so many visitors. As a result of the second storey being deemed unsafe, Oshawa Museum was closed for restoration in 1988. As a result of this reconstruction, steel structural support beams were installed across the ground floor to provide additional support for the second storey.
Mayor Allan Pilkey, Museum Advisor Allan Barnes of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, and Mrs. Mildred Fletcher, great-granddaughter of Thomas Henry, were among the dignitaries who cut the ribbon on this important occasion. In addition, the museum’s three houses were designated as historic treasures under the Ontario Heritage Act, making them the first historic homes around Oshawa to receive this recognition.
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