Collingwood visionary’s plan would put Norisle in a giant ‘bottle’

These scaled drawings by Alder Francescut of Collingwood show his concept for a Ship in a Bottle Great Lakes Museum featuring the Norisle.

COLLINGWOOD—As the fate of the Norisle hangs in the balance, a Collingwood man has suggested an alternative to the ship being sunk by the Tobermory Maritime Association or made into an historical Great Lakes cruise ship by the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society.

“The Norisle was built in Collingwood, 200 km away from where she floats now in Manitowaning,” said Alder Francescut. “I have been following the lawsuit (by the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society against Assiginack Township) and I have another solution. I think she (the Norisle) should return home and be the heart of a Great Lakes museum we could build in Collingwood.”

As The Expositor has previously reported, the society began legal proceedings earlier this year when it learned of the municipality’s plans to sell the historical ship to the Tobermory Maritime Association (TMA) to be sunk and used as a dive site.

Mr. Francescut explained that Collingwood had hired a consulting company to develop a Waterfront Master Plan for the municipality to revitalize the city’s waterfront.

“They were having public input sessions earlier this year and I presented my idea for a ‘Ship in a Bottle: The Collingwood Shipyards Great Lakes Museum’,” said Mr. Francescut. “It was well received by many of the community members in attendance.”

Mr. Francescut’s vision would include the draining and closing off of the original Collingwood shipyard drydocks, placing the Norisle high and dry up on blocks and building a large glass structure around the ship.

“This is the only drydock from the 1800s that still exists in the world,” claims Mr. Francescut. “The Norisle is the last of the Mohicans (of its kind) and it would be the main focus point of the museum. The ship is as beautiful today as it was when she was built and it would be a way to preserve it for future generations.”

Mr. Francescut also presented his idea at a celebration for the 100th anniversary of the shipyard.

“Mr. Francescut spoke to me about his idea at the celebration,” said Collingwood Councillor Deb Doherty. “As a member of the community, anything that celebrates the heritage of Collingwood and brings tourism, while highlighting the waterfront, is something that I would support in principle.”

Mr. Francescut has yet to present his idea to either the Collingwood or Assignack council, but is hoping that something can be done to save the historic steamship.

To Mr. Francescut, “gutting the Norisle” to make it into a Great Lakes cruise ship, as has been proposed by the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society, is only slightly better than sinking it.

“The ship has survived all these years,” said Mr. Francescut. “It doesn’t need to change, it just needs to be preserved how it is. I want to get the idea out there that there is a way to do that.”

The Expositor spoke to Dave Ham, chair of the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society, about the ‘Ship in the Bottle’ museum concept.

“He (Mr. Francescut) called me about a year ago,” said Mr. Ham. “I never gave it much thought. I can’t really say what the group (Steamship Society) would say about it and our meetings are on hold right now due to the lawsuit.”

Assignack CAO Alton Hobbs said prior to the lawsuit that the Norisle’s sale to the TMA wasn’t a done deal.

“Council’s position prior to the lawsuit was that they wanted the ship removed,” said Mr. Hobbs. “If the lawsuit was settled in Assignack’s favour, I’m sure council would be open to looking at any proposals for the ship.”

As of press time on Monday, a court date for the legal proceeding had still not been set.