Vintage mural installation adds beauty, history to Huntsville’s swing bridge

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Where there once was a plain concrete wall, there now hangs a striking piece of outdoor art.

The mural was installed on the abutment of Huntsville’s swing bridge facing the Town Docks this morning (September 16). The scene it depicts – a man and a woman in a canoe – is an iconic piece of Muskoka’s history. The installation is the brainchild of three local women – Diane Thoms, Suzanne Riverin and Kareen Burns.

The black-and-white photo from the 1940s shows Thoms’ in-laws, Gordon and Maxine Thoms, in a canoe on Mary Lake’s Thoms Bay, although their visages in this photo are often mistaken for Tom Thomson and Winnie Trainor.

“Their significance is a nice byproduct in that Maxine was a Hanes and the Hanes’s were one of the very first settlers of the area, and the Thoms family are very close in behind them,” said Thoms in an earlier conversation with Doppler. “It has that historical impact as well as being a beautiful photograph that is very Muskoka-like. So when people come up the river or are on the docks, it will look as if the canoe is coming right at you with the people in it looking at you.”

Thoms is thrilled with how it turned out. “I think the size is perfect, the quality of the reproduction is wonderful – thank you very much Jack Stewart,” she said. “It’s very special to me and my family, although that wasn’t the intent when I suggested the photograph. It works very well with the family’s history (in the area) and it’s just a beautiful photograph.”

Burns and Riverin echoed her sentiments. “It’s so iconic,” said Riverin. “We are thrilled.”

swing bridge mural

The mural depicts Gordon and Maxine Thoms. The Thoms family and the Hanes family (Maxine’s family) were among the first settlers in Muskoka

All three thanked the organizations and people who supported the project financially and with the installation: the Huntsville Festival of the Arts, the Downtown Huntsville BIA, the Rotary Club of Huntsville, Pipefusion who installed the piece, and Jack Stewart from Big Print who created the reproduction. “And we’d really like to thank Mayor Scott Aitchison and Teri Souter (Town of Huntsville Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage). They were very supportive and really made it happen,” said Riverin.

Read a background story about the mural on Doppler here and stop in at the Town Docks to see it for yourself.

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9 Comments

  1. What a wonderful addition to Huntsville’s waterfront. Thanks to Diane, Suzanne and Kareen for not giving up on this project and thanks to Scott, Teri and Pipefusion for helping to making it happen.

  2. I like this idea, content, vision and execution. Thanks, all involved. The only thing missing is: who took this “iconic and beautiful photograph”. I read this, and the back story: no mention. I think it is part of the story, too. And, being a photographer, we just like credit where credit is due. And when so much is said about and done with a work, it appears credit is due!

    • Dawn Huddlestone on

      I agree, Sandy! Unfortunately, the family isn’t sure who took the photo way back then. It may have been Dick Thoms (and if so, he deserves a round of applause for this lovely image), but they can’t say with certainty that it was him.

  3. What a beautiful piece of history! Proud to live on Mary Lake, facing Thoms Bay. Thank you Diane, Suzanne and Kareen for your creativity! Keep up the wonderful work ladies.

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