Blast from the Past

Touch history at the Founders' Museum on Highway 61

Power down the tablet and pop out the earbuds: you’ve got a few days left to check out old-style pioneer living at the newly reopened Founders’ Museum and Pioneer Village on Hwy 61, just south of Thunder Bay. The attraction is packed with an incredible array of artifacts, from vintage hats and pinball machines to antique tools, cameras, cars and a railway car, all housed in buildings painstakingly reproduced to match the originals.

founders garage
Antique car in the Founders' Museum Garage

The site is the result of the efforts of Fred Goodfellow, who purchased the property in the 1960s with the idea of creating “hands-on history.” “He would go around to local farms and homes and see if there were any old things people wanted to donate, and sometimes he bought items at sales,” says staff member Jean Mayo. 

founders jean mayo
Jean Mayo, Founders' Museum Staff Member

Goodfellow took special care when fashioning the buildings, which include a church, train station, mechanic, pioneer home, print shop, cobbler, blacksmith, tannery, carriage shop, schoolhouse, a village square with a milliner, photography studio and music store, and a general store with a pharmacy, butcher shop and bakery. “The train station, for example, is a replica of the 1905 Upsala station, made using the original plans filed in Ottawa,” notes curator Lois Garrity.

founders station
Train Station

The attraction faced an uncertain future when it closed in 2013, facing mounting bills and significant repairs. Fortunately, however, a new board was established and the township of Oliver Paipoonge took over the management. (Garrity also is the curator at the Duke Hunt Historical Museum on Rosslyn Road.)

Currently the site has one tour guide and self-guided tours are also available. You may also happen to find local volunteers like a woodcarver at the carpentry shop, carving items by hand. There’s a small selection of hard candy and souvenirs available for sale at the general store. Local interest has been keen since the site reopened. “We’re just ecstatic with the response,” says Mayo. “Coming to work is like coming to play.” If you want to get a closer look at how Northwestern Ontario’s pioneer families lived, worked and played, Founders’ Museum is definitely worth a visit. 

founders general store
General Store

The Founders’ Museum and Pioneer Village at 3190 Hwy 61 South, just past Loch Lomond, is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (May-August), 12:00-4:30 pm until September 14, reopening in Spring 2015. For more information call 807-475-7424. 

Admission is by donation.

founders home
Home at the Founders' Museum
About Bonnie Schiedel

Bonnie Schiedel is the founder of, which covers fun family-friendly attractions, events and restaurants in Thunder Bay. She enjoys canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing and travel, and you can read more of her award-winning work at

Recommended Articles

The Best Sights to See in Thunder Bay

From the legendary Sleeping Giant to Indigenous art galleries these Thunder Bay attractions are not to be missed.

6 great hiking trails in and around Thunder Bay

Hike the famous Sleeping Giant or the Flett railway tunnel in this Northwest Ontario city.

Conquer a Giant

This iconic Northwest Ontario landmark rises 1000 ft above the surface of Lake Superior.

Top 5 places to view the Sleeping Giant

Thunder Bay's Most Famous Landmark and the best places to see it

Time to change your clocks—but why?

The Thunder Bay and Northwest Ontario Connection to Daylight Savings Time.

Fall Colours on Superior's Shore

5 Ways to Experience Thunder Bay's Incredible Autumn Foliage

Green Mantle and Nanabijou's Wife

Discover the Legends of Thunder Bay's Natural Wonders

The Hunger Cabaret

Get your costumes ready for one of Thunder Bay's best (and biggest) parties!

12 Best Places to Stay in Thunder Bay

A boutique courthouse, art-filled hostel, or a luxe waterfront hotel—TBay has accommodations for every taste.

Experience Your Perfect Summer in Thunder Bay

An A to Z guide to outdoor adventure in this scenic Northern Ontario city

Haunted Fort Night

Halloween Fun At Fort William Historical Park

Memories of a Legend

Remembering Terry Fox at Memorial Sites near Thunder Bay

12 Places to Go Walleye Fishing In and Around Thunder Bay

Catch your limit and experience the province's best angling near this Northwest Ontario city.

Treasure Hunting in Thunder Bay

A longtime thrifter's story—and some hot tips!

5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Thunder Bay

Trails at Shuniah Mines

Come Ride in Thunder Bay

A City of Sisu

Finnish Culture in Thunder Bay

Getting Bites Under City Lights

Urban Angling in Thunder Bay

To the Bat Cave!

A Backwoods Hike to Find the Bat Cave at Cavern Lake

Nordic Skiing in Thunder Bay

Ski Some of the Best Cross-Country Trails in Canada