Visiting Schumacher, in Timmins, Northern Ontario: remembering Croatian heritage
'Mali Zagreb' (Little Zagreb), above the Arctic Watershed
Croatian-Canadians form a large community in Ontario, with numerous Croatian cultural associations being particularly centred in the Greater Toronto Area, particularly Mississauga. The Croatian language has been taught at a number of universities in Ontario. Many churches with significant Croatian congregations have sponsored Croatian language classes for young people.
Well above the Arctic Watershed, in Northern Ontario's Schumacher (which is part of the City of Timmins), a very sizeable Croatian-Canadian community grew up following World War One. Many Croatians came to the area in order to work in the expanding mining industry. Eventually Schumacher was called home by among the largest of Ontario's Croatian communities. Indeed, 'Croatia Avenue' is the name of one of Schumacher's main arteries, bearing witness to the proportionate significance of its residents from the Croatian-Canadian community.
The historically significant Croatian-Canadian community at Schumacher and the Timmins area contributes to a veritable mosaic of multiculturalism locally. This also includes significant First Nations and Franco-Ontarian communities (see below).
In 1932, three Croatian men, John Kovich, Joe Jakovac and Frank Banich, purchased the building which became Croatian Hall. Over the years it has remained a hub of activities for the area's Croatian-Canadians.
Croatian Hall used to be known as Mali Zagreb (Little Zagreb), in reference to Croatia's capital city.
At one time every Croatian young person who lived in Schumacher played in Croatian Hall Society's orchestra. Every July, Croatia Day is celebrated. Membership of Schumacher's Croatian Hall Society rose to 300, although numbers have dropped in recent years. For years, the 'Schumacher reunions' have brought people of Croatian heritage with Schumacher associations back to Croatian Hall from far and wide.
Various Croatian-Canadians associated with Schumacher and Timmins have achieved prominence. These include:
Federal Liberal politician, Senator Frank Mahovlich (Croatian: Franjo Mahovlic ), Member, Order of Canada; former NHL hockey player; inductee of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was nominated to the Canadian Senate by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien .
Councillor Frank Krnazic served for many years on Timmins City Council, having been repeatedly re-elected.
Also at Schumacher is the Pearl Lake, with its preserved mine shaft, which belonged to the McIntyre Mine.
This carefully restored lakeside area is now rather picturesque.
Timmins Chamber of Commerce, Schumacher
Schumacher houses the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, together with its tourist information centre. It maintains an Online gift store.
Mining heritage — the industry in which many Croatian-Canadians worked — is a special area of emphasis for these facilities, as is the case at other visitor attractions in Timmins (see below).
Also worth visiting
Timmins Gold Mine Tour base, (distance: 2.5 kilometres), located at the former Hollinger gold mine, gives insights into the challenges of working underground and the difficulties experienced by early settlers in Northern Ontario.
Ojibway and Cree Resource Centre, Timmins (distance: 2.3 kilometres), contains one of the biggest libraries with an Aboriginal emphasis in Canada and the biggest in Ontario.
'La Ronde' Cultural Centre, Timmins (French: Centre Culturel La Ronde ; distance: 2.8 kilometres), a focal point, with vibrant activities, for Timmins's large Franco-Ontarian community.
Cedar Meadows Resort , Timmins (distance: 5.1 kilometres), situated near the Mattagami River , offers daily wilderness tours. When I stayed here, I was struck by the fact that its catering and conference departments have a strong Francophone flavour, with facilities named for Louis Riel, Cartier, Cabot, Champlain, etc.
Museum of Northern History , Kirkland Lake (distance: 136.3 kilometres), housed in the Sir Harry Oakes Chateau. The building, built in 1919, is regarded as a fine example of Prairie/Craftsman architecture.
Notre-Dame-du-Nord , Quebec (distance: 228.4 kilometres), municipality scenically located on Lake Temiscaming (French: Lac Témiscamingue ), with its annal Rodéo du Camion (Truck Rodeo) and a fossil theme centre.
Little Claybelt Homesteaders' Museum, New Liskeard , Ontario (distance: 204.9 kilometres), a heritage and homesteaders' museum, with a Family History Centre and specialisms in glassware, cookbooks, and other aspects of past local life.
How to get there: Airlines flying to Timmins Victor M Power Airport include Air Canada, from Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections. Car rental is available at Timmins Airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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