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Delhi Tobacco Museum and Heritage Centre marks 40th anniversary

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Paul Smith chuckles when asked about his involvement with the creation of the Delhi Tobacco Museum and Heritage Centre.

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“I’m from Port Rowan but at the time, I was practising in Burlington,” Smith, the museum’s architect, said. “I remember thinking it was a great opportunity and then I met the mayor and council of the day.

“They said they didn’t want some sort of Taj Mahal, they wanted something simpler, something that would be in a tobacco barn.”

That’s not exactly what Smith had in mind but now 40 years later, Smith can say the council of the day was right.

“It’s a nice building and that has and continues to provide excellent service to the community.”

Smith was just one of many people to visit the museum for a special open house on Sunday to commemorate the museum’s 40th anniversary.

The open house was part of a weekend celebration that included a performance by The Schotts – Darrin and Alison Schott – a Southwestern Ontario band that plays a mix of country, bluegrass and folk music.

“It was a wonderful performance and a great way to celebrate our 40th anniversary,” Carene Morrison, the museum’s curator said. “We had 44 people attend the performance and they thoroughly enjoyed it.”

The singing and songwriting duo have played clubs and festivals across Canada and Europe and perform several songs that are related to Norfolk County.

“The open house is an opportunity for people to see exhibits which showcase the history of the museum and Quance Park.

“We also made a video highlighting the museum’s history.”

The exhibit also includes architectural drawings of the building.

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Although many people know about the community’s ties to the tobacco industry, they may not know the history and importance of milling in the area especially at Quance Park, Morrison said.

The museum, located on a hill in Quance Park on Talbot Road, was built in 1979 on land given to the Township of Delhi by the Quance Family. The property is on Talbot Road (Highway 3) just west of the downtown.

The exhibit, which continues to Dec. 20, includes the deed of the property now known as Quance Park It also includes information and displays highlighting the transition or beautification process on the property over the past 45 years.

The museum is home to numerous exhibits including machinery used on local tobacco farms and holds events throughout the year.

“The museum and its exhibits tell the story of the important role tobacco played in the building of the community,” Morrison said. “People came here as immigrants and discovered it was a good area for growing tobacco.

“They worked hard and built good lives for themselves and for others. It’s a Canadian story.”

Tobacco built community halls and churches and allowed people to send their children to university, she added.

The exhibit also shows the resiliency and innovative spirit of the community, she said.

Local farms are now being used to grow alternative crops including ginseng, she added.

“Quance Park is a beautiful place to visit and what we’re hoping the people who visit the park and the museum will get a good understanding of the rich history of the land,” Morrison said.

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