April 19, 2020

COVID-19 pandemic impacts Dionne Quintuplets Birth Home plans this season

The Dionne Quintuplets Birth Home at twilight after the roof was put back on following its move to the waterfront from the former tourism centre on the highways 11 and 17 bypass. Jeff Fournier Photo
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The Dionne Quintuplets Heritage Board has postponed a planned fundraiser, its annual general meeting and the opening of the birth home museum at the Community Waterfront Park due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and current restrictions.

“At this time, things are up in the air as far as the opening of the home for the season goes,” says Ed Valenti, Chairperson of the Dionne Quintuplets’ heritage Board.

Asked if he thought the home would open up at all this season Valenti said: “We haven’t made any definite decisions as to when and if we’ll be opening the home to the public, but it certainly looks as if it won’t be at least until June. We’ll be keeping an eye on the Covid-19 situation and will base our eventual decision on what happens with that.”

The history of the home is summarized in three feature stories in the recently released April/May edition of A Bit of the Bay Magazine (available for purchase at [email protected] or in person at Pinehill Restaurant and Variety on Jane Street for $5).

In the late 1950’s, Daniel Dionne, the second-eldest brother of the Dionne Quintuplets (not the eldest as was erroneously stated in the magazine article), purchased the family homestead along with his wife Audrey, from Elzire And Oliva Dionne – parents of the world-famous Dionne Quintuplets.

In 1962, the home was moved to a new location at the Pinewood Park Motel in North Bay, thanks to the efforts of the Motel owner John Kennedy along with a group of investors where it opened as a museum on the highway 11 thoroughfare leading directly into the city of North Bay. It remained in that location for two decades.

In 1985, funds raised by the citizens of North Bay were paired with funds that the provincial government had contributed, and the city of North Bay took ownership of the Dionne Birth home and its artifacts.

On July 18, 1985, the home was delivered to a lot at the corner of Seymour Street and the highway 11/17 bypass.

The city entrusted the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce to act as stewards of the Dionne Home and artifacts, which they did from 1985 until 2015.

In December of 2015, the Chamber did not to renew their contract to operate the Dionne Quintuplet’s Home Museum on behalf of the City of North Bay.

If not for a number of concerned North Bay citizens, and the group I had formed - the Friends of the Dionne Quintuplets’ home Museum - the home likely would have been moved to Strong Township and lost to North Bay forever.

The Friends worked together to ensure the home and artifacts remained in North Bay. It took nearly six months, but on April 4, 2017, the announcement was made in council chambers that indeed the Dionne Quintuplets’ birth home and artifacts would stay in the city.

The home was finally moved on Nov. 19, 2017, to where it now sits at North Bay’s Community Waterfront Park (between the North Bay Museum and Marina Point.)

The Dionne Quintuplets’ Heritage Board was formed that year and in February of this year, was given approval by the city to manage the Dionne Home and artefacts under a 10-year agreement.

Written by Jeff Fournier

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