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Oct. 15, 2021 | Friday
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Sailing into the history of Niagara’s waterfront, the Teenie H is set to be preserved
Terry Boulton stands beside Teenie H. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Fighting for more than 10 years, long-time Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Terry Boulton has been championing the preservation of the Teenie H.

The 35 ft. fishing boat, built in 1939, is thought to be one of the oldest wooden fishing boats in existence in the Great Lakes basin, and was once regarded as the queen of the fleet, Boulton says — and while the Teenie H has been around for 80 years, vessels of that caliber usually only last 20.

Boulton speaks in a calm, resolute manner about his passion for the boat and history, specifically local history. His family has lived in NOTL for as long as he can remember, and watching the town change and grow over the years helped spark a fire for historical preservation.

Saving the Teenie H is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate an appreciation for that history, he says.

Though he’s been retired for 20 years, he will always be a teacher; eager to pass on some of his extensive knowledge. Since acquiring the boat with Chris Allen in 2008 Boulton has been speaking with councillors and the town about its importance, and has submitted a proposal to permanently house the boat on town property.

“I recognized its historical value. I felt particularly that you could tell a story of the waterfront using the boat,” Boulton says, adding it’s one of few examples of the town’s heritage that isn’t a building. 

Since then he’s had to store the boat at the local sailing club until the town can reach a decision about whether to move forward with his proposal. However the project could not move forward because the master plan for the dock had not been finalized.

Town Coun. Allan Bisback has been a supporter of the preservation of the Teenie H since Boulton first brought it to his attention. He said a secondary dockland plan was approved, in principle, to redevelop the dock area, and included was the proposal to put the Teenie H on display. He said the plan had been approved, but not yet the specifics.

“The intention would be, if we can get some folks behind the Teenie H, then I would see it as a catalyst to move forward on the Dockland’s plan,” Bisback said.

The NOTL Sailing Club has been exceptionally helpful, Boulton said, allowing him to store the boat over the last decade. He said he’s felt some pressure over the years to relocate it, fuelling his desire to get the project approved by council in a timely manner.

In Boulton’s vision, the Teenie H would be housed permanently on the property next to the town dock, possibly in association with the historical Foghorn House on River Beach Drive, he said.

He’s had designs of a structure drawn up, which demonstrate how he intends to house the boat and display its history and importance to Niagara.

The proposed site, designed by Julian Smith, executive director of Willowbank School of Restoration Arts, boasts a small structure representing the inside of a boathouse. Studs and planks would be used in the design to mimic the rough features of a typical boathouse.

In the proposal document, Boulton said the idea of the structure is to provide easy access for people to see the Teenie H while not making it appear to be in a glass box. He said the structure would be relatively inexpensive.

The plan isn’t to restore the old fishing boat, but to preserve it, Boulton says.

The boat would sit inside the structure, not to be accessed by the public. It would be viewable through two elevated areas, however, one of which would be wheel-chair-accessible. Boulton said he wants to include panels outlining the historical significance of the waterfront.

“I felt that the story should be told, but it hasn’t been. Other than myself and a couple other people, most have no idea what has gone on around here. This little area here was the social, cultural, industrial hub of the town. That’s the story that I wanted to tell. Now the way it goes, that’s going to be dependent on what council wants to do.”

Whether the town will use his designs is yet to be determined. Boulton said he doesn’t think they will, but he’s hopeful.

He says he wants to relocate the ship to the property on River Beach Drive because it would allow for a focal point along the waterfront, adding he think the previously installed path leads to a “confusing dead end.”

The structure also wouldn’t obstruct the view of the waterfront, he said, a factor that’s important to him. His Delater Street home on the shoreline overlooks the water.

With floor-to-ceiling windows lining the entire back side of his house, he understands the value of an unobstructed view.

Boulton said he is unsure what the timeline will look like for completion, he would just be happy to see the historical significance of the Teenie H showcased and preserved, and the story of Niagara’s waterfront told.

“I support and I encourage the town to move forward with it. I think it’s a great activity that can bring the town together,” Bisback said, adding that he doesn’t think many people understand the history of the waterfront and dock area.

He said he was excited because the boat is a piece of history representative of the docklands, demonstrating the importance of the area.

“I got excited because it represents a piece of history. And, of course whenever you talk to Terry you get infected with his positive attitude toward it.”