In 1900 the management at Collingwood Shipyards tried a new technology and started building ships of steel instead of lumber. The change not only affected the lumber mills but also put carpenters out of work while opening new opportunity in trades working with steel. A new dry dock was built in 1903 which allowed repair work to be done without affecting the activities at the original launch basin and dry dock.
During World War Two, Collingwood Shipyards contributed to the production of Corvettes for the Royal Canadian Navy. When operating at full capacity it employed on thousand workers in a town with a population of less than five thousand people. It was an encouragement for other industries to come to Collingwood and by 1983 it was known as the largest industrial employer in the region.
Until 1986, if you visited Collingwood you could usually see a large ship, military vessel or freighter at the end of Hurontario Street; you may even have been able to view one being launched if you walk about a block east. It was always noisy and the shipyard whistle blasting at the end of each workday could be heard all over town. If you were in the area during this time, you would then see the men in hard hats and carrying lunch boxes while riding their bikes home.
However, the only way you can view any of these sites today is to visit the Collingwood Museum. They have a collection of pictures, articles, and artefacts that depict the unique history of Collingwood. They also show a film every fifteen minutes that depicts a “Ship Side launch”. The museum also has an archive and research facility if you want to explore further.
The shipyards closed its doors in l986, costing 1,200 people their jobs and the area remained untouched for about fifteen years. At this time the road was widened and new businesses, houses and several small parks began to appear.
Then, the big changes began to occur. The area where the ships were built was cleaned up and work began on building a new waterfront community. The contaminated soil was removed and piled into a large hill, then covered with good soil and will be used as a look out in summer and a toboggan slide in winter. This is only part of a three-hectare park which also includes an outdoor summer amphitheatre. The wood and steel was moved to another site and the concrete was crushed and used to create small islands off the edge of the park. After testing the water supply, the building of the condos began. The community has both low and mid-rise condominiums, shops, service boutiques and a full range of fine dining and art facilities, outdoor activities and a sandy white beach on Georgian Bay.
It appears to be the ideal beach front, downtown community, and it is just a short distance from all the other activities at Blue Mountain.