Did you know that Ontario’s first newspaper was published in the little village of Queenston in Niagara-on-the-Lake? That is one of the many things you will learn at the Mackenzie Heritage Printery and Newspaper Museum.
Tucked away at the bottom of Queenston Heights sits the beautiful 200+ year old house in the village with a population of approximately 1500. Originally it was the home of William Lyon Mackenzie in the 1820s. He and his family opened a country store and worked day after day to get by like everyone else. He had a strong dislike for the malpractice of the Family Compact and decided something had to be done.
In May of 1824 this house became the home of Upper Canada’s first Newspaper – "The Colonial Advocate and Journal of Agriculture, Manufacture and Commerce". Although Mackenzie has come and gone, the house has been party destroyed and rebuilt and the original equipment has been relocated many times, the house is still a historical landmark.
Today visitors can have a guided tour, for a small fee, of the museum and get to use a couple of the printing presses hands on. The guide explains to you the history of the museum, the history of the presses, Mackenzie’s role in Canadian history and how each printing press works. Also, the museum holds “The Roy Press” – one of the oldest printing presses in history, which there is only 2 of left in the world.
As a guest you even get to use the type to place your name in the printing press and run a piece of paper through it. The first time I visited my brother and I did this we were surprised to discover that as we put our names in the type, we were actually “signing” a contract saying we would work at the museum unpaid for 3 years. The next two times it didn’t come as such a surprise, but makes for a cute souvenir.
If you get some spare time and you’re in the area, I suggest you stop by and take a quick tour. It’s educational, hands on and can be fun. But beware; there is a wax figure of William Lyon Mackenzie at the front door that is extremely creepy. And the basement of the museum is said to be haunted; maybe that’s why those quarters are closed off to the public?