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Organizational Background

The dream to reconstruct a replica of H.M.S. Detroit originally built in Amherstburg's navy yard, began in mid-1982 when the idea was presented to the local Chamber of Commerce and Amherstburg Town Council. Realizing that the H.M.S. Detroit would provide an innovative and colourful interpretation of Canadian history as well as improving tourism potential in the area, the Project H.M.S. Detroit Committee was formed.

Project H.M.S. Detroit was incorporated in 1983, as a non-profit volunteer-based organization with the goal of re-constructing Canada's Flag Ship of the War of 1812, the H.M.S. Detroit.

The committee immediately began research into all aspects of the vessel from its history to construction logistics. Support came from Windsor's Ford Motor Company, casting replica canons for the warship. Local artists got on board contributing H.M.S. Detroit inspired paintings for fundraising.

  • A souvenir shop in the King's Navy Yard Park Commissariat on Amherstburg's waterfront was established to distribute H.M.S. Detroit merchandise.
  • The Town of Amherstburg pledged a home at the base of King's Navy Yard Park for mooring of the vessel.
  • Federal and Provincial government contacts suggested that a feasibility study be completed to determine the financial viability of the project prior to any grant proposals. The Federal Ministry of Communications, Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation and the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture all contributed towards the completion of the studies.

In October 1987, local media revealed that "Feasibility Study Confirms H.M.S. Detroit Project Viable". The Project H.M.S. Detroit organization became involved in two additional studies that were requested by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation:

  1. The Gordon House (built 1798) Feasibility Study, to examine the re-use of the historic structure as an attraction itself and as headquarters for the committee;
  2. The Amherstburg Waterfront Study where the King's Navy Yard and the entire scope of the operations of the proposed H.M.S. Detroit was examined.

In 1993, the organization launched the replica "Ship's Boat". The event drew energized public support. Fundraising continued to generate substantial revenue for the organization.

Soon after Historic Gordon House received funding under the Canada Ontario Infrastructure Works Project for restoration, providing the Project H.M.S. Detroit the long awaited sought after headquarters and visibility. The organization took possession of Historic Gordon House in August of 1996.

Project H.M.S. Detroit retained London-based Monteith Zelinka to develop a Business Plan and Industry Background Report allowing the organization to effectively pursue Government and corporate funding. To this point, the project represented 12 years of dedicated pursuit to restoring a significant part of history in Amherstburg.

In August of 1996, on the heels of Amherstburg's Bi-Centennial weekend celebrations, the Project H.M.S. Detroit Committee proudly welcomed over 4000 visitors at their new headquarters. Momentum began to build.

With several private, government, and corporate sponsors onboard, August 1998 marked the start of the contract for design of the vessel with E.Y.E. Marine Consultants of Dartmouth Nova Scotia. In September 1998, additional funding was granted through the Federal Government's Millennium Partnership Program.

Spring 2000
On March 10, 2000, with several new corporate sponsors committed, the Project H.M.S. Detroit Committee signed the phase I construction contract with ship builder, Hike Metal of Wheatley Ontario.

Autumn 2000
On September 10, 2000, the 187th Anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie the Project proudly invited the public to a "Keel Signing Ceremony" at the ship yard to signify the start of phase I construction. Dignitaries and Sponsors lined the 132' keel to cut the ribbon.
Click here to view photos for this event.

Winter 2000
In December of 2000, the Ontario Trillium Foundation approved funding to the Project Committee to document the building of the replica H.M.S. Detroit, and create an educational video highlighting its history.

On September 10, 2001, the 188th Anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, the Town of Amherstburg approved funding to the organization.

On August 17, 2002 the replica hull of the H.M.S. Detroit was launched at Wheatley Ontario and towed to her home port in Amherstburg were she found U.S. Flag Ship "Niagara" awaiting her arrival. In a grand ceremony of peace and welcome, the roar of canon fire was once again heard at the mouth of Lake Erie, this time in celebration of friendship.
Click here to view photos for this event.

H.M.S. Detroit Christening Ceremony took place on August 24, In the Year of Our Lord, 2002 at three o'clock in afternoon. As a sign of peace and friendship, Niagara's Captain John Bebe-Center placed the American Flag and a replica of U.S. Commodore Perry's battle flag "Don't Give up the Ship" on the deck of H.M.S. Detroit. This was H.M.S. Detroit's proudest and most humbling moment to date.
Click here to view photos for this event.

With community support in full bloom, financial assistance came from local businesses for an evening reception on board U.S. Brig Niagara for H.M.S. Detroit Dignitaries and Sponsors. The glorious moment of accomplishment speared the organizers to forge ahead to the task of phase II & III construction activities.

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