North Bay council expected to decide on fate of home where Dionne quintuplets were born

A decision is expected Tuesday night on the fate of the northeastern Ontario home where the Dionne quintuplets were born.
The quintuplets' birth home was bought by the city of North Bay and brought there from the nearby community of Corbeil, Ont., in 1985, then turned into a museum dedicated to the family's story. (gofundme.com/friendsofthedionnequintupletshomemuseum)

A decision is expected Tuesday night on the fate of the northeastern Ontario home where the Dionne quintuplets were born.

North Bay, Ont., city council is set to vote on a committee's recommendations to keep the home and its contents in the city but move them to a waterfront area.

The special review committee was created earlier this year amid public outcry over a proposal to move the home to a nearby community and hand over its contents to museums and universities.

Among the proposal's vocal opponents were the two surviving quintuplets, Cecile and Annette Dionne, who wrote a letter to councillors suggesting there is a "moral obligation" to safeguard the home as a part of Canadian history.

The 82-year-old sisters, who now live in Montreal, said their story put the city of roughly 54,000 in the global spotlight and serves as a reminder of "how society and politicians sometimes bend the rules."

The quintuplets were born in 1934 — the first quintuplets to survive more than a few days.

The Ontario government took them from their parents and placed them in a special hospital where they spent the first nine years of their lives, and where they served as a tourist attraction that poured roughly $500 million into provincial coffers.

To the world, the birth on May 28, 1934 of female quintuplets to Elzire and Oliva Dionne was a miracle, an event so incredible few believed the initial news report flashed around the globe. Once the birth was confirmed however, the quintuplets became one of the most sensational news events in history.

Closed to the public since 2015

The quintuplets' birth home was bought by the city of North Bay and brought there from the nearby community of Corbeil, Ont., in 1985, then turned into a museum dedicated to the family's story.

The Dionne Museum has been closed to the public since the city's chamber of commerce ceased to run it in 2015, throwing its future in limbo.

The city said it couldn't afford to maintain the facility and couldn't find anyone to take it over. It also sought to sell the property the home stood on for development.

Officials said at the time that moving the building to another part of town would be too expensive and would still leave the museum unmanned. They suggested bringing the home to an agricultural society in the community of Strong, Ont., to be included in its efforts to create a so-called pioneer village.

But the newly formed special review committee has now suggested relocating the home within North Bay.

It recommends using proceeds from the sale of the land the home is on to finance the move, foundation preparation and basic landscaping, which the committee's report estimates would cost between roughly $112,000 and $146,000.

The committee also proposes that the city work with the Friends of the Dionne Home community group to establish an operating agreement for the home, with the goal of incorporating it as a not-for-profit organization. 

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