Fort Petrie Military Museum co-ordinator says visitors amazed by what they find
Fort Petrie Military Museum co-ordinator says visitors always amazed by what they find there.
Rob Grezel says all he has to do is listen to the visitors at Fort Petrie Military Museum and he knows it is worth being the only full-time volunteer.
“I listen to all the people that come in and say how beautiful it is,” said Grezel, co-ordinator of the fort and a volunteer with the Sydney Harbour Fortification Society.
“We’ve had a lot of visitors from all over the world,” he said, while others are from just down the road.
“The first thing (locals) say when they walk through the door is, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know this was here and I’m from Glace Bay.’ Everyone who comes in absolutely loves the facility.”
One such visitor arrived this week.
Lorne MacKinnon, a Sydney native who now lives in Toronto, toured the site with his daughters Scotia, 4, Stirling, 8, and Skye, 11.
MacKinnon said he tries to get home once a year and during this visit his father Lorne MacKinnon Sr. suggested he check our the fort.
“My father would talk about my grandfather (Bernie MacKinnon) who was in the Second World War. I thought a little history would be good for the kids.”
Looking at the original photos of Fort Petrie before it was restored, MacKinnon said they brought back memories of driving by and seeing the site covered with graffiti.
“It’s important that we remember our past.”
Fort Petrie is a Second World War era fortification site located in New Victoria. It was built to guard Sydney harbour and played a significant role in the defence of the harbour during the war.
Grezel’s mother, the late Pat Grezel, his father Paul Grezel and Horace Lovell of Lingan, led the charge to have the building restored. The first step was the formation of the Sydney Harbour Fortification Society in 1990 and the following year they obtained a Supreme Court injunction to stop the fort’s demolition.
“The founding (society) members and many other people were involved over the years as well,” Grezel said.
Pat Grezel died in January
2012 and her son stepped into her shoes at the fort.
Fort Petrie opens the first week in June and remains open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily until the last cruise ship visit around the end of October.
In the meantime Grezel said work is ongoing, with the latest improvement a new sign created by artist Keith Baldwin, who is also painting war scenes for the front entrance.
Grezel said they haven’t received any funding for the fort this year but have applied and are hoping for good news.
“Right now we are just going with what we get in our donation box,” he said. “If I get enough for a gallon of paint, I get a gallon of paint or some plywood or gas for the lawn mower. Everything we get at the fort goes back into the fort.”
Although Grezel is front and centre at the fort, he said volunteers help out with various chores including cutting the grass.
“We all know the community is good so if you’re willing to ask for some help people will come over.”
Grezel said a major goal is to raise enough money to get coastal defence guns “six pounders” for the gun emplacements.
“I can get them but I need the money to get them here and mounted. Wouldn’t that be fantastic if we could get them here?
To help with the gun project or to volunteer, contact Grezel at 902-317-3749.
Rob Grezel, co-ordinator of Fort Petrie Military Museum and volunteer with the Sydney Harbour Fortification Society, shows from left, Lorne MacKinnon of Toronto and his daughters Scotia, 4, Stirling, 8, and Skye, 11, around the fort in New Victoria.
Seen here is a room in Fort Petrie’s battery observation post that housed soldiers during the Second World War.
Artifacts that can be seen inside the Fort Petrie Museum.
A view of the Fort Petrie grounds in New Victoria.