Francis Petrie was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He received his primary school education in Maple Street School. Following his graduation from Niagara Falls Collegiate and Vocational Institute he found employment as a research Technician at Cyanamid of Canada and was based at the Welland Plant.
Petrie was profoundly interested in local history and frequently took his family for a Sunday afternoon drive to explore a local historical site. He was well known for his History in the News column in the Niagara Falls Review. He began writing that column in 1961 and his 1092nd column was published just before his death.
In 1970 Petrie was appointed Official Historian of the city of Niagara Falls and was the first to hold that title. He was the first chair of the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committees (LACAC). He was a member of the City’s board of Museums as well as of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the Board of the Niagara Falls Public Library. He
was a member of several local historical societies. In addition to his regular columns, Petrie also produced several popular history publications.
Petrie was a popular public speaker. When it was announced that he was to speak to an auditorium full of High School Students, some teachers were not sure of the wisdom of inviting someone to speak on local history. He held the students spell bound, however, as he recounted the story of the historical background of Epworth Circle where the collegiate sat and the
adjoining streets, from the pioneer days when it was virgin forest to the days when it was a Methodist camp meeting site. He even suggested that sometimes young couples sneaked out into Bender’s bush round about, much to the laughter of his listeners.
In 1976 Petrie received a Murie Misty Award for promoting Niagara Falls without being associated with the tourist industry.
Petrie accumulated a vast collection of local historical material of which a great part is held in the Niagara Falls Public Library as The Francis Petrie Collection.
see the citation at the dedication at the Niagara Falls Arts & Culture Wall of Fame.
Article by Fred Habermehl
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