History of The Norfolk County Archives Building and Collection

Eva Brook Donly

Norfolk County Archives is open year round for researchers and visitors to our archival exhibits on the main level of the heritage home.

Situated at 109 Norfolk St S, Simcoe, Ontario, the original heritage building was bequeathed to the Corporation of the Town of Simcoe by Mrs. Eva Brook Donly in 1941. Since 1941 the building was operated by a Museum board under authority from the Town of Simcoe, in co-operation with the Norfolk Historical Society (NHS). The NHS was responsible for the rich collection of paintings, archival materials, and artifacts that the organization began collecting when they were established in 1900.

The building itself is built in the Georgian style and is one of the oldest residential brick structures in Simcoe, having been erected in circa 1845 by the Mulkins family.

Thomas J. Mulkins was a storekeeper and became Simcoe’s second postmaster in 1848. Thomas J. Mulkins died in 1856 but his widow and family continued to live in the home. His son Henry Mulkins succeeded Thomas as postmaster for the Town of Simcoe. Henry Mulkins married and had two daughters and continued to live in the home until his death in 1917. Eva Brook Donly and her husband Augustine W. Donly purchased the house in 1924, living in the home until her death in 1941.

In 1967 a new Centennial wing was added to the rear of the building. The wing was added to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Canada’s confederation with funding coming from the Museum Commission and Centennial funds from the town of Simcoe and the Townships of Woodhouse and Charlotteville, supplemented by government grants and private donations. In 1983 another addition was made to the building, which included the collections storage rooms, for both the archives and museum collections, and the archives reading room.

In 2018, after nearly 8 decades under the care of function of the NHS, the Eva Brook Donly Museum and Archives operations were transferred to the Corporation of Norfolk County. Although the County always owned the building the transfer included the operations of the location and the historically significant museum and archival collection. Norfolk County wanted to establish a County Archives there while continuing to run the Eva Book Donly Museum as a seasonal museum. In 2018/2019, the building was outfitted with a new archival storage room and a reading room on the main level of the building. Since 2019, Norfolk County has been transferring the County’s important historical records to Norfolk County Archives, significantly expanding the archival collection housed at the facility. In 2020, Norfolk County Archives was officially established as the County Archives under Norfolk County By-law #2020-91. The Eva Brook Donly Museum’s collection is still housed at the location, however, select items are now exhibited at the other Norfolk County museums since the archives operations has become the main focus for the location. The main level of the heritage home is still open to the public and is used for regular archival exhibits, a room has become a dedicated Eva Brook Donly tribute exhibit that is open year-round.