Where has Marie Dressler’s picture gone

Because the Victoria Hall Volunteers didn’t like the picture of Marie Dressler in their meeting place, the Mayor had it removed from the Citizen’s Forum.  But Rick Miller, chair of the Marie Dressler Foundation, thinks that “as a part of Cobourg’s history, Marie Dressler should be honoured with a photograph in the Town’s national historic building”.  After all, the building belongs to the Town and its citizens and pictures should reflect the Town’s history and heritage.  One group should not have a veto over what is displayed.  On Monday night, Rick made a presentation to Council on this point.  What if he as a citizen didn’t particularly like the portrait of Lenah Fisher?  Would it then be removed?  Why then remove the photo of Marie Dressler that others don’t like?  To avoid these kinds of problems, a policy should be developed.

Presentation by Rick Miller

Here is a summary of Rick’s presentation (see link below for the complete version)


  • Victoria Hall is a National Heritage Building
  • Victoria Hall is a public building
  • Victoria Hall is owned by the Town of Cobourg
  • The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer is accountable for the operations of Victoria Hall

Victoria Hall has many different displays for viewing by the public

  • Prominent Citizens: Edwin Guillet, Rev. A. Ryerson, James Cockburn
  • Advertising for Concert Hall events
  • War memorials
  • Town Council, Lenah Fisher
  • Vintage landscape scenes

Marie Dressler photo

Marie Dressler picture unveiling
Marie Dressler picture unveiling

In December 13, 2016 the Mayor unveiled a framed photograph of Marie Dressler in Victoria Hall Citizens’ Forum.  But today, the framed photograph of Marie Dressler is missing.

What Happened?

  • A Community Group (Victoria Hall Volunteers) objected to the image of Marie Dressler in the Citizens Forum on the basis of:
    • The photograph was disturbing to their members when they met in the Citizens Forum (Rick said that the Foundation does not know what they found disturbing!)
    • Marie Dressler has nothing to do with Victoria Hall
    • Anything to do with Marie Dressler should be restricted to Marie Dressler House
  • The President and former President of Victoria Hall Volunteers insisted to the Mayor that the photograph of Marie Dressler be removed from the Citizens Forum
  • The Victoria Hall Volunteers did not contact Marie Dressler Foundation to discuss their concerns.

The Issue

What is the Policy governing what gets displayed in Victoria Hall?

Rick said:

  • As a citizen of Cobourg, if I object to the landscape prints in Citizens Forum, will the Mayor or Chief Administrative Officer remove them from the wall?
  • What if I don’t particularly like the portrait of Lenah Fisher?
  • What if I don’t think the picture of Edwin Guillet should be on the wall?
  • Etc…
  • The Directors of Marie Dressler Foundation are deeply disappointed with the conduct of the members of Victoria Hall Volunteers with respect to the photograph of Marie Dressler
  • It is the position of Marie Dressler Foundation that, as a part of Cobourg’s history, Marie Dressler should be honoured with a photograph in the Town’s national historic building
  • It is particularly disappointing during this year – the 150th birthday celebration for Marie Dressler

Request of Town Council

  1. That Council direct the Chief Administrative Officer to develop a policy governing the display of objects, photographs, pictures and other media in public and rentable areas of Victoria Hall
  2. That the subject Policy be brought before Town Council no later than September 30, 2018 for approval and implementation
  3. That in the meantime, Council directs that the photograph of Marie Dressler be reinstated in Citizens Forum until such time as an approved Policy would otherwise not permit. 

Rick said he was not asking for a room, just that Marie Dressler’s photo be displayed in a prominent place in Victoria Hall.

Debate in Council

  • Debra McCarthy asked: Do the Victoria Hall Volunteers have a say in what hangs in the Art Gallery?  Rick did not know the answer to that.
  • Suzanne Séguin asked: Where is the picture now?  The gallery was amused to know that it was now in the Mayor’s office!
  • Brian Darling wanted to know:  Why September 30?  Because there are a number of major Dressler events around that time and that October 1st is the last meeting of this council.
  • Debra asked: Would another public location in Victoria Hall be OK?  Rick said that it would.  His concern was the “arbitrary decision not to display the photo”

Then Council unanimously passed a motion to develop the policy that Rick requested and that in the interim, the photo is to be installed in a prominent location in Victoria Hall.


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5 years ago

OK Gil…give it back!

I can’t believe the big fuss this has caused when there are many much more important issues on the agenda.

Must be small town thinking at it’s best

Reply to  cornbread
5 years ago

and the bell too, please.

Walter L. Luedtke
5 years ago

Leila Marie Koerber spent a large part of her childhood in Cobourg, where her father taught music and was organist at St.Peter’s Church. Little Marie apparently assisted her father by working the pump organ.
So it’s entirely appropriate, that her portrait should hang in The Hall.
On another note, in contrast to some other group, the HSV contribute much to Victoria Hall, financially and with a year-round series of events.
HSV is part of a caring and supportive community that makes Cobourg a great place to live.
I hope the whole story about the removal of the portrait comes out soon, but some folks are already badmouthing the Mayor and Staff.
As usual.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
5 years ago

Leila Marie Koerber’s family moved from community to community when she was a girl and she left home at fourteen so spending “a large part of her childhood in Cobourg” didn’t amount to much. I think it’s time the Feel Good Town found something else to feel good about and stopped riding the coattails of an early twentieth century actress. Isn’t a museum enough? And as to why the picture was removed or where it is now, it’s not worth losing any sleep over.

Walter L. Luedtke
5 years ago

Perhaps Fran Richardson, President of the VHV, can explain what was disturbing about Marie Dressler’s portrait.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
5 years ago

Interesting question but, at the same time, I really don’t know why a picture of Marie Dressler is decorating the walls of Victoria Hall. She had no connection with Cobourg other than being born here and she didn’t have enough affection for the place to make a return visit. Her picture should be where it belongs — in her museum.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Tim
5 years ago

LOL! Queen Victoria never visited here.

Pamela Jackson
5 years ago

As someone who worked on the original committee, helmed by the incredible Delphine and Bill Patchett, i remember only too well how the town was eager to jump on to anything to do with Marie Dressler in order to
promote Cobourg. The arrival of her wax effigy from California was greeted with the same excitement as the
visit of a minor Royal would be. We were eager to promote our own home grown movie star in any way we could. Now it seems Cobourg is just as eager to hide her portrait where the sun don’t shine, as it were.
When I am in Cobourg early July I shall hunt her down for myself.
Pam Jackson

Pat Stanley
5 years ago

Who the heck are the Victoria Hall Volunteers that the Mayor obeys them? Did I miss an election? And as the Art Gallery is in a rented space, I do not want to see any policy developed that controls in any way whatsoever what the Gallery can display on its walls. Debra was being facetious in her question, but in today’s environment what seems facetious today can suddenly seem all too true tomorrow.

Miriam Mutton
5 years ago

I am not currently a member of the Victoria Hall Volunteers but became involved with the organization years ago soon after I helped with fundraising activities as a student to save Victoria Hall. The VHV founders are the people who helped save Victoria Hall from the wrecking ball. This attack on VHV I find very disrespectful. The group continues to organize popular events to raise money for Victoria Hall.

I understood that the Citizens Forum, in addition to being a Town meeting space available to the public, is the long time home base for the VHV.

I agree a policy for displaying pictures and artifacts in Victoria Hall is needed. On my part, I wonder where all those original Bartlett prints have gone from the Council Chambers.

By the way, where was the outrage when the harbour dredger was named the Marie Dressler?

5 years ago

So clearly the message is that if you don’t like something you go to the Mayor rather than the organization responsible for the ‘unloved something’. Dare I say a microcosmic scenario oft seen in our fair town.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  gerinator
5 years ago

The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer is accountable for the operations of Victoria Hall

5 years ago

Citizens of Cobourg with any interest in our past – remember that there is a place where much of it can be viewed in another historic building. It is called the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre – Cobourg’s Museum. Currently visitors can see a picture of the historic home of Marie Dressler (though not Marie herself) and also discover that yes, the H MC S Cobourg’s bell is in fact in the Mayor’s office.

There’s loads more to see and discover – and admission is free.

5 years ago

Well this contretemps will certainly provide fodder for the summer teas amongst the ‘cocktail set’ this year. But seriously this spat only confirms the Mayor’s fealty to a group dedicated to both decorum (in their defining way) and the way the drapes are hung in Vic Hall. Remember the move to remove the floor design in the lobby? The Lobby is now a drab reminder of what Cobourg used to be – for example where is the Bell from HMCS Cobourg, as well as the other militaria previously displayed?

It’s time that Cobourg’s municipal treasures were displayed properly in a public place and to rely on the taste of one private group is wrong. But to rely on a committee (a committee set out to design a horse came back with a camel!) will be interesting.

Kudos to Rick Miller for taking on this group, I bet it will reduce the number of cocktail invitations this year!

Bill Thompson
Reply to  democrat
5 years ago

The ship’s bell and white ensign are hung on the wall in the mayor’s office .
The ship’s bell was going to be “refurbished” according to the mayor (which is not permitted and should not be touched ) as it is DND property on loan to the town .
HMCS Cobourg’s memorabilia was removed from the display case when the foyer had some work done it and everything was supposed to be be reinstalled.
In spite of requests ,the mayor has not done so ,and considering the rest of the memorabilia .ship’s photo.crewmember list etc.(whereabouts unknown now) are intended for public display not for visitors to the mayor’s office everything should be reinstalled where it belongs and the public can see it as before.

Laura Roberge
Reply to  democrat
5 years ago

Yes kudos to Rick Miller for sure. He is right!