Belle Vue Conservancy

Belle Vue Conservancy has two fundraising events scheduled

 

Special to the RTT

After the devastating War of 1812, the construction of Belle Vue by the Reynolds family gave our forefathers hope.

Over the past two centuries Belle Vue has continued to play an important role in the town of Amherstburg, serving as a residence for three additional families, then as a convalescent home for injured war veterans and as a place of worship for the Ukranian Catholic Church.

In more recent years it was neglected and so is now in need of restoration.

The Town of Amherstburg purchased this building and property in 2016 and, in addition to preserving our national heritage, sees a future for the Belle Vue as part of the Town’s economic development.

After core restoration is completed, interior work will be done and the Belle Vue will be open for use by the public as a regional meeting, conference and cultural centre; as well a range of formal botanical gardens and greenhouses will be developed on the property, all of which will attract business and tourism to Amherstburg. It will significantly contribute to the enhancement of the historic Amherstburg waterfront which stretches along the River from the Kings Navy Yard Park to the Belle Vue.

The Belle Vue Conservancy has a new logo, designed and donated by local artist Elio Del Col.

The Belle Vue Conservancy has a new logo, designed and donated by local artist Elio Del Col.

Through collaboration with citizens and partnership with the Town of Amherstburg, the Belle Vue Conservancy, a team of dedicated volunteers, is focused on raising One million dollars for restoration to secure the property, specifically for a new roof, windows, gutters and foundation work, i.e. the envelope of the building. These Phase 1 core repairs are of absolute urgency in order to stabilize the house after the years of severe neglect. Since the Town now owns the historic Belle Vue property we believe it is in all of our best interests to work together to secure the future of Belle Vue.

In addition to promoting donations related to naming rights concerning different rooms and parts of the building, the Conservancy is currently undertaking two special events that are sure to be of interest to local residents.

First is a concert “Leading Notes for Belle Vue” to be provided by the Windsor Junior Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Robert Franz, in partnership with Christ Church, located at 317 Ramsay St. in Amherstburg. It will be held April 27 at 7 p.m. This concert preserves our ties with the WSO and is anticipated to be the first of many such events. Tickets are $20 each and are available at the Gordon House, Sobeys and the Gibson Gallery. Sponsors for this event will be showcased on line and in the evening’s program.

Our second scheduled event is a golf competition “Birdies and Bogies for Belle Vue” to be held on Saturday, May 13 at Sutton Creek Golf Club. Registration is $150 and includes a golf cart, lunch during golf, dinner and a registration gift as well as a tax receipt for $50. Spouses and partners who would like to attend the dinner only may do so with pre-registration and payment of $50

Information about the history of Belle Vue and the Belle Vue Conservancy activities as well as opportunities to donate can be found on our website at www.bellevueconservancy.com.

 

 

 

Belle Vue through the hands of the property owners

 

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles by historian/genealogist Debra Honor regarding the Belle Vue house and its history. Honor is a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)

 

By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS

 

The beautiful home of Robert Reynolds, Belle Vue, has over 200 years of stories to tell. This article will explain the progression of owners.

The Wyandot First Nations made a gift of land to the many Loyalists who helped during the American Revolution. The Crown accepted the transfer of the property in 1797 and granted Alexander McKee with 2,000 acres which included Lot 4 Concession 1. Alexander’s son, Thomas McKee, sold the property to William Mills on the 20th November 1807.

William Mills was mortally wounded at the Battle of the River Raisin 1813 and is buried in the big stone crypt at Christ Church. After the War of 1812, having no children, his estate was settled. James Gordon acquired his house (Gordon House) and Robert Reynolds bought the former McKee property for £2,000. The transaction settled on the 20 August 1817. This property included Lots 4, 21, 28, 40 and 47 going back to Concession 5. Five days later, Robert sold the south half of all those lots to George Benson Hall for £1,000. Robert Reynolds built Belle Vue on Lot 4 on the riverfront.

This is the front of Belle Vue in the Italianate style with William Johnston and his family on the front lawn. (Special to the RTT)

This is the front of Belle Vue in the Italianate style with William Johnston and his family on the front lawn. (Special to the RTT)

Robert owned the property for 42 years. In 1842, he severed a part of Lot 4 for his son, Dr. Robert Todd Reynolds to build a house. Dr. Reynolds purchased his aging father’s property on 27 May 1859 giving his father a “Life Lease”. Robert Reynolds died in 1865 and his son soon put the farm up for sale which took until the 1st August 1871 when William Johnston, a local druggist (pharmacist) purchased the property. The Johnston family modernized and enlarged the house in the Italianate style including two large reception rooms with bay windows and a new front veranda. They lived in the house for 16 years.

(Continued next month)

 

Please support our fundraising campaign. One-hundred per cent of your contribution will be used for restoration of the Belle Vue House. You will receive a full tax receipt and a Belle Vue gift. Visit amherstburg.ca/donate to help us open up Belle Vue once again!

Councillor questions process in putting up Belle Vue signage

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The recently-installed sign at the Amherstburg library promoting the Belle Vue Conservancy’s fundraising request has drawn questions from a member of council.

Councillor Leo Meloche brought up the issue during the March 20 town council meeting and questioned the process of how the sign was installed.

“The Belle Vue Conservancy is an independent, non-profit organization that should have had to go through the process to have the sign put up,” said Meloche.

Meloche stated he was not opposed to the sign itself, and added he has participated in the fundraising process with a donation. What he questioned was how the decision was arrived at to erect the sign and didn’t believe the method used to put it up complied with what is written in the bylaw.

“I’m looking for fairness in the process,” said Meloche.

CAO John Miceli said the Belle Vue Conservancy is fundraising on behalf of the town of Amherstburg for a town-owned building, adding the municipality is exempt from its own bylaw.

“The long and the short of it is, the Belle Vue Conservancy is raising money for town property,” Miceli said.

Miceli said town council had the option of having the sign removed and having the conservancy go through the process, but no further direction was given.

A sign promoting the Belle Vue Conservancy’s campaign on the Amherstburg library’s property at Richmond St. and Sandwich St. S. was a cause for concern at the most recent regular meeting of town council. The process to put it up was of particular concern.

A sign promoting the Belle Vue Conservancy’s campaign on the Amherstburg library’s property at Richmond St. and Sandwich St. S. was a cause for concern at the most recent regular meeting of town council. The process to put it up was of particular concern.

Meloche wondered if another non-profit agency wanted to do something like put up a swing-set in a park, would they be afforded the same privilege for a sign since that is for public benefit like the Belle Vue property restorations.

The debate on the Belle Vue sign came a short time after the Amherstburg Rotary Club was refused relief to the sign bylaw to promote Ribfest, which is scheduled for July 7-9. The Rotary Club wanted to have the ability to put up their signs for 28 days and be allowed to put up mobile road signs and wire push-in signs during that period on commercial and residential properties but the town will stick with its 14-day limit with no portable signs and event signs only allowed in front of commercial property.

The Belle Vue Conservancy has come to council, with the town agreeing, to partner with them on fundraising initiatives, Miceli added. He said the Ribfest was different in the sense that the town doesn’t dictate where the money goes whereas they do dictate where the $1 million they are trying to raise for Belle Vue will go.

“I think the argument is a little bit different,” said Miceli. “Even with non-profit groups, we don’t dictate where the funds go.”

Miceli pointed out the town holds the money collected by the Belle Vue Conservancy, something confirmed by director of corporate services/treasurer Justin Rousseau. Rousseau noted that the money is held by the Amherstburg Community Foundation, the charitable arm of the town.

The benefit of what the Belle Vue Conservancy and their fundraising efforts were not something Meloche said he had any argument with but noted he didn’t want the town to be seen as acting unfairly.

“I want us perceived as fair to every organization in town and every individual in this town,” said Meloche.

Dr. Reynolds attacked in Detroit by Dr. E. A. Theller

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles by historian/genealogist Debra Honor regarding the Belle Vue house and its history. Honor is a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)

By Debra Honor UE PLCGS

 

Robert and Thérèse Reynolds of Belle Vue, Amherstburg had five children, four boys and one girl, but only one son survived to adulthood. The fourth child was Robert Todd Reynolds who was born 21 February 1812. His family retreated to Burlington during the War of 1812, and returned to Amherstburg after the peace.

Robert Todd Reynolds went to Montreal for school at the newly opened McGill University where he graduated as a physician with the third graduating class in 1836. Returning home, Dr. Reynolds began his career as one of the doctors serving Fort Malden.

Belle VueWEB

Soon after his return, the country was again in turmoil with the Rebellion of 1837. There was much discontent and fear in this area. Not only was McKenzie causing problems, but “Patriots” from the United States were attacking across the river with the aim of harassing Britain.

One such group, led by Dr. E. A. Theller of Detroit, commandeered the Schooner Anne on January 9, 1838 and attacked Amherstburg, firing upon the fort and the town. The militia and soldiers returned fire disabling the helmsman which caused the Anne to run aground at Elliott’s Point. The militia captured the men on board including Dr. Theller. Dr. Reynolds was tasked with confiscating Dr. Theller’s personal property. Dr. Theller and two others were sent to Quebec where they were to be hanged but Dr. Theller escaped and returned to Detroit.

On Saturday, April 27, 1839, Dr. Reynolds, while visiting in Detroit, was assaulted by Dr. Theller who demanded the return of his personal property. The local paper, “The Detroit Advertiser” reported that Dr. Theller said he was robbed “of his watch, breast-pin and eighty-three dollars in money, besides various papers, at the time he was taken prisoner at the capture of the patriot schooner “Anne”.” The paper continued to report, “Dr. Reynolds is much respected and states that he was acting under the orders of the commanding officer.” A hearing of the case was to happen the next day in Detroit before a Justice of the Peace.

Please support our fundraising campaign. One-hundred per cent of your contribution will be used for restoration of the Belle Vue House. You will receive a full tax receipt and a Belle Vue gift. Visit amherstburg.ca/donate to help us open up Belle Vue once again!

Town council to pursue $1 million grant for Belle Vue restoration

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council voted to pursue up to $1 million in federal funding for the restoration of Belle Vue.

Council voted 3-2 to pursue funding under the National Cost-Sharing Program with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Joan Courtney voting in favour. Councillors Rick Fryer and Leo Meloche were opposed with councillors Jason Lavigne and Diane Pouget having declared conflict of interest.

The grant would provide matching funds with $1 million having to be raised locally in order to procure the grant. Meloche had concerns with that portion of the request and was also concerned about the condition that work had to be completed by March 31, 2018.

CAO John Miceli said he was confident the Belle Vue Conservancy would raise the $1 million necessary. He pointed out the heritage aspects of the building involve the exterior and that no interior work was involved at the present time. He added the first project is to protect the building structure.

The Belle Vue Conservancy has a new logo, designed and donated by local artist Elio Del Col.

The Belle Vue Conservancy has a new logo, designed and donated by local artist Elio Del Col.

“In the grant application, administration has taken a conservative approach in moving the grant application forward for submission. In an effort to capitalize on the program and the available funding and in light of the fact that public consultation on the programming of Belle Vue has not been completed, administration has not included the interior renovations as part of the grant submission,” the report from director of corporate services/treasurer Justin Rousseau and manager of tourism Anne Rota stated. “This was done in an effort to allow for public consultation to occur with the programming space. Administration believes that there is an element of risk associated with the interior renovation as modifications may be required to the interior space once the community has been consulted and that maybe outside the scope of the $2,514,814 estimate provided by Architecturra.”

Meloche added that no tax dollars were to be used on the project and was concerned that the taxpayers could be placed at risk.

Miceli said council had the authority to hold off on applying for the grant but he again voiced confidence in the ability to raise the necessary funds.

“We strongly feel we can meet the criteria of the grant and the eligibility requirements,” he said. “My position was we have a grant on the table and we have a group of committed citizens that will raise the money.”

Courtney said she didn’t see any reason not to pursue the grant funding.

“It’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned,” said Courtney.

Fryer said he was not comfortable with “fronting” the group any money and stated such methods were used in the past without achieving positive results in the end. He believed if the town were to do that, it would leave “a bad taste” in people’s mouths.

Fryer also complained he didn’t receive the report until 2:30 p.m. and suggested that the matter be deferred. DiCarlo replied that the report was posted the previous Friday.

Shirley Curson-Prue, president of the Belle Vue Conservancy, told town council the terms of the group’s partnership with the town includes the town seeking out and making grant applications for funding from all levels of government.

Curson-Prue said the group’s fundraising strategy is to raise $1 million with the expectation being that it would take “about a year.”

“If we are successful, and if you approve of making the Parks Canada application and if the application is approved, we have the potential to raise $2 million to secure the building, which is the phase one target.”

The Belle Vue Conservancy has also launched online fundraising, she added. Corporations and businesses have been contacted with follow-up meetings planned to gain donations for the 2017 tax year.

Curson-Prue told town council the group has raised $36,000 with in-kind contributions totaling an additional $20,000. She added those figures do not include any work on the building that may be completed pro-bono.

Future fundraising activities include a video with DiCarlo, an e-mail campaign, a mail-out with tax bills and the art fundraiser in which Peter Rindlisbacher will creating a painting of the historic mansion.

The Belle Vue Conservancy can be found online at www.bellevueconservancy.com.