Belle Vue

Amherstburg’s veterans’ home: Belle Vue 1946-54

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the tenth in a series of articles regarding the Belle Vue house and its history. Substituting for Debra Honor this month is Paul Hertel. Both are members of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)

 

By Paul Hertel

From 1946 to 1954, Belle Vue served as a veterans’ convalescent home for senior veterans who served in active service for Canada during the Great War, 1914-1918.

As the momentum of World War II shifted towards the Allies after 1943, the Canadian government started thinking about a post-war world, and about new improved services for veterans through the “Veterans Charter”. The past patchwork support for veterans of the Great War was to be remedied. New military hospitals were built with extended physical and emotional rehab support programming to serve returning vets from World War II. As wounded World War II veterans began to overload London’s Westminster hospital services, Belle Vue Veterans’ Home became a new Ontario destination of care for senior veterans of World War 1. As stated publically by an official, “this home will care for veterans who need a home more than active medical care…It will be something of a home for wornout veterans….”

What is the veterans’ home story at Belle Vue? On January 24, 1944, Amherstburg town council passed a resolution supporting the acquisition of the John G. Mullens family Belle Vue property for a convalescent home. On June 12, 1946 the purchase of the property by the Canadian government concluded for the price of $50,000.

A Legion Flag Presentation Ceremony took place at Belle Vue Sunday May 15 1949. The flag was donated by Great Lakes Command branch of Canadian Legion. Foreground (from left): H. Boase, Commander of District 1 Canadian Legion; A.E. Potter, original Belle Vue veteran, chair of patients committee; J. Earl McQueen. Background: Belle Vue veterans. The Belle Vue flag pole was originally part of the decommissioned Corvette K176 Kamloops. It was donated and installed by J. Earl McQueen Marine in mid-November 1947.
(Photo courtesy of the Marsh Historical Collection)

Major Gavin A. Greig was appointed the administrator, moved to Amherstburg, and began to ready the site for occupation by veterans, including the hiring of local personnel. Greig and his wife had a separate residence on site, a white two-storey frame house which still exists. Greig contributed to the public life of the town during his tenure, serving on a civil defence committee, a war memorial site committee, legion liaison, and as a service club member.

The home accepted the transfer of eleven veterans on July 29 1947. A formal opening ceremony followed on August 9, 1947. The residents annually selected their own home committee to offer opinions and recommendations to the administration. Local legion branches in Amherstburg and Essex County provided support through entertainment, and Christmas cheer. Summer time events included musical concerts.

The spike in Canada’s post-war veterans’ services declined dramatically by the mid-1950s. Consolidation and downsizing became the order of the day for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and included Belle Vue. With little advance public notice, the home was formally closed in October 1954. All remaining veteran residents were relocated to the Westminster hospital site in London. The property was then declared surplus and sold.

Who were “the old sweats,” the veterans who made Belle Vue their home? The Belle Vue Conservancy supports historical research into the veterans’ home years to fill a gap in the history of the heritage site. On-going research for family records, photos, and stories is now occurring. This knowledge adds Canadian military and institutional provenance to the building and the site.

One research strand includes the names and final resting places of these veterans. Amherstburg’s Rose Hill Cemetery and Windsor Grove Cemetery are the final resting place for some “old sweats”.

As we prepare for Remembrance Day this year, the “old sweats” of Belle Vue should be included in our thoughts.

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 or visit www.bellevueconservancy.com for more information!

 

 

Belle Vue Conservancy gives update to town council

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Belle Vue Conservancy has given town council an update on their progress.

Conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue appeared before town council at the Sept. 25 meeting to give elected officials, administration and the public more information on what has been collected through donations and other fundraising.

The information regarding cash-on-hand was as of Sept. 14 with that information showing that $115,946.23 had been received. A breakdown of that figure showed that $9,045 was collected through online donations while $60,936 came in through cheques. Other sources of revenue factored into the overall total included the $5,200 made from the WSO “Leading Notes” concert at Christ Church, the $8,000 raised from “Golf Birdies and Bogies” golf tournament and the $28,000-plus won in the National Trust for Canada’s “This Place Matters” online crowdfunding contest.

Other revenue collected by the Belle Vue Conservancy includes $9,861.80 in in-kind donations receipted, $5,049.20 from their recent yard sale, $90,600 in donation commitments and roughly $25,000 from the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” fashion gala at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.

Belle Vue Conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue (left) addresses town council as treasurer Michael Prue holds the painting of Belle Vue done by artist Peter Rindlisbacher.

Curson-Prue pointed out additional funds will be raised through the sale of prints of Peter Rindlisbacher’s painting of the building and future fundraising efforts. She indicated there is a grant they are looking at applying for but noted the application deadline is Oct. 6.

Curson-Prue thanked the donors, town and River Town Times for their assistance in fundraising, and noted that the funds raised thus far could be put to use. She shared a motion from the conservancy’s Sept. 11 meeting which requested that money raised and deposited with the Amherstburg Community Foundation be used to repair the roof, clean out and repair eavestroughs, install solar lighting and cameras to deter trespassers, remove asbestos, repair “targeted windows” using $10,000 of the “This Place Matters” prize money, utilize pro bono cleanup and allow monthly cleanup of the grounds by staff and volunteers.

Councillor Joan Courtney praised the work of the conservancy and said they are working “non stop” on trying to restore the 200-year-old building.

“What you’ve achieved already is awe-inspiring,” said Curson-Prue.

Later in the meeting, concern was brought forth by residents about a possible roadway to Belle Vue from Sandwich St. S. CAO John Miceli said the roadway is conceptual at this point and that it has not been formally approved by council.

Miceli indicated that local projects, including Belle Vue, have to be looked at for what is good for the community as a whole. He added that the parking lot just south of the police station is still required for municipal business and that while it needs to be paved to live up to municipal bylaws, the site itself is not designated historical.

“The attractions that would have made it a heritage site were removed in the 1960’s,” said Miceli.

Belle Vue has a history of exceptional gardens

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the ninth 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

 

Since Belle Vue was first built in 1819, the gardens on the property were well known as being exceptional.

Robert Reynolds, the first owner, had a good reputation as a gardener and farmer. In 1840, as a Justice of the Peace, he carried a petition with 64 names to the House of Assembly to ask, “that the articles essential for the promotion of agriculture may be admitted free of duty, and a higher duty imposed on foreign produce.”

In 1841, at a dinner for Colonel John Prince, a toast was made to Robert Reynolds. This included “his activity and intelligence as a Magistrate, and his worth as a private gentleman, and on his skill as an agriculturalist.”

The Chairman of the Kent Agricultural Society commented on Robert Reynolds as being “known far and wide as an enthusiastic horticulturist and floriculturist farmer, as well as one of the most cultured and accomplished gentlemen.”

When William Johnston advertised the sale of Belle Vue in 1884, he described the farm as:

“[The house] is 125 feet front and 50 feet deep, the kitchen being built at the side of the house the rear opens directly into the garden which is well stocked with every variety of the choicest grafted fruit trees and nearly every variety of grapes trained or trellised and arbors; there are two orchards one old and the other fast coming into bearing, having the best grafted varieties; there are several brick outbuildings, including a dairy, smoke house, tool house, workshops, house for farmer or gardener – coach house which is very large and roomy, arranged for five horses, while the hay loft holds about 20 tons of hay; cow stable, piggery, ice house (filled) poultry house and other minor buildings and improvements, including an excellent well; the grounds are laid out in appropriate shape, and artistically planted with ornamental trees comprised of crab, honey, locust, mountain ash, horse chestnut, walnut, maple, evergreen and climbing vines.”

The Mullen family in the 1930’s kept up the gardens with the help of gardeners, John Jones and Peter Stokes. In 1935, the Mullen family invited several summer residents from Amherst Point to view the gardens. “Needless to say, this invitation is to be taken advantage of quite soon.”

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 or visit www.bellevueconservancy.com for more information!

Amherstburg police make two separate arrests regarding outstanding warrants

 

A 26-year-old Harrow was arrested and turned over to LaSalle police after being observed in Amherstburg.

The Amherstburg Police Service states the man was wanted on outstanding warrants. The warrants were related to a previous impaired driving charge, failing to comply with conditions, and failing to attend court.

The arrest was made Sept. 25 around 3 p.m.

  • As a result of a traffic stop last Wednesday night at St Arnaud and Sandwich St., a  24-year-old Amherstburg male arrested for outstanding warrants for failing to comply with recognizance and failing to attend court. The traffic stop took place around 10 p.m.

 

Thefts   Amherstburg police say that sometime on Sept. 14, a bicycle was stolen from Amherstburg Home Health at 433 Sandwich St. S. between 8-10 a.m. The bike is a blue female mountain bike with fenders and a yellow bell.

It was reported stolen Sept. 25.

 

Found bike   Amherstburg police say a red and white men’s mountain bike was found on the Cypher Systems Greenway near Thomas Road. The owner is unknown at this time. It was found Sept. 26 at 8:45 a.m.

 

RIDE   A RIDE program was conducted last Friday (Sept. 29) with 350 vehicles checked, one test issued and no infractions.

 

Attempted break-in   Amherstburg police say two female youths were attempting to break into Belle Vue Sept. 26 around 5 p.m. The females were transported home to their parents.

 

No parking   Amherstburg police say the north side of Whelan Ave is now a posted no parking zone.  Those found parking on the north side of the road are now subject top being ticketed.

 

Stats   There were 254 calls for service last week with 74 traffic related charges laid.

—All information courtesy of the Amherstburg Police Service

Belle Vue Conservancy brings community together with yard sale

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Over the weekend, the front lawn of Belle Vue was filled with old teacups, paintings, jewelry and other donated things by the community to assist the Belle Vue conservancy in raising more money for the restoration.

The Sept. 16-17 yard sale at Belle Vue raised $5,049.20.

“We put forward a notice to the community to ask them to please donate because we wanted to do this as a fundraiser for Belle Vue and we were absolutely thrilled at the number of people that brought things to us and the number of things that they brought,” explained conservancy member Shirley Curson-Prue. “We had really excellent response to that which made us very happy and then we set it up most of Thursday and Friday, and then started the sale this morning.”

Curson-Prue explained how some donations didn’t even make it to the sales floor, but instead will be going right into the house. One was a pump organ, which Curson-Prue said was in pristine condition and it more than 100 years old. Another item was a press machine, which was used in the 1930s by servants in big houses to press the tablecloths.

The Sept. 16-17 yard sale at Belle Vue raised $5,049.20.

The conservancy would like to thank everyone who not only donated items, but who came out to the yard sale and purchased items and made donations.

The Belle Vue Conservancy posted on its Facebook page Tuesday evening, after the Sept. 13 print issue of the River Town Times went to press, that the yard sale raised $5,049.20.

Their next event is the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” fashion gala at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery Sept. 24. For information, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com.