Belle Vue

Painters in the Reynolds Family

 

By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS

 

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

Among the children of Thomas and Jean Reynolds, were two daughters, Margaret and Catherine Reynolds. They never married, but they have become famous as painters.

Margaret Reynolds was born in Scotland in 1765. She was the oldest child of this family. Catherine Reynolds was born in Detroit, Quebec in 1784 as the youngest child. (Detroit was part of the Province of Quebec after 1760 when the British took over New France, until 1796, when it was handed over to the United States of America.) Therefore, Catherine has been named Canada’s earliest Canadian born female artist. Both women are recognized now for their artistic talent. Until recently, Catherine was considered the sole artist.

(Special to the RTT)

The discovery to the contrary was made in the 1980’s when the painting “View of Amherstburg 1812”, which had been attributed to Catherine, was restored and cleaned revealing the signature “Margaret Reynolds.” Art historians have since revisited the paintings and are attributing some to Margaret and some to Catherine.

The Royal Ontario Museum has a painting by Catherine Reynolds of the Amherstburg waterfront about 1850 from the same vantage point as the 1812 painting. Fort Malden N. H. S. had an artist paint a copy of this painting for use as a backdrop in an exhibit, which has now been installed on the back wall of the Amherstburg Town Council Chamber for everyone to admire.

We know Catherine did the paintings of Belle Vue from the back and the painting of the house called Stowe which belonged to her brother, Ebenezer. She sent these to her brother, Thomas Augustus in England to show their prosperity in Canada.

Margaret and Catherine may not have been formally taught in school to draw but with their father’s position, they would have had contact with military officers who were trained in art. Margaret’s paintings are more apt to be true life scenes. Catherine as well did true life scenes but also paintings in which she copied prints her father was able to provide.

(Special to the RTT)

Their skill truly shows in all the paintings that have been discovered.

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!

For more information on the Belle Vue Conservancy and its upcoming events, please visit www.bellevueconservancy.com.

Mayor gives update into Belle Vue fundraising issue

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo is trying to provide more information as to issues regarding Belle Vue fundraising, starting with where money for a study came from.

Town council discussed Belle Vue as part of a two-hour in-camera meeting after the regular meeting of council had ended Monday night, with Belle Vue fundraising being one of the in-camera agenda items. DiCarlo said “there will likely be more coming forward” as it relates to Belle Vue, but did emphasize the $12,000 earmarked for the Crown Park Corporation is not coming from the taxpayers.

“I think the taxpayers have to know this is not taxpayer money,” said DiCarlo.

The $12,000 comes through the Amherstburg Community Foundation, which DiCarlo said is donor money. The Amherstburg Community Foundation (ACF) has been around since 2009, he added, noting that another recent project it was involved with was the resurfacing of the Miracle League field.

“The ACF has been an open body,” he said.

Work is continuing on the new roof at Belle Vue. (Photo by Paul Hertel)

DiCarlo said he was unaware that there were those that were unfamiliar with the organization and said that there was no intent to keep things quiet.

“The ACF is not a secret society at this point,” he stated.

According to DiCarlo, the Crown Park Corporation was brought in to perform one duty, with that duty being identified two weeks ago as being a study.

“The Crown Park Corporation was contracted out for a very specific task,” the mayor stated. “That task has been completed. Where we go from here is up to the Amherstburg Community Foundation.”

The Belle Vue Conservancy has been raising funds to refurbish the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion and whether they remain the primary fundraisers is up to the conservancy, the mayor stated. He added the town remains open to grants and other sources of funding as they try to get the property and building restored.

“I guess we’ll see how it unfolds,” he said.

More information on the Belle Vue Conservancy can be found at www.bellevueconservancy.com while donations to the Amherstburg Community Foundation, the town’s fundraising arm, can be made at www.amherstburg.ca/donate. The conservancy’s funds that have been raised during the last two years have been subsequently turned over to the town and its foundation.

Town receives $100,000 grant for Belle Vue roof

 

By RTT Staff

The Town of Amherstburg will be receiving funding of up to $100,000 from Parks Canada towards the conservation of Belle Vue National Historic Site of Canada.

The town stated the funds, which come from Parks Canada’s National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places, are slated for Belle Vue’s roof restoration.

An employee from Robertson Restoration works on the roof at Belle Vue. (Photo by Paul Hertel/Belle Vue Conservancy)

The town announced the grant via a press release issued Tuesday morning.

Robertson Restoration was awarded the tender bid and has begun the refurbishment. The house dates back to 1816 with the roof made of copper and cedar shingles.

The roof project is estimated at $283,400 which includes architectural consultation and drawings.

The remainder of funds have been raised by the Belle Vue Conservancy. For more information on that group, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com.

“Belle Vue is an important symbol of Canada’s identity and traditions, says CAO John Miceli. “Conserving this treasured place benefits not only the immediate community, but all Canadians.”

 

Questions and tempers raised as fundraising expenditure discussed

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A question over an accounts payable to the Crown Park Corporation that was labelled for Belle Vue fundraising sparked a contentious debate Monday night.

Town council allowed Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, to speak and Prue questioned a few Belle Vue related expenses, with most of them being connected to the ongoing roof construction. When he got to the line about the Crown Park Corporation, he expressed curiosity and told council “we don’t pay for any fundraising.”

CAO John Miceli, after conferring with treasurer Justin Rousseau, said it was not actually for the Belle Vue fundraising but rather a planning study for the Amherstburg Community Foundation for fundraising efforts for all town initiatives.

Miceli said the study looks at raising money for town endeavors without having to rely on going to the taxpayers. A $6,000 payment was listed under the accounts payable section but the CAO indicated it was a $12,000 report.

“There are two payments of $6,000 to tell us how to fundraise?” asked Councillor Jason Lavigne, who also wanted to know who is on the foundation, when they meet and whether council can see minutes of their meetings.

Rousseau indicated the Amherstburg Community Foundation is a “holding account” and that money is reimbursed by the foundation for any cheques the town cuts. He said taxpayer money wasn’t used on the study.

“Who supported the $12,000 is the question,” Lavigne pressed. “Who paid the $12,000 for the study? I think we all want to know.”

Miceli said there are efforts being made to “accelerate” fundraising and that now “we have a study that will help us.” He said that funds raised by the foundation may be used for Belle Vue but research has shown that not all donors want to donate to Belle Vue and those donors may want to give funds to other projects.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said both himself and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale sit on the foundation.

Councillor Diane Pouget wondered if Crown Park Corporation had been hired by the foundation and Miceli said the foundation hadn’t hired anyone. The study was done in order to raise more money for the foundation, with the CAO adding the Belle Vue Conservancy has done a “great job raising money” but other avenues wanted to be explored by the foundation.

Prue emphasized he spoke up because he didn’t understand the fundraising expenditure.

“We’re fundraising for nothing,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he recalled getting updates when the Libro Centre was being built on the fundraising process.

Pouget said she called earlier Monday and was told by Rousseau it was for Belle Vue, and was upset with the responses she was getting at the meeting.

“I expect the treasurer to tell us the truth,” she said. “I am asking on behalf of the constituents.”
Rousseau said he had yet to review the document, and gave Pouget the most accurate information he had when she called.

“I gave you the best information I had this morning,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “If that has fallen short, I apologize.”

Administration is expected to give council more details on the matter at an upcoming meeting.

More ideas come in on what to do with the Belle Vue property

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

More ideas have been floated as the town held a second public meeting on what to do with the Belle Vue property.

About 25 people attended last Tuesday night’s meeting at the Libro Centre with more people from the general public attending this meeting than the first one held seven days earlier.

Similar to the May 29 meeting, attendees were told that as of May 31, the Belle Vue Conservancy had raised $210,000 in cash, had nearly $18,000 in in-kind contributions and another $65,000 in future cash pledges.

“We are starting phase one, which is the repairing of the roof,” said CAO John Miceli. “We’re trying to make it water-tight.”

Miceli praised the conservancy, stating they have done a good job raising money. Renderings depicts such things as gardens, brick pathways, a greenhouse, conference meeting centre, lighting, a bandshell and other amenities but the door has been left open for other ideas. Miceli said nothing has been adopted by council.

“It is an incredible property to be placed here in Amherstburg,” said Miceli. “We took a blank canvas and created something our community could enjoy as well as our region.”

Historian Robert Honor, who is also a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy, gave a history of the 200-year-old home from the time it was built by Robert Reynolds in 1816-19 through its various private owners, to its time as a veterans’ home and then as St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church. The church sold the property in 2000. The town bought it in 2016.

“Belle Vue seems to tell a story of people starting new adventures,” said Honor. “Belle Vue might be considered a symbol of new beginnings and new prosperity.”
Honor added that “as we speak, we are also part of the process of new beginnings as we discuss the future of Belle Vue.”

One of the renderings shown at the two recent public meetings shows the elevations of the historic building once Belle Vue is restored.

John McDonald said the fundraising process could be assisted if people could use the grounds. He suggested teaming with the Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society to spruce up the nine-acre site, with the first priority being to put in trees.

Use of the property could “build public momentum,” McDonald said, adding that such things as church picnics could be held on the grounds under a permit system.

The chief administrative officer replied that there are currently liability issues with Belle Vue as the site needs to be graded to make it safer. He did note that it is in the parks master plan. There is also no irrigation on the grounds to help water any plant materials at the current time.

The greenhouse that is proposed would allow the town to grown and maintain its own plant materials, he envisioned.

Councillor Leo Meloche spoke on the conference centre idea with Miceli indicating that the historic building could house smaller conferences while larger conferences could be held in a new building that could be built behind the home.

Meloche added the parks and gardens will take Belle Vue “to another level” but was hoping for minimal operating costs to run it, also hoping that would be self-sustaining.

Bob Rozankovic questioned whether the site could be self-sustaining with Miceli responding that the town would seek partnerships in running the site. He was confident it would be cost-neutral, envisioning that Belle Vue would be a destination that people from the region would want to book and attend.

A proposed look at what the Belle Vue property would look like.

Miceli added that a business model would have to be built but emphasized his belief Belle Vue could become a popular place in Amherstburg for residents and visitors alike.

“It’s a unique venue,” said Miceli. “There’s nothing like it.”

The CAO added it is “a totally different look and feel” than Willistead Manor in Windsor and believed there would be more amenities should Belle Vue be restored.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau agreed that there could be “a lot of uptake for bookings” at a restored Belle Vue and “that type of revenue stream” and that type of revenue could prove fruitful for the town.

Using the home as a bed and breakfast was floated but Miceli said they would have to work with a private operator to run it, should the town want to go in that direction. He said there could be an announcement soon as it relates to a hotel coming to Amherstburg.

Marc Renaud said relationships have to be built with the community to help get the site restored. He said the ongoing roof replacement shows there is activity at the site.

“It’s about donor. Money that will make the place run,” he said.

As for a timeline, Miceli said that is tough to give since the restoration depends on fundraising dollars. Should donors step up and grants come in, the actual construction process could take 18 months to three years on the home itself while the grounds could take approximately eight months to complete, according to the CAO.

Miceli said news about a federal grant could be coming soon.

“We are applying to every opportunity that comes along,” he said.

Paul Hertel, another member of the conservancy, recalled being on town council when King’s Navy Yard Park was created. He believed it is now a reflection of the community’s desire for growth, and that Belle Vue could turn into the same thing.

“I feel Amherstburg has great potential and energy to grow,” he said. “It takes a whole community to raise its collective conscience of who we are and the space we are blessed to occupy. I have great faith the process will be successful. It’s not a one-term project. It’s a life journey.”

An image of what a restored Belle Vue would look like, according to renderings by Architectura.

Miceli said the Belle Vue project and the project proposed for the Duffy’s property are among the most exciting he has dealt with in his 28-year municipal career.

“They are game-changers for the town,” he said.

The Belle Vue Conservancy’s next fundraiser is “All That Jazz for Belle Vue,” which is an event that includes a dinner and a show. It’s planned for June 25 at the Artisan Grill. Tickets are $80 per person and are available at the Artisan Grill, Amherstburg Freedom Museum or by calling Shirley Curson-Prue at 519-736-6947. The entertainment includes Renee King-Jackson and her Fabulous Foursome. It runs from 6-10 p.m.

For more information on future events or on the Belle Vue Conservancy, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com. To donate, people can visit www.amherstburg.ca/donate.

Belle Vue is located at 525 Dalhousie St. in Amherstburg.