Belle Vue

Doll museum makes $20,000 donation towards Belle Vue restoration

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Shaanti International Museum of Costumes and Dolls has stepped forward to help the Belle Vue Conservancy.

The doll museum, which is currently operating out of the Malden Community & Cultural Centre located at 7860 County Road 20, officially presented a cheque for $20,000 to the conservancy last Thursday morning on Belle Vue’s front porch.

The donation is the first under the conservancy’s sponsorship program and the $20,000 will result in a window being named for the Shaanti International Museum of Costumes and Dolls.

Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, said the donation from the doll museum has been the largest to date and hopes it inspires other individuals and companies to step forward.

“This property can be restored to the way it was,” said Prue. “It won’t take very long with donations like this.”

The Palladian-style architecture is rare in Canada, with Prue citing a Nova Scotia government building as the only other example.

The Shaantii International Museum of Costumes and Dolls made a $20,000 donation to the Belle Vue Conservancy last Thursday and will get naming rights to a window. From left: Conservancy treasurer Michael Prue, Conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue, museum secretary/treasurer Raj Varma, museum board member Nancy Morand, museum vice president Ivan Robich and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale.

The Shaantii International Museum of Costumes and Dolls made a $20,000 donation to the Belle Vue Conservancy last Thursday and will get naming rights to a window. From left: Conservancy treasurer Michael Prue, Conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue, museum secretary/treasurer Raj Varma, museum board member Nancy Morand, museum vice president Ivan Robich and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale.

“I am looking forward to the day (Belle Vue) is open to the public and we can say with extreme pride that we are from Amherstburg and we’ve been able to do this,” he said.

“We’re making strides. We’re just not making huge strides yet,” said Shirley Curson-Prue, the president of the conservancy.

Other fundraisers are in the works, Curson-Prue noted, and said artist Peter Rindlisbacher is working on the painting that will hang in the Belle Vue and be reproduced for public sale. Rindlisbacher’s involvement was announced last year.

More donations are in the works, she added, but can’t be announced just yet.

The doll museum raised its money largely through bingos and Raj Varma, secretary/treasurer with the museum, indicated they would like to see Belle Vue as a “destination point in Amherstburg.”

Their own museum contains rare dolls and costumes with Varma stating “the museum is very unique in North America.” The collection features dolls from all over the globe with board vice president Ivan Robich adding the collection is valued at $500,000.

“A lot of the dolls have come from private collections,” said Robich.

The Shaanti International Museum of Costumes and Dolls came to Amherstburg with the assistance of the town’s tourism department after several stops in Windsor. Robich believes it was a “Godsend” they were able to located at the Malden Community & Cultural Centre, which is also known as “the Little White Church.”

Nancy Morand, a director with the museum’s board, added her belief that the relationship has been “mutually beneficial” to the town and the museum. It is open Saturdays from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. during the Amherstburg Farmers Market season, which starts this Saturday. The museum is also open for private tours by calling 519-839-4237.

The doll museum could have some sort of presence at Belle Vue, through an exhibit or a display, but the future use of the property still appears to be focused on a conference centre type facility. Public consultation is yet to come with future uses to be discussed during those talks.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale thanked the doll museum for its donation.

“It’s donations like these that bring us closer to opening Belle Vue,” said DiPasquale. “We hope this encourages others to make donations so we can open these doors as soon as possible.”

Belle Vue through the hands of the property owners – Part 2

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth 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 next owner was Perry B. Leighton who was a farmer, real estate agent and amateur archeologist. He bought the property on 4 Apr. 1887. He used one of the new big rooms as his personal museum where he showed off his collection of Indian artifacts and guns. Perry Leighton died in 1905 but his wife, Mary Jane Tofflemire Leighton lived in the house until she sold it on Dec. 7, 1925 to Isabella H. Mullen, the wife of John G. Mullen. The Mullen family had lived in the Gordon House for 45 years before moving into Belle Vue.

Pictured is a piece of Perry Leighton’s  collection. (Photo courtesy of the Marsh Historical Collection)

Pictured is a piece of Perry Leighton’s collection. (Photo courtesy of the Marsh Historical Collection)

The Mullens spent three years renovating the home almost back to its original appearance in the again popular Georgian style. John G. Mullen, who ran the Mullen Coal Company, did not live long to enjoy the property. He died in 1930. Mrs. Mullen stayed on at Belle Vue until her death in May 1944 at the age of 90 years.

The Mullen family sold the property to the Government on June 1, 1946 to become a convalescence home for WWI veterans. Local Legions in the area lobbied for the government to acquire the property for this purpose. They also helped to entertain the veterans. But the project was short lived as the government consolidated their hospitals in London, Ontario. In September 1954 Bellevue Veterans Home closed and the patients were bused to London.

Mrs. Nellie Tetzlaff tried to operate Belle Vue as a nursing home but due to ill health failed and the property reverted to the government. The house lay empty for seven years.

Belle Vue was also a veteran's home at one point in its 200-year history. (Photo courtesy of the Marsh Historical Collection)

Belle Vue was also a veteran’s home at one point in its 200-year history. (Photo courtesy of the Marsh Historical Collection)

Through the efforts of Richard Thrasher, MP, Essex South and Eugene Whelan, Warden of Essex County, the Belle Vue property was sold on Oct. 18, 1961 to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Their opening Ceremony was held on June 3, 1962. The church owned the property for about 42 years but with declining numbers, the property was sold to a numbered company.

The house has sat empty and unused since 2003. Heritage Canada called it “demolition by neglect.” Because of the lobbying of many concerned citizens, the Town of Amherstburg heard their voices and bought the property on Nov. 14, 2016 to develop a park and restore the house.

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!

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!

Warden promotes collaboration at recent luncheon

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The tenth annual Warden’s Luncheon was held recently with collaboration being a major focus.

Warden Tom Bain addressed the crowd at the Ciociaro Club with the event being presented by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Bain, also the mayor of Lakeshore, noted that he was moved after hearing a presentation at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association Conference.

“The presenter was Doug Griffiths, a former elected official at the municipal and provincial levels in Alberta, who now specializes in providing strategic community development advice to governments, not-for-profit organizations and even private sector companies. The name of his presentation was ‘Thirteen Ways to Kill Your Community.’”

Bain said that Griffiths “provided inspiration” on how communities can work both independently and together to build stronger, more resilient communities.

“We cannot, or should not, depend solely upon senior levels of government to make our community successful,” said Bain. “Governments will change, priorities will change, philosophies will change and programs and funding will change. What remains constant? What we have to offer locally remains constant — our people, our assets and our resources.”

The warden said that the people of Essex County continually show the ability to deliver “world class solutions” to opportunities or adversity that the region has faced.

“It remains our collective responsibility, working collaboratively, and even on occasion in competition with each other, to make Essex County a pre-eminent destination to live, learn, work, play, invest and visit,” said Bain. “Ideas must continue to be exchanged and nurtured for norms to be poked at and success achieved.”

Essex County will spend $40 million this year to expand and/or maintain the county’s road network, Bain stated. The county is also contributing towards the proposed new mega-hospital project and is working on the SWIFT project, the latter being one to bring fibreoptic Internet service to the region. The county is also committed to helping the most vulnerable in each of the seven communities, providing resources to ensure Essex-Windsor EMS can meet their needs, and supporting physician recruitment.

Bain also highlighted “strategic investments” that either have or will be made to “improve the lives of residents.” He picked out at least one for every county municipality with the warden mentioning Amherstburg’s purchase of both the Duffy’s and Belle Vue properties. Bain said the “key strategic acquisitions of the Belle Vue House and the former Duffy’s Tavern will allow Amherstburg to continue to showcase and commemorate its rich history and sense of place.”

“The role of government is to develop the foundations for communities to build upon. However, we need to be keenly aware that constructing these foundations is not accomplished in a sprint,” the warden continued. “Some will say it is a marathon. I tend to liken it to a relay race in which the baton is constantly passed along.”

Teamwork is “essential” to the prosperity of every community, Bain stated.

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“This may sound silly, but to preserve the status quo, that is keeping what we cherish as a community, we must be prepared to allow and embrace change,” said Bain. “Without change, our status quo is at risk. We must be truthful to ourselves by ‘connecting the dots,’ by trying to understand and appreciate how decisions and actions of today will affect the aspirations of tomorrow.”

Retaining youth is important, he believed, but said today’s young people are convinced by deeds, and not words.

“If our community advertises it is prepared to train, encourage, mentor and connect, we best be

prepared to deliver. Actions will speak far louder than words,” said Bain. “As change permeates our community, one of the most important changes we can collectively make is one of attitude. New ideas, new approaches and new paradigms are likely to make us uncomfortable. We will need to welcome and support the new found creativity and innovation our youth are sure to bring.”

Furthering his theme of collaboration, Bain said that “borders shouldn’t be used to keep us apart” and that “we live in a regional economy with many sub-components.” He noted Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) is working to highlight the area and its attractions and the the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) also has several projects on the go for 2017, including the official opening of the Cypher Systems Greenway that connects Essex and Amherstburg.

Bain did see “storm clouds” on the horizon, due to positions taken by U.S. President Donald Trump that include a border tax on imports into the U.S., an impending renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), an “America First” policy, particularly with respect to the auto industry and “a general thickening of the Canada/U.S. border, slowing the flow of goods and creating confusion for local residents working in the U.S.”

“Changes to our trading relationship with the U.S. are no doubt coming, with the nature, extent and timing yet to be determined,” said Bain. “Both the Canadian and Ontario governments continue to work closely with their U.S. counterparts to demonstrate the substantial mutual benefits and value that accrue from Canada/U.S. trade. The impact upon our local economy remains to be seen.”

Windsor-Essex has “sturdy foundations” and said the area’s business community is innovative, adaptive and creative.

“If I know anything about Essex County and its residents, it is that what at first may appear to be a problem will quickly be converted into a new opportunity,” said Bain. “Through teamwork, embracing our youth, and welcoming fresh, new ideas, I have every confidence that Essex County determination, attitude and passion will turn challenges into silver linings, and not allow silver linings to become problems. The biggest misstep we can make is to allow possibility and potential to slip through our grasp.”

 

 

CAO outlines town’s economic development goals at ACOC awards

 

By Jonathan Martin

Amherstburg’s CAO has outlined the town’s conceptual plan for the site of the former Duffy’s Tavern and Motor Inn and also talked about the Belle Vue property.

Addressing a dining room full of local business owners at Friday’s 2017 business excellence awards, CAO John Miceli also went over how council plans to improve the town’s infrastructure.

The Town of Amherstburg closed on the acquisition of Duffy’s Feb. 14. According to Miceli, the town issued a tender for the site’s demolition March 28. He said the town hopes to have the land cleared of buildings by mid or late June.

This spring, Miceli said town hall plans to hold public consultation meetings to “confirm the community’s wishes as it relates to the Duffy’s site.”

Miceli said the estimated budget for the development of the project is $6 million.

“This, friends, is exciting,” he said. “It will be the premiere community gathering place in the region.”

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Belle Vue is considered a “crown jewel” of Amherstburg, says CAO John Miceli

As it stands, the plan includes a central plaza to accommodate events, a wharf to dock ships, fishing spots, a boat ramp, a service building with washrooms and concessions, an event area with supporting infrastructure and a waterfront amphitheatre.

Miceli added, “I believe that, should we develop the conceptual plan as tabled, council and this community will have a waterfront unmatched to anyone in this region and our waterfront will serve as an economic engine for our community.”

Belle Vue will also be an “economic engine,” he said. The restoration of the 200-year-old town-owned mansion on Dalhousie St. will cost in the neighbourhood of $3 million with it being about $9 million to develop the entire property as proposed by the municipality.

“Belle Vue, in my opinion, is a crown jewel of this community,” the chief administrative officer told the crowd of nearly 200 people at Pointe West Golf Club.

Miceli pointed out the Belle Vue Conservancy is in the process of fundraising with a goal of $1 million.

He said that town hall is in talks with consultants about the creation of a community improvement plan (CIP) and the establishment of urban design dialogues.

A CIP is a municipal planning and development tool put out by the provincial government. Ultimately, its implementation would allow the town to offer tax incentives to assist in the development of properties within the area designated by the plan.

“Our goal will be to provide initiatives that will assist in creating a climate that will result in a new hotel,” said Miceli. “A new hotel in the town of Amherstburg. That is what your community wants; that is what your council wants to deliver.”

Miceli also spoke about phase 8b of Kingsbridge, referring to a zoning by-law that was passed March 20 allowing 55 single-family dwellings to be developed east of Knobb Hill Dr. and north of McLellan Ave.

He said Meadow View Estates, set to be built on the corner of Simcoe St. and Meloche Rd., will be developed in phases and result in an additional 142 residential units.

“The town has taken steps to improve our relationships with developers,” Miceli said. “We are now working together to make Amherstburg a community of choice for development. As you know, without development we can have no growth and without growth we cannot sustain our current service levels.”

PowerPoint Presentation

The town’s concept plan for the Duffy’s property was discussed by Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) John  Miceli as part of the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards. The banquet took place Friday night at Pointe West Golf Club.

The town has capacity at the new wastewater plant for approximately 50,000 people, he said.

Miceli reminded listeners that the town is in the process of collecting data related to internet services through a survey that can be accessed on the town’s website. The information will be used “to apply for grants and hopefully build a business plan for council to consider” regarding the improvement of rural internet infrastructure.

As he stepped down from the podium, he challenged the local business community, asking them what they thought they could do to “to seize their opportunity to create economic development in this community.”