Michael Prue

Uncle’s love of history, roots at Belle Vue led to $100,000 donation

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The contracts have been officially signed and the cheque has been officially turned over.

The $100,000 cheque presentation from the Gatfield Family Foundation to the Belle Vue Conservancy took place on the front porch of Belle Vue last Friday morning. The donation was made by brothers John and Joe Gatfield, nephews of the late Father Ted Gatfield, and trustee with the BMO trust Lisa Mazurek with a main floor dining room to be named for the foundation.

It was originally announced last week.

“This is something that meant a lot to our uncle,” said John.

John added that one of the missions of the foundation is to preserve Amherstburg’s history, adding there is also a family connection to Belle Vue through Father Ted’s great-great grandfather.

The Gatfield Family Foundation made its $100,000  donation official last Friday morning. From left: CAO John Miceli, trustee with BMO Lisa Mazurek, John Gatfield, Belle Vue Conservancy director of  corporate outreach Linda Jackson and Joe Gatfield.

The Gatfield Family Foundation made its $100,000
donation official last Friday morning. From left: CAO John Miceli, trustee with BMO Lisa Mazurek, John Gatfield, Belle Vue Conservancy director of
corporate outreach Linda Jackson and Joe Gatfield.

“The Gatfield family has been in Amherstburg forever, so it seems,” he said. “We, as a family, are very pleased to help out.”
Noting that Father Ted would tell stories of playing as a child at Belle Vue, John said “we think he’d be very pleased that we are doing this.”

Members of the Belle Vue Conservancy and town administration were smiling before, during and after the presentation and John said their uncle would be pleased with that.

“He’d be happy to see the smiles on everyone’s faces here,” said John. “He’s smiling as well.”

John said they heard about Belle Vue and the goal of restoring it and the foundation discussed helping out. That led to a meeting with conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue, treasurer Michael Prue and corporate outreach chair Linda Jackson. That meeting led to the Gatfield Family Foundation wanting “to do our part” to help save the 200-year-old town-owned Dalhousie St. mansion.

John Miceli, Amherstburg’s chief administrative officer (CAO), said that town council adopted a community strategic plan in the summer of 2016 which provided strategic direction for the town based on a community shared vision.

“Belle Vue was a key consideration identified by our residents in developing that shared vision,” said Miceli. “The historical and cultural significance of this tremendous property was recognized by our community and identified as a pillar of investment going forward.

The CAO stated that Belle Vue is “part of our past, our present and our future” and expressed thanks to the Gatfield family for the $100,000 donation.

John Gatfield, Joe Gatfield and trustee Lisa Mazurek sign the contracts which officially transferred $100,000 from the Gatfield Family Foundation to the Belle Vue Conservancy. The conservancy raises funds on behalf of the town of Amherstburg to restore Belle Vue, the historic home at 525 Dalhousie St.

John Gatfield, Joe Gatfield and trustee Lisa Mazurek sign the contracts which officially transferred $100,000 from the Gatfield Family Foundation to the Belle Vue Conservancy. The conservancy raises funds on behalf of the town of Amherstburg to restore Belle Vue, the historic home at 525 Dalhousie St.

“We are writing a new chapter in the story of Amherstburg and Belle Vue will play an important part in this novel to come,” said Miceli. “This partnership between the Gatfield Family Foundation, the Belle Vue Conservancy and the town of Amherstburg is just the beginning. This partnership emphasizes that. I am extremely excited as together, we continue to write the story of how this once endangered significantly historical property in Amherstburg was saved by a community that was unwilling to let it go and how we came together with the help of groups such as the Gatfield Family Foundation to restore this national treasure for the benefit of generations to come.”

The hope is that the $100,000 donation will lead to more donations with Michael Prue stating the town is doing well in the “This Place Matters” competition. Donations are also being accepted at www.amherstburg.ca/donate. Prue added they continue to seek donations from organizations and businesses.

A gala is also being planned as a major fundraiser Sept. 24.

The Belle Vue Conservancy, which is raising money on the town’s behalf for Belle Vue, is awaiting word whether the federal government will give them a grant for up to $1 million, a figure that would have to be matched.

“All of us together can do it!” Prue stated.

Belle Vue Conservancy receives boost from United Empire Loyalists

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

As the original builders of Belle Vue had Loyalist roots, this generation’s Loyalists are recognizing that.

Representatives of the Bicentennial Branch Essex-Kent of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada (UELAC) were at the historic 200-year-old Dalhousie St. home last Thursday morning to give the Belle Vue Conservancy a cheque for $5,000.

Michael Prue, the treasurer of the conservancy, thanked the UELAC branch for its donation.

Members of the Belle Vue Conservancy accept a $5,000 cheque from the Bicentennial Branch Essex-Kent of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada. The cheque presentation was made last Thursday morning with the funds being turned over to the Amherstburg Community Foundation. The foundation is the charitable arm of the town and money the conservancy raises for the town-owned building is put towards it.

Members of the Belle Vue Conservancy accept a $5,000 cheque from the Bicentennial Branch Essex-Kent of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada. The cheque presentation was made last Thursday morning with the funds being turned over to the Amherstburg Community Foundation. The foundation is the charitable arm of the town and money the conservancy raises for the town-owned building is put towards it.

“You are doing a great service to history and to the town,” he said.

Prue noted the conservancy is continuing to raise funds, with the aim of raising at least $1 million. They hope to land a $1 million federal grant to aid in the restoration of the building.

Other groups are also looking into making a donation, Prue added.

“We just keep going and going,” he said. “So far, between cash and in-kind (contributions), the conservancy has raised over $100,000.”

Dan WJJT Griffin UE, president of the Bicentennial Branch Essex-Kent of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada, noted this area of the province is heavily populated with people of Loyalist roots.

“The main reason (for the donation) is this is a vital part of our history,” said Griffin.

Robert Reynolds, owner and builder of Belle Vue, was the son of a Loyalist and his father Thomas Reynolds lost his land in Detroit and was forced to move to Amherstburg. People forced off their land in the U.S. fled to what is now Canada and rebuilt their lives and, as British refugees, the government gave them free land to repay them for their loyalty. UE stands for “Unity of the Empire.”

“(The Reynolds) were a family that put money into this beautiful building,” said Griffin.

The future plans for Belle Vue will be part of back-to-back meetings presented by the town. There will be an “informal public consultation meeting” June 15 in the Libro Centre’s community room with the Duffy’s property to be discussed from 5-7 p.m. and Belle Vue from 7-9 p.m.

Belle Vue golf tournament raises over $10,000

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Bright, sunny skies greeted the golfers who hit the links in support of restoring the 200-year-old Belle Vue property.

The Belle Vue Conservancy held its first golf tournament, entitled “Bogies and Birdies for Belle Vue,” May 13 at Sutton Creek Golf Club in McGregor. Approximately 90 golfers hit the links for the tournament, including dignitaries. Those dignitaries included Essex MPP Taras Natyshak, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, fire chief Bruce Montone, retired fire chief Al Reaume and Councillor Leo Meloche among others. The Amherstburg Police Service also entered a team.

“It’s pretty good for a first tournament,” said golf tournament organizer and Belle Vue Conservancy member Meg Reiner. “It’s perfect weather. You never know when it’s early May.”

The Belle Vue Conservancy presented a cheque of over $10,000 to the Amherstburg Community Foundation last Thursday afternoon.

The Belle Vue Conservancy presented a cheque of over $10,000 to the Amherstburg Community Foundation last Thursday afternoon.

Now, two weeks later, the money has been counted and total proceeds from the tournament have amounted to $10,080.59.

Michael Prue, the conservancy’s treasurer, credited Reiner for her work in organizing the tournament.

“Meg, her family and her friends put a lot of effort into this cause,” said Prue. “She pulled it off. Meg and her friends are responsible for (the total).”

Reiner said some of the teams dressed in 1920’s style attire, with prizes for the best dressed. She said a large number of businesses helped out by donating door prizes for the tournament.

“The businesses were very supportive,” said Reiner. “We’re doing a silent auction.”

Golfers not only came from the Amherstburg area, Reiner added, as she noted some came in from Windsor as well.

Jacob Kelterborn, Jeff Kelterborn, Brad Nelson and Tom Wigle were the winners of the tournament.

Prue added that the conservancy was thankful for all of the tournament’s sponsors, a major one being Families First Funeral Home. He also thanked Sutton Creek for their efforts in hosting the tournament.

The Belle Vue Conservancy also publicly updated how much it has risen now that the golf tournament proceeds are known. Counting in-kind contributions, the conservancy has raised over $100,000 towards its $1 million goal.

“There’s more to come,” said Prue.

The conservancy also has plans for the fall, but has not released details as of yet.

“We’re planning for a huge event in September,” said Prue. “We’ll leave you in suspense for now.”

Jacob Kelterborn, Jeff Kelterborn, Brad Nelson and Tom Wigle were the winners of the Belle Vue golf tournament.

Jacob Kelterborn, Jeff Kelterborn, Brad Nelson and Tom Wigle were the winners of the Belle Vue golf tournament.

DiCarlo joked at last Thursday afternoon’s cheque presentation that he was likely the most surprised that his team used his shot once during the best ball tournament. He also pointed out that he sank a putt.

On a serious note, the mayor told conservancy members “as a municipality, we are so lucky to have you all. We are so lucky to have people like you.”

Without people like the volunteers in the conservancy, the mayor continued, there would be no hope to restore the Belle Vue house.

“I keep telling people this is going to become a reality and that we’re going to do it,” said DiCarlo.

The cheque was presented by the conservancy to the Amherstburg Community Foundation. The foundation is the charitable arm of the town, with town treasurer Justin Rousseau stating that it is “nice to see people coming together to make the Belle Vue house a reality for everyone.”

Online donations for the restoration of Belle Vue can be made at www.amherstburg.ca/donate.

 

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 group re-shaped, looking for public input

 

By Ron Giofu

Now that the town is proceeding with the purchase of the historic Belle Vue property, the group that lobbied for the purchase is now shifting gears as well.

The group formerly known as the Friends of Belle Vue and the Belle Vue Cultural Foundation is now known simply as the “Belle Vue Conservatory” with the group planning an evening meeting for Oct. 18 at the Libro Centre to gather public input and possibly some new members as well.

The Belle Vue Conservatory, led by new president Shirley Curson-Prue, has been formed to work with the town, find out what people want to see at the site and help fundraise for the renovations.

belle-vue1web

The new executive consists of not only Curson-Prue, but also vice president Carolyn Davies, secretary Jennie Lajoie and treasurer Michael Prue. Curson-Prue states she has “extensive Project Management experience” and is an active member of the Amherstburg Heritage Committee as well as the Recreation and Culture Committee. Davies is the president of the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce and a former councillor in Amherstburg and former chair of Amherstburg Community Services (ACS).

Lajoie has championed historical preservation in town as a member of the Provincial Marine, as well as several other groups. Prue, who spoke at the Sept. 26 meeting in favour of the town purchasing Belle Vue, served at Queen’s Park as NDP finance critic, was formerly mayor of East York in Toronto and is currently a member of the Amherstburg Committee of Adjustment.

Curson-Prue said the group is grateful towards the work of its predecessor boards with the Friends of Belle Vue and Belle Vue Cultural Foundation. She said those groups did a lot of work and should be recognized.

belle-vue5

While she envisions the new group will be a partner with town council, Curson-Prue said Belle Vue Preservation will not directly report to them. She said there will be no secrets and that progress will be shared, but Belle Vue Conservatory is its own entity.

“It’s separate and independent,” said Curson-Prue, of the new group. “We are citizens for the preservation of Belle Vue.”

Curson-Prue added: “The new group is excited to be able to liaise with the town to help restore the Belle Vue. There is a wonderful video prepared by the town showing some proposed ideas for the property once restored; it may be viewed on the town’s website and should assure the public that this will indeed be a jewel in the crown of Amherstburg.”

That video is also available through the town of Amherstburg’s YouTube channel.

Though the video shows the town’s vision of a restored building, greenhouses, a conservatory, gardens and other amenities, the Oct. 18 meeting will seek out other ideas as well. Prue said the meeting will allow people to make suggestions “and tell us what they want to do.

“The new (group) is to raise funds, raise awareness and help determine the actual usage of the site,” said Prue.

Curson-Prue added they will be asking people to help as “there are a lot of different things that are happening.” She also referred to the upcoming session as “a brainstorming meeting.

“We’re into a new phase,” Curson-Prue continued. “The town has made a decision. It is now municipal property. It’s getting the suggestions and ideas from the public and working out a way to make it happen.”

Curson-Prue said that prior to the town’s decision to proceed with the purchase, “we were on the verge of losing one of the last examples of Georgian architecture in Ontario. Located at 525 Dalhousie, this elegant home on eight acres was on the Heritage Canada Foundation’s Top Ten Endangered Places list.”

Belle Vue was built in 1816–1818 and lived in by owners Robert Reynolds and his sister, Catherine Reynolds, until their deaths. Belle Vue then was utilized as a private residence, a hospital and a Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Since 2001, the 200-year-old building has sat empty and Curson-Prue stated “it is only because of the outstanding quality of the building that it remains possible to bring Belle Vue House back from the brink of ruin.”

Curson-Prue also credited town administration for helping to facilitate the purchase.

belle-vue2

“Thanks to an inspired decision based on meticulous feasibility research by CAO John Miceli, this national and local historical treasure will now be protected and preserved for generations to come,” she said. “Terms of the purchase made the acquisition of Belle Vue possible – too good a deal to pass up, many who know the details would say – and residents may be assured that the people forming the new Belle Vue Preservation group will be working closely with the citizens of Amherstburg to ensure the building will be used appropriately.”

The town agreed to purchase the site for $1.1 million and a $200,000 donation receipt with the town paying $100,000 down and $200,000 per year over the next five years on an interest-free mortgage. The town states it does not expect to incur more debt with the acquisition of the 8.6-acre property.

Curson-Prue said the group expects to obtain a painting from artist Peter Rindlisbacher and will look at ways to possibly use that, indicating they may auction it off, sell reproductions or find a way to use the painting in a different fashion. Prue added they are working with the WSO to have a concert next March as a way to raise funds.

For those who have ideas for restoring the Belle Vue or on how the Belle Vue could best be utilized, or for those who are willing to donate skills and labour to this effort, please contact Curson-Prue at 519-736-6947 or by e-mail at info@bellevueconservancy.com.

The group’s website is www.bellevueconservancy.com.

Donations can be mailed to the group at 307 Crystal Bay Dr., Amherstburg, ON, N9V 4A6.

The Oct. 18 meeting at the Libro Centre is scheduled to run from 6-8 p.m.