Park House Museum celebrating 40th anniversary

 

Park House001The Park House makes its way down Dalhousie St. to its current location in this photo taken May 3, 1972. The Park House celebrates its 40th anniversary as a local museum with a dinner at the Legion later this month. (Photo courtesy of the Park House Museum)

By Ron Giofu

 

It’s a milestone year for the Park House Museum as the local community museum is marking its 40th anniversary.

The Park House will be formally celebrating its anniversary with a dinner at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 Nov. 27 but the Amherstburg Historic Sites Association is already reflecting on the four decades of the museum.

Hazen Price, the first president of the Amherstburg Historic Sites Association and a lifetime member of the Rotary Club, recalled it was Rotary that stepped up to save the house from demolition in the early 1970’s.

“We figured something ought to be done about it,” said Price.

Price said it was Al Stevenson, a Rotary member at the time that proposed the Rotary Club buying it and restoring it.

“A fair amount of funding was obtained in the next year or so,” added current AHSA president and Rotary member Martin Breshamer.

It was Jan. 24, 1972 that town council allowed the Park House to be placed on what was known as “waterworks property” and Rotary bought the house February 1972 for $5,000.

The home was moved northward on Dalhousie St. May 3, 1972. Price said cables were wrapped around the home to prevent it from coming apart during the move.

Grant funding of $33,000 from the Ministry of Industry and Tourism, $5,000 from the Department of Indian Affairs, $2,500 from the town and $6,000 in public donations helped fund renovations.

The AHSA was formed as the group to run the Park House in July 1973 with the doors opening to the public Dec. 9, 1973.

“It needed a lot of work,” said Price. “We worked on it for a whole year. We had to dig the basement for starters.”

A glitch during basement construction saw a shutoff valve from an old water tower that used to sit on the property accidently ripped out, which Price said caused the basement to flood.

“They had to shut down half of the town because no one knew how to shut it off,” said Price.

Everything from wallpaper to siding was restored with Price noting, “we didn’t waste much time once we got it.”

Since it opened, the Rotary Club’s support hasn’t stopped.

“The Rotary Club has been a good benefactor for many years,” Breshamer pointed out. “Rotary has always been behind it.”

Mary Synovski and Mary Paquette preceded Valerie Buckie as curator, with the latter retiring later this year. Stephanie Pouget-Papak will be taking over. Other than Breshamer and Price, AHSA presidents have included John Burkhart, John Amyotte, Victor Lavergne, Bill Jarvis, Karl Braun, and Mary Guthrie.

Being a community museum, Price and Breshamer both agreed the Park House’s impact on Amherstburg has been substantial.

“We think it’s been quite important,” said Price.

There have been challenges throughout the years, including constant fundraising to keep the doors open and a tree that fell through the roof over a decade ago. The latter caused $26,000 in damages and saw the town and Park House go to court in a case eventually won by the town.

In recent years, the public has stepped up to assist with renovations with a new roof being donated several years a few years ago and a repainting project seeing paint and volunteer time donated this year.

Between grants, Rotary donations and public support, “that’s how we keep afloat,” said Breshamer.

Breshamer said there is a recently launched program called “Friends of the Park House” which also brings in $5-6,000 annually.

Education has been a big component of what the Park House does, said Breshamer, as there has been a focus on schoolchildren. American visitors have declined in recent years due to 9/11, Breshamer stated.

According to the museum’s website www.parkhousemuseum.com, “The purpose of the Park House Museum is to collect, preserve, study and exhibit the heritage of the town of Amherstburg and its people. The museum will strive to collect artifacts and documents that depict the town and its people’s past in the terms of settlement, cultural achievement, trade and marine history which brought about the growth of the town to its present state. The museum will provide for the preservation and availability of such material for all those who wish to see and study it, to further understand the heritage of the town and its people. The institution will be a non-profit educational establishment operated for the betterment of the town and open to the public regardless of race, creed or occupation.”

In addition to children’s programming, the Park House Museum offers guided tours, Victorian Christmas, Summer Sunday programs, workshop and tea programs, hands-on heritage, permanent exhibits such as the 1812 Fur Trade exhibit and temporary exhibits throughout the year. Tinsmiths also meet regularly in the Park House basement.

The Nov. 27 dinner starts at 6 p.m. and features a roast beef dinner. A period music display by Alex Dale of Fort Malden will be part of the evening. Tickets are $12 and available at the Park House, 214 Dalhousie St.

For information, call 519-736-2511 or e-mail curator@parkhousemuseum.com.

 

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