Belle Vue Conservancy

“Robert Reynolds’ mistake” still very much a part of Amherstburg



(Editor’s Note: This is the 21st in a series of articles about the Belle Vue property, most of which have been written by Debra Honor. Honor is a local historian/genealogist and a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)


By Debra Honor, U.E.


Robert Reynolds was the Assistant Commissary General for Fort Malden during and after the War of 1812. As the Assistant Commissary General, Robert oversaw ordering and dispersing the supplies needed to run the business of the government facility. This did not include the military guns, ammunition or other war implements, but rather the food supplies, uniforms, and building supplies needed to run an efficient fort. As such, Robert Reynolds would have been very precise in the amount of supplies needed when ordering.

The brick work at Belle Vue is seen here. (Submitted photo)

After the American occupation ended in 1815, the Western District was under a great depression. Many who had fled, either individually or with the British military, returned. The British army continued to rebuild Fort Malden on the design begun by the occupying American army. This fort was smaller and more efficient than the original British fort.

The year 1819 saw the completion of three major buildings, and interestingly, Robert Reynolds had a hand in all three. The British army built a fine brick barrack at Fort Malden. Robert Reynolds was responsible for procuring the bricks from the brick yards at River Rouge which was done through government contract. The brick barrack still stands today. The town also saw the completion of a stately home for Robert Reynolds and a beautiful new Church of England of which Reynolds was a patron.

Reynolds procured all the bricks from River Rouge. He built his new home and tradition says he gave the “left over” bricks to build Christ Church. There is a plaque inside the church commemorating Reynolds’ donation to the church. As purchasing agent, it is unlikely he would make such a huge mistake in ordering brick for his house that there would be enough left over to build the church. Therefore, there was no mistake in the brick order. It was well planned even to the extent that we see Reynolds influence on the design of the church building which is in the same style as his home, Belle Vue.

Christ Church, located at 317 Ramsay St., was built with bricks donated by Robert Reynolds. (Submitted photo)

The barracks at Fort Malden are another example of a building constructed with bricks procured by Robert Reynolds. (Submitted photo)

Is it not amazing that all three buildings are still a part of Amherstburg 200 years later? It is impressive that Reynolds 1819 bricks on Belle Vue are still in good shape. The brick from later additions are the ones that are failing and need the most repair.

We can take pride in our three early buildings stemming from the War of 1812 that are being preserved, and all of them owe something to Robert Reynolds.

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 to help us open up Belle Vue once again or visit for more information!





River Lights organizers pleased with 2018 event



By Ron Giofu


The River Lights Winter Festival has wound up for another year and organizers have few complaints.

Sarah Van Grinsven, special events support coordinator with the Town of Amherstburg, said walls and lights started coming down this week. The weather has been nice and often times unseasonably mild, but that is also a disadvantage when talking about River Lights.

“The lights always look great with the snow on the ground,” said Van Grinsven.

Nonetheless, Van Grinsven added “they looked really good this year.” She said crowds were strong, estimating that 35,000 people visited Toddy Jones Park and Navy Yard Park over the six-week period.

“We had so many people running out of hot chocolate all the time,” she said. “We went through a record number of hot chocolate.”

The Super Santa Run in mid-November, presented by the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, “is always fabulous” with Van Grinsven adding that is when River Lights “really comes alive.” The Holiday House Tours were “amazing” and that is the main fundraiser for River Lights.

The River Lights Winter Festival has concluded for another season with the town pleased with the results in 2018-19.

“Everything really comes together for the House Tours,” she said. “We’ll have to work really hard to beat this one. It really helped River Lights shine.”

Van Grinsven noted they have worked with many community partners over the years and have made donations to several museums and non-profit agencies through the House Tours and the tea room that is provided as part of it. This year, the River Lights Winter Festival raised $2,500 for the Belle Vue Conservancy.

“We’re hoping to one day host the House Tours out of the Belle Vue,” said Van Grinsven. “That is our goal.”

There was also a tremendous show of support for the gingerbread house contest, as 69 people or groups entered.

Planning for 2019 starts with a Jan. 9 meeting, she added. Van Grinsven also noted it was the first year for the Town of Amherstburg to host the event as it was independently run in prior years, but indicated that it is still about the volunteers. She said working with the volunteers is always one of her favourite festival-related duties.

“We’re always looking to better ourselves,” she said. “We’re always looking to attract new visitors, which in turn attracts new residents and investment to our community.”

Van Grinsven said “we have a few things in the works for 2019,” adding that Enbridge has agreed to be the title sponsor again in 2019.

“It shows we’re doing a good job and that everyone wants to be involved,” said Van Grinsven.


Belle Vue Conservancy stays busy in 2018


(EDITOR’S NOTE — The River Town Times invited service groups, churches, non-profit organizations and museums to recap their activities and accomplishments. Three organizations responded in time for the Jan. 2 issue and we printed their submissions.)

BVC Ongoing Activity Report

-Monthly installments regarding the residents of Belle Vue authored by Debra Honor, printed in River Town Times

-Research commenced for a play/book “The Medicine Bag” and the Belle Vue Story led by Mary Anne Ada

-Photos by Paul Hertel and coverage by RTT concerning replacement of Belle Vue roof and eaves funded by donations to Amherstburg Community Foundation through the Belle Vue Conservancy

The Belle Vue Conservancy has a new logo, designed and donated by local artist Elio Del Col.

BVC 2018 Monthly Activity Report

-Annual Windsor Military Studies Conference February 9 & 10, 2018 Paul Hertel & Meg Reiner presented a showcase celebrating WW1 Veterans who lived at Belle Vue from 1946-1954

-March 4, 2018 First Annual International Womens’ Day Brunch, partnered with RTT, local leaders and LaSalle Food Bank

-National Trust Launch Pad Coaching session

-First BVC Newsletter distributed to volunteers and donors

-April 13 Rocking for Belle Vue with Rick Rock at the Legion

-May 1 Second Annual WSO Concert at Christ Church

-All That Jazz for Belle Vue – first fundraiser starring Renee King Jackson at Artisan Restaurant June 25

-Property Cleanup deferred due to roof scaffolding on property

-August – Issue Two of BVC Newsletter distributed

-Mandate Organization & Core Activities document endorsed by BVC

-September Birdies & Bogies for Belle Vue, Nine and Dine Golf fundraiser Sutton Golf Course

-October 29 Memphis Jazz and Soul for Belle Vue – second fundraiser starring Renee King Jackson at Artisan Restaurant

-Belle Vue Future Use Report released by Town confirming use as a Conference Centre

-November Christmas decorations and Holiday wishes added to Belle Vue street signage

-Anonymous donation $10,000

-Updated window inventory for donor sponsorships

-December walk through of Belle Vue with local antique expert to inventory saleable items for Belle Vue Restoration fund

An employee from Robertson Restoration works on the roof at Belle Vue in June 2018. (Photo by Paul Hertel/Belle Vue Conservancy)

BVC 2019 Activity  – Tentative Plans

-Ongoing activities from 2018 report continue

-BVC 2019 Monthly Activity Report

-February – Annual Windsor Military Studies Conference TBD

-February – Second Annual Rick Rock Rocking for Belle Vue

-March Second Annual International Womens’ Day Conference

-April 24. 2019 Third Annual WSO Concert at Christ Church

-May- Birdies & Bogies for Belle Vue Nine & Dine event

June –Jazz concert

July – Property Cleanup weekend

August – Birdies & Bogies for Belle Vue Nine & Dine event

September/October Jazz concert


To get involved with the Belle Vue Conservancy or to make a donation towards the restoration of the historic property, please visit


The Rebirth of Belle Vue in 1928



(Editor’s Note: This is the twentieth in a series of articles about the Belle Vue property, most of which have been written by Debra Honor. Honor is a local historian/genealogist and a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)


By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS


In March of 1924, Mrs. P. B. Leighton sold the Belle Vue property to John G. Mullen, president of the Mullen Coal Company, Amherstburg. The article in the Amherstburg Echo of March 28, 1924 described the complete history of the former owners from Robert Reynolds to his son, Dr. Robert T. Reynolds, to William Johnston, to Simon Fraser and then to Perry B. Leighton. (Simon Fraser only owned the property for a few days before selling it to P. B. Leighton). The house has always held a fascination to residents in Essex County.

The article goes on to explain that the Mullen family had ambitious plans for the property including “having the beautiful grounds landscaped by a landscape artist from Cleveland, the house will be remodelled, preserving and accentuating the style of architecture, the interior will be remodelled and modernized, making it one of the finest residences on the chain of lakes.”

Belle Vue 1928 (Photo originally appeared in the Border Cities Star)

Belle Vue 1925 (Photo originally appeared in the Border Cities Star)

The next year, 1925, the Border Cities Star, had a huge article on the “Reynolds House” being renewed. In the article, it described the house as having “red brick”. The picture they use does show the house as being of dark colour though earlier photos had shown the house with white paint.

During the renovation, Mr. Mullen added a coal furnace for heating, modern electricity, a second story above the earlier bay window additions and the attached gazebo at the south end.

In describing the house in April 1928, the Border Cities Star added, “Particular attention has been paid to the landscape and in doing this Mr. Mullen has added an additional property. At the rear of the house are sunken gardens and many very attractive floral arrangements which will make the spot one of the show places of the section.”

In December 1928, the Amherstburg Echo described the house. “The residence of John G. Mullen, river front attracts great attention this Christmas season because of the beautiful colored electric lighting strung along the front and the vari-colored Christmas tree, composed entirely of electric bulbs, which flash on and off, with beautiful effect. It is the most ambitious electric lighting decoration ever before attempted in Amherstburg.”

What better way to advertise his new electric business, of which he was a partner, than with Christmas lights!

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 to help us open up Belle Vue once again or visit for more information!

Belle Vue’s veterans – strands from their wartime culture


By Paul Hertel


(Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of columns on Belle Vue, as written by members of the Belle Vue Conservancy. Though the bulk have been written by Debra Honor, this entry is written by Paul Hertel.)


“The Secret History of Soldiers” is a new 2018 book by military historian Tim Cook on how Canada’s soldiers survived the Great War 1914-1918.  As I read it, I realized that aspects of Cook’s story related directly to the Belle Vue veterans in Amherstburg 1946-1954.

Cook focused on the unique genius of soldiers to develop with resilience a wartime secret culture to cope with the horrendous conditions they faced. A language of slang and swearing became a defensive oral way to cope, and built both identity and morale. Whether through cartoons, poetry, or souvenir collection, an integrated culture evolved. It included live entertainment shows such as the ‘Dumbells’.

This complex cultural legacy came home with the veteran survivors, having an impact on daily life. During the years 1946-1954, the Amherstburg Echo reported regularly on activities at the Veterans’ Home. Local legion groups provided entertainment shows for the residents, as well as musical reviews, continuing the cultural events of wartime into the lives of convalescent veterans.

Yet underneath this veneer of normality, the impact of military injuries and “going home to Blighty” (a term for medical hospital care) must have had a daily impact on the lives of the aging vets with limited family support .

Who could really understand the impact of military medical discharge facing a veteran with poor feet and circulation arising from the trenches? What aid could be provided for a vet facing shrapnel still circulating within a scarred torso? And what about those facing long-term mental health issues? Such cases are found behind the records of the old sweats, our Belle Vue vets.

One administrative decision reported in January 1948 demonstrated a concern for the safety and emotional well-being of the veterans: hunting on the grounds of Belle Vue was now prohibited.

As Major Gavin Greig stated, “Sorry, boys. As usual, some one spoiled it for the rest of you. A rabbit hunter fired two shots within ten yards of the house today. In consequence all hunting and shooting privileges are cancelled on the property of the Bellevue Veterans’ Home.”

On 6 March 1952 the Amherstburg Echo reported on a minstrel show held at the Home which showed an on-going legacy of popular live entertainment described in Cook’s book :

“Verne ‘Pop’ Phelps, well known minstrel man, was the star of a show staged at the Bellevue Veterans’ Home on Sunday afternoon by the Disabled Veterans Association of Windsor. Mr. Phelps, who will be 78 years of age in April, won the hearts of the old sweats with his songs and dances of yesterday. The show was arranged by Hugh Simpson of Windsor…. Alexander Rose, president of the association, spoke briefly and told what a pleasure it was to bring the show to Amherstburg. He presented cigarettes and tobacco to the Bellevue patients. Major Gavin Greig, manager of Bellevue, expressed the thanks of the patients to the association and the artists.”

As we remember the sacrifices made by our veterans, Tim Cook’s recent addition to the military history of Canada adds empathy for their individual and collective war experiences. It contributes to a deeper knowledge of those veterans who briefly called Belle Vue their home.

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 to help us open up Belle Vue once again or visit for more information!