Belle Vue Conservancy

Secrets revealed in a picture



(Editor’s Note: This is the thirteenth in a series of articles about the Belle Vue property, the first by Robert Honor. The bulk of the articles have been written by Debra Honor, a local historian/genealogist and a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy with another of the articles having been written by Paul Hertel.)


By Robert Honor UE


Belle Vue has been with us for 200 years. Like most old homes, many changes have been made to it over the years due to new owners, change of taste and updating.

Tracing the architectural story of Belle Vue is very challenging as, visually, there are only two paintings done by Catherine Reynolds during Reynolds ownership, and there are only a few photographs through to the 1920’s.  The house is so long that any pictures of the whole house are from a distance, and much of the detail of the house is obscured by trees and shrubbery.

Closer pictures show more detail, but sections of the house are missing because it is too big.

Occasionally a new picture comes to light that causes us to look at the photos with new eyes.  Such was a picture of Belle Vue that was found in the 1925 Border Cities Star article about John Mullen purchasing Belle Vue and his plans for renovation.  The picture shows the corner of the centre block and the bay windowed reception room beside.  The roof is clearly lower and at a lower pitch than it is now.  A new study of other pictures of the house before 1925 also confirm this.

Belle Vue, as captured in the Border Cities Star, dated 25 July 1925, section 2 page 1. (Special to the RTT)

The late Stephen Marshall, architect, and Steve Brown, with the Town of Amherstburg made detailed inspections of the interior.   In the north attic room there is a closet with a trap door that opens into an attic built up over the original 1816 dependency roof.  It was believed this part of the house had been built in 1875, but surprisingly, the lumber was reclaimed, and looked early 20th century.  It was an unanswered oddity.

Now, we can deduce that the 1875 additions had low pitched roofs with no attic rooms, and that Mr. Mullen’s 1920’s renovation included tearing off the 1875 roofs and rebuilding them higher and with dormers to provide additional attic bedrooms on the second floor.  That is how we see the house today.

Why Mr. and Mrs. Mullen needed extra bedrooms is a bit of a mystery.  They were in their late 70’s and their children grown.  However, this led the way to the house being taken over by Veterans Affairs and becoming the Belle Vue Veterans Home for WWI Vets in the 1940’s – a very important period in the story of this amazing 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 to help us open up Belle Vue once again or visit for more information!

“Press for Progress” brunch celebrates International Women’s Day



By Ron Giofu


International Women’s Day was celebrated locally on the weekend with a strong contingent from Amherstburg helping to “press for progress” as it relates to gender equality.

The brunch, actually entitled “Press for Progress,” was held at Ambassador Golf Club in LaSalle Sunday afternoon with a large crowd attending to hear from guest speakers and panellists. The Essex County International Women’s Day organizing committee saw a number of Amherstburg people involved with a portion of the proceeds being earmarked for the Belle Vue Conservancy.

“International Women’s Day is annually held March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations,” said committee co-chair Pat Simone. “This year’s theme is ‘Press for Progress.’ International Woman’s Day is not country, group or organization specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s keep pressing for progress and celebrating women in a positive way.”

St. Clair College president Patti France, the first female to hold that position, was the master of ceremonies and said she is also the first St. Clair graduate to ascend to the college’s presidency. She believes it not only shows what a St. Clair College education can accomplish, but what women can accomplish as well.

Guest speaker Laurie Tannous speaks at the “Press for Progress” International Women’s Day brunch at Ambassador Golf Course Sunday
morning at Ambassador Golf Club in LaSalle.

Considerations of gender are becoming less relevant in the employment world, she added, with the focus shifting to skill-set and ability.

Laurie Tannous, vice president of government and industry relations at Farrow, said she was “blessed” to have parents “who let me do what I wanted to do.” Tannous, also an immigration lawyer, said she became angered when watching a television program depicting an era when women had to ask permission to do such things as go to the bank.

Tannous believed men and women should work together for the progress of all, adding that there is no boundary a woman can’t overcome. She said people have to set examples for their sons and daughters as they “are watching us.”

Tannous also joined committee member Michael Akpata, author and journalism professor Veronique Mandal, Jodi Goslin from Oxley Estate Winery and EnWin Utilities CEO Helga Reidel on a panel where they fielded a number of questions that were either written by the committee or by those in attendance.

Akpata believed that when like-minded people work together, they can make progress for all people. When women progress, so can people of colour, those with disabilities and other members of society.

Anthony Leardi moderates a panel during the “Press for Progress” International Women’s Day brunch March 4 at Ambassador Golf Club in LaSalle. On the panel were Michael Akpata, Laurie Tannous, Helga Reidel, Jody Goslin and Veronique Mandal.

“I believe in rights and equality for all,” said Akpata. “We’re all in a rowboat on the same little blue marble together. Your success will be everyone’s success. We succeed together or we fail together.”

Mandal encouraged women not to be afraid of change and believed International Women’s Day was a chance to reflect on the fact not every woman has the freedoms that women do in Canada.

“Let us spend a second or two to think about those who can’t be like us today,” said Mandal.

Mandal added she tries to use kindness to help both men and women with Tannous advising women to “know your worth and keep pushing” in times of adversity.

“You have to believe in yourself and know you can do it,” said Tannous.

Reidel advised people to be prepared to work hard and that working hard gets people noticed.

“Whether you are a man or a woman, hard work gets noticed,” said Reidel. “Nothing gets handed to you because you’re a man or a woman.”

Guest speaker Patti France addresses the “Press for Progress” brunch. France is the first female president of St. Clair College.

Men should care about International Women’s Day because of the messages they can convey to sons and grandsons, added Reidel with Mandal agreeing that messages can be shared with future generations.

Goslin pointed out that roles have changed to where it is more acceptable when a mother goes out to work. She commented that women can create a central nervous system inside of them and that “without women, men wouldn’t be here.”

Asked by moderator Anthony Leardi about whether the “Me Too” movement could actually lead to less women being hired out of fear of harassment complaints, Akpata rejected that as he believed no CEO would turn down a qualified woman and negatively impact his bottom line.

Akpata said the “Me Too” movement has outed “boorish” and “piggish” behaviour by men in the workplace and has opened up the discussion on such behaviour.

Carolyn Davies represented the Belle Vue Conservancy and remarked that “I’m sure Margaret and Catherine Reynolds would be absolutely delighted” with International Women’s Day. The Reynolds family built the historic Amherstburg mansion 200 years ago. Davies said Belle Vue was designated a national historic site in 1959, received provincial recognition in 1984 and municipal recognition in 1988.

For more information about the Belle Vue Conservancy, visit or donate at

Tragedy experienced at Belle Vue over the years



(Editor’s Note: This is the twelfth in a series of articles about the Belle Vue property, the eleventh by Debra Honor. Honor is a local historian/genealogist and a member of the the Belle Vue Conservancy.)


By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS


William Johnston, a local druggist, bought Belle Vue on 1 August 1871. He had married Mary Venn of Detroit in 1859 and to this marriage were born ten children. Only five of those children lived past the death of their parents. There was William, Bella (who died at age 2), Nellie, Stanley George (who died at age 9), Margaret, Charles Henry (who died at age 2), Amy, William (who died at birth), Stella M. and Walter (who died at birth). By the children’s years of birth, it seems that the five oldest were born in Detroit and the five youngest were born at Belle Vue.

The saddest death was that of Stanley George Johnston as described in the Amherstburg Echo, December 25, 1874:

“On Wednesday of this week the residents of Amherstburg and vicinity were startled by the announcement of a sudden death, resulting from the careless handling of firearms. About 11 o’clock in the forenoon of that day, two sons of Mr. Wm. Johnston, of Bellevue, the elder named William about 16 years of age, and the younger named Stanley, about 8 years of age, started to leave their home to go out shooting birds, with a pistol which was in possession of the elder. They went out by the back way, and had just got outside the door, on the verandah, when the elder started to load the pistol, which was at full cock. He appeared to have got it loaded with a ball when it suddenly went off and the ball struck the younger brother in the face. The servant hearing the report opened the door, when the young lad fell into the house fatally wounded, as he only gave two or three grasps, and then expired. His brother ran for Dr. Lambert, but of course he could do nothing. Mrs. Johnston was at home, but the father of the lads was absent at his place of business in Detroit, and he was immediately sent for. The grief -stricken parents have the warmest sympathy of their many friends in this neighbourhood, in their sad affliction. The event has cast a gloom upon the preparations for the celebration of Christmas, which will be a sorrowful season for the bereaved family.”

Belle Vue has seen its share of sorrow and woe as well as joy through the many years.

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!

“Press for Progress” brunch to celebrate International Women’s Day


By Ron Giofu


Plans are well underway to celebrate International Women’s Day in Essex County.

A committee consisting of people from Amherstburg and LaSalle are in the planning stages for the “Press for Progress” brunch that will be held March 4 at Ambassador Golf Club in LaSalle. The event is being presented by the Essex County International Women’s Day Committee and the Belle Vue Conservancy.

“We wanted to have an event to celebrate International Women’s Day that takes place on March 8,” explained event-co chair Patricia Simone. “This years theme is ‘Press for Progress’ and the committee wanted to host an event to get people talking and thinking about the best way to press for progress for women’s issues.”

Simone added that due to positive response, the event has been opened up to people from around Windsor-Essex County.

The master of ceremonies for the brunch will be St. Clair College president Patti France with Laurie Tannous, vice president of government and industry relations for Farrow, being the guest speaker. There will also be panelists that will provide a brief introduction and answers to questions posed by moderator Anthony Leardi.

Panelists include St. Clair College professor and local author Veronique Mandal, Michael Akpata from IBM, Jody Goslin from Oxley Estate Winery and Enwin Utilities CEO Helga Reidel.

“We hope that everyone attends this event to show that pressing for progress is something that everyone should be assisting with. This isn’t just a women issue it’s an everyone issue,” said Simone.

Proceeds from ticket sales and donations will be directed to the Belle Vue Conservancy. Auction and 50/50 draw proceeds will be donated to the LaSalle Food Bank.

“We chose Belle Vue as it was the home of sisters, Margaret and Catherine Reynolds, whose landscape paintings provide an invaluable record of early 19th century life in Upper Canada,” said Simone. “Their works hang in the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Windsor Museum, Library and Archives Canada and Fort Malden National Historic Site. We feel it’s important to ensure that this history remains in Amherstburg.”

Tickets are $40 per person. Doors open at 11 a.m. and the brunch and program starts at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are available at the River Town Times office at 67 Richmond St. in Amherstburg and the Leardi Law Firm at 23 Sandwich St. S. in Amherstburg.

Tickets can also be acquired by e-mailing Simone at

Simone co-chairs the organizing committee with Peggy Thompson, with other committee members including Bonnie Deslippe, Stephanie Thomson, Leardi and Akpata as well as advisors Shirley Curson-Prue and Michael Prue from the Belle Vue Conservancy.

Behind the scenes in the preservation of Belle Vue


(Editor’s Note: This is the tenth 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.)


By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS


Over the years, in the history of Amherstburg, certain names keep popping up as the movers and shakers who pushed to preserve our heritage.

Names like Perry Leighton and George F. MacDonald who collected and preserved articles of the past for others to enjoy. Others like David Botsford, John Marsh, Richard Thrasher and Eugene Whelan who worked behind the scenes to influence government decisions in the preservation of our historical properties such as Fort Malden National Historic Site, the Commissariat and Belle Vue. These kinds of projects take time, sometimes years before the public knows what is even happening.

The Bellevue Veterans’ Home closed in 1954. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Tetzlaff bought the property around 1956 to run it as a nursing home but because of their own ill health, they had to sell the property. In the meantime, the house stood empty and just like in present times, vandals got in and did damage.

One way to preserve the house was to have a heritage designation placed on the property. This takes years and much research to give the building the provenance it needs. Much research was done by David Botsford and George F. MacDonald on the Reynolds family and their connections to other eminent families in the area.

On May 25, 1959, the Federal Government designated it a National Historic Site under the Historic Sites and Monuments Act.

That same year in April, Mrs. Tetzlaff wrote a letter to the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, which oversaw the Canadian parks, asking that Belle Vue become a part of Fort Malden because of its historical value. A letter from the department to David Botsford asked about “the price and the relative location to Fort Malden National Historic Park.

Another possible buyer for the Belle Vue property was the Browning Ship Lines of Ohio who at the time owned Bob-lo Island. Michael Zin of the Ukrainian Church remembered, “They wanted the property, so they could tear down the house, put in a parking lot, and then put in a dock for the Amherstburg ferries to the park.”

The third possible buyer was the Ukrainian Catholic Church which shared St. John the Baptist Church facilities for their services. In need of a place of their own, the Ukrainians bid included a strong sense of preserving the past of Belle Vue as well as the future of their church within the Belle Vue property.

Since the government had recently designated the Belle Vue property as a heritage site, the offer from the Browning Ship Lines to tear down the building did not make sense.

The town already had Fort Malden as a National Park and there was a bit of a distance between the fort and Belle Vue. This could have been a deterrent for the government to purchase the property.

Having the bid from the Ukrainian Church that recognised the historic value of the building as well as making it their religious home, protected the recent designation and gave the property a purpose that was acceptable. It solved two problems: preserving the property and giving the Ukrainian Church a place of worship.

It is interesting to note, that the Honourable Walter Dinsdale, Minister of Northern Affairs visited Fort Malden for the first time at the end of May 1961 accompanied by Richard D. Thrasher, M.P. Essex South. They possibly talked about the Belle Vue purchase. On June 6th, 1961, Richard Thrasher wrote a letter to John Marsh at the Amherstburg Echo, “I am now advised by Crown Assets Disposal Corporation that the offer of the Ukrainian Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Eastern Canada has been forwarded to the Governor-in-Council for approval. …

As for myself, I am very happy that this sale is to take place as I was very anxious to see that this property fell into the hands of some organization who would be in the position to restore it to some of its former beauty and maintain it in this manner for many years to come.”

In September of 1961, the Ukrainian community came together to restore the grandeur of Belle Vue through their support both financially and their labour. A section of the building was converted into a chapel and the remainder was renovated. It was named “The Ukrainian Village” and “in addition to providing a place of worship, provides an environment in which the tradition of “Bellevue” and the traditions of the Ukrainian heritage can co-mingle.”

A year later, on June 3, 1962, came the opening of the Ukrainian Village and the Blessing of the Chapel, under the Patronage of St. Nicholas. The whole day was filled with celebrations including a mass in the morning to bless the Chapel and the Ukrainian Village. In the afternoon, was the unveiling and dedication of the Provincial Historical Plaque by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario.

Those who took part in the programme were: R. Alan Douglas, President of the Essex County Historical Association; Ashley Martin, Reeve of Malden Township; G. F. G. Stanley, Member of the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario; Richard Thrasher, M.P., Essex South; Eugene Whelan, Warden of Essex County; Mayor E. T. LaFramboise, Mayor of Amherstburg; David Botsford, Custodian of Fort Malden National Historic Park; The Honourable William Murdoch, M.P.P, Speaker of the Legislature; and the Most Reverend Isidore Borecky, Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Eastern Canada.

By 1983, the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Chapel needed major repairs to the roof and some structural parts of the building. The cost of the repairs was too much for the congregation to complete on their own. Through the help of M.P. Eugene Whelan, a project grant of $156,000 was given for the renovation. The Canada Ontario Employment Development (COED) project grant constituted $78,000 a piece from the federal and provincial governments. COED was aimed at providing work for persons on welfare or whose Unemployment Insurance benefits were about to expire, and to get some worthwhile projects accomplished.

Earlier that same year, the Belle Vue property was officially designated by the

Amherstburg town council under the provincial heritage legislation as an historic structure. The designation would give the congregation a chance to apply for other grants in restoration or renovations of the building on a 50/50 share cost. The congregation was willing to fundraise to meet the requirements.

On October 21, 1984, The St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church celebrated the completion of the renovations by having a plaque unveiling. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada finally laid the federal plaque that was designated in 1959 near the front porch of the Belle Vue. The church had completed the new copper roof with wooden shingles on the side parts. They had a ramp put on the front porch for accessibility and other major repairs on the inside.

Those who presented at the program were Dr. George F. MacDonald, member of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada; Mayor Garnet Fox of Amherstburg; John Pylypiw, Parish Committee President, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church; Peter Stokes, Restoration Architect; Jim Caldwell M.P. and the Very Rev. Eugene Halitsky, Dean and Pastor of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church.

In a “Letter to the Editor” on December 19, 1984, Michael Zin publicly commended those who helped the Ukrainian community in the more recent past to save Belle Vue. Notably, he said, “It was the foresight and persistence of Alex Taskey and the effort of Dick Thrasher, who in 1961, saved the property from those developers all too ready to tear down the building for commercial use.” He thanked the Amherstburg Echo for keeping the project in the limelight and the men and women who worked on the project under the severest weather conditions.

“It is unfortunate that individuals such as Dick Thrasher and Eugene Whelan were not invited to participate and enrich the occasion. Without their help Bellevue, as we know it today would not be there.

As an individual associated with the Bellevue project from the summer of 1961 to the completion of the NEEDS program in March of this year (1984), I felt compelled to at least partially undo the injustice that was accorded, especially to Mr. Richard Thrasher and the Honourable Eugene Whelan,” stated Zin.

The protection of heritage is not an easy task. There are many hours, even years, spent behind the scenes by dedicated people to preserve our community’s heritage without always receiving the appreciation they deserve. Thank you to those in the past, whose foresight preserved Belle Vue.

And thank you to those in the present, who also deserve our gratitude in preserving Belle Vue for the future.


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!