Belle Vue

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!

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!

Mayor looks back on 2017, looks ahead to 2018



By Ron Giofu


The new year is upon us and there were positives and negatives from the year that has just ended, says the town’s mayor.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said that 2017 was a good one but it had its ups and downs as well.

“I think, overall, it was a good balance of successes and challenges,” said DiCarlo. “I think we’ve done well with the waterfront development acquisitions, we had the fibre (internet) announcement and I think the budget confirmed our financial restraint and investment.”

DiCarlo believes the town did a good job of walking the “fine line of paying down debt and increasing amenities that should keep people in town.”

Regarding the Belle Vue and Duffy’s property projects, DiCarlo said he has heard positive and negative responses from residents but acknowledged, “it’s impossible to keep everyone happy” and that council is trying to work for residents and address the needs of the community. He said many people want the Duffy’s property available for public use as soon as possible and “hopefully we can make progress on that” in 2018.

The town did make progress in 2017, the mayor stated.

“We’ve definitely moved forward again,” he said. “That’s my belief. At the end of the day, it always comes down to what the residents think. As long as we can maintain the balance of moving forward, which I think we did (in 2017), we’re in good shape.”

DiCarlo said 2018 could be “another year of challenges,” and the first one on the radar is the policing issue. The town will be hosting four public meetings later this month to discuss the proposal from Windsor police, one that forecasts a $567,000 annual savings to the town.

“That is obviously going to be a big decision we have to deal with,” said DiCarlo. “I’ve definitely heard from a broad demographic of residents on this particular issue. There are people on both sides and plenty of people in the middle waiting to hear what is said at the public meetings.”

The location of the new public high school by the Greater Essex County District School Board is expected at some point, and DiCarlo said that is good news. While noting that not everyone will be happy with the new location, he believes that the new public high school will be positive for the town.

“Everyone is asking where it is going and when it will be built,” said DiCarlo, adding that timelines suggest that the announcement could come soon.

Other development is tied to the school announcement, he suggested, and that more news could be revealed shortly after the location is revealed. While much of that development hasn’t been publicly revealed as of yet, the seniors hub development proposed for the former St. Bernard School appears to be one of them. The town and Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board are headed for arbitration over the building’s value as the town wants to acquire it.

DiCarlo said the town is committed to serving the senior population and that he is hopeful the dispute over the building can be resolved.

“We’re going to go through legal channels there to mediate some sort of solution,” he said.

Much of the plans for future development is hinged on one another, he said, and that “there are a lot of synergies to projects now.” He said fewer projects are done in isolation.

“I think that’s going to translate into success in the long run,” said DiCarlo.

The town remains focused on a hotel, he added, and that the rollout of the fibre internet should occur in 2018. The town will also continue to pay down debt and continue to invest in the community, with DiCarlo stating the goal of the latter being to do so with cash the town already has.

The mayor said there is some “misconception” as it pertains to the town’s debt, which has been brought down from $44 million to approximately $38 million over the last few years. While it has come down “millions,” DiCarlo said much of the debt is locked in and can’t be paid down faster than what it already is.

This year is an election year and DiCarlo said the town could be impacted if and when the current council achieves “lame duck” status.

“While we tackle everything we have to deal with, things have to be in the perspective of what happens with the election,” he said. “If we become a lame duck council, we’ll have to put the issues on hold and we would not be able to deal with them.”

The municipal election is Oct. 22 and the nomination period opens May 1 and ends July 27 at 2 p.m.

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!

Town officially passes 2018 budget



By Ron Giofu


The 2018 budget is now officially passed.

Town council, who had discussed the budget in detail during Nov. 28-29 budget deliberations, formally approved the document with no changes to the previously discussed rates. That means Amherstburg taxpayers will see their taxes go up 2.29 per cent this year, meaning a home assessed at $200,000 will see a $43.29 increase. The tax rate increase itself is 0.83 per cent with the two per cent levies being increased by 0.75 per cent increase.
The increase to the levies will allow for an additional $300,000 to be placed into the town’s reserves for capital infrastructure projects.

When school board and county taxes are factored in, the tax increase would be 1.69 per cent, or $54.31 on a $200,000 home.

Changes to assessments were factored in via a 2.37 per cent within the budget for a growth rate, but individual MPAC assessments could vary depending on homeowner.

Discussion of the budget was limited, with Councillor Leo Meloche questioning some costs pertaining to the Belle Vue property. While $75,000 was inserted as “seed money,” CAO John Miceli said he was confident that the Belle Vue Conservancy had raised enough money to have roof repairs done early in 2018. Meloche said while he would like to see Belle Vue restored, council was told no taxpayer money would be used.

“I want to see this happen but we’ve got to get significant money up front,” said Meloche.

Meloche added he is involved in another capital project and appreciates that raising donations is difficult, but hoped that Belle Vue fundraising efforts aren’t “petering out.”

CAO John Miceli said those efforts are not “petering out” and that the conservancy paid for roof and window evaluations. The windows are the next scheduled project, he said.

Miceli noted that both he and treasurer Justin Rousseau get regular updates from the conservancy and praised the conservancy for taking on “yeoman’s work on behalf of the town.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the budget passed without much further discussion as the issue had been discussed in detail during deliberations.

“This budget really stood out to me,” he said. “It is an amazing evolution from where we started.”

The budget was very detailed, DiCarlo added, and credited administration for their work.

“Everything is accounted for, everything is explained,” he said. “I can’t see any major changes in how this is presented.”

Residents can refer to the budget should they have questions on anything, he added.

“We do listen, we do act when we can and these are the results that come from it,” said DiCarlo. “We’re better now than we were three years ago.”

Councillor Rick Fryer also praised administration publicly, stating “things went smoothly this year” and that residents appreciate the effort that went into the budget.