Belle Vue

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 amherstburg.ca/donate to help us open up Belle Vue once again or visit www.bellevueconservancy.com for more information!

 

Courtney presses for more information on Amherstburg Community Foundation’s fundraising method

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Councillor Joan Courtney wanted more information on how the Crown Park Corporation is proceeding with fundraising for Belle Vue and brought her motion to council.

Courtney’s motion asked for the Crown Park Corporation’s progress to date, noting the firm was hired at a cost of $12,000, and the motion also asked the Amherstburg Community Foundation (ACF) to provide council with information pertaining to how the Crown Park Corporation was selected.

CAO John Miceli noted the goal of the foundation is to raise money for the Town of Amherstburg and that it consists of the mayor, deputy mayor, treasurer and manager of recreation services.

“There is no direct connection between the Belle Vue Conservancy and the Amherstburg Community Foundation,” said Miceli.

Of the ACF, Miceli added “it was established under a separate article of corporation and it does not report to council.”

Courtney said she still wanted to know what the $12,000 was used for and how the corporation was selected. Miceli said the ACF’s funds were used to try and raise more money through the foundation. Some donate with a specific purpose in mind while others will simply donate to the foundation in general. The report generated by the Crown Park Corporation will “provide for a much more robust foundation,” Miceli suggested, adding the foundation could look vastly different if recommendations are implemented. Projects that are currently funded through tax dollars could be funded through the foundation if a more robust foundation is established, Miceli further suggested.

The CAO added that if council wants more information from the ACF, he will go get it.

“If council wants me to approach them, I will,” he said.

 

Belle Vue becomes the Ukrainian Village

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the eighteenth 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

 

The blessing of the St. Nicholas Chapel and the opening of the Ukrainian Village at Belle Vue was celebrated on June 3, 1962. The Most Reverend Isadore Borecky, Bishop of Toronto and the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Eastern Canada celebrated the pontifical High Mass in the garden with the choir of St. Vladimir and Olga Ukrainian Catholic Church, Windsor, providing the music.

Only a year before, the Ukrainian Church purchased the property and the congregation worked together to turn the property into their worship space. Belle Vue had sat empty for seven years since the closing of the Veterans’ Home.

The north end of the building held the commercial kitchen from the Veteran’s Home which was put to good use by the congregation for meals and making perogies for sale.

The room with the bay window on the right side of the building, became the chapel for the church. They added a small area at the back of the room for the chancel of the church. The original pioneer kitchen to the right of the room became the vestry where the priest would prepare for the service.

St. John the Baptist Church donated their old pews to the new chapel. Mr. Eugene Taskey decorated the sanctuary walls with charcoal murals which enhanced the beauty of the chapel. These pictures depicted St. Nicholas and scenes from Jesus Christ’s life.

As family members have recalled, Mr. Taskey was planning to paint the charcoal murals. When crossing the border from his home in Michigan with the paint, the customs officer refused him entry because he had no visa to work in Canada. Therefore, the murals remained as charcoal drawings.

For 41 years, the former Belle Vue was the Ukrainian Village and St. Nicholas Chapel for the Ukrainian people of Amherstburg. They were able to worship, and educate their children in their language, culture, history and traditions. Many people were married in the gardens and many groups held picnics there as well. The history of Belle Vue and the traditions of the Ukrainian community were appreciated together.

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 amherstburg.ca/donate to help us open up Belle Vue once again or visit www.bellevueconservancy.com for more information!

Town council formally decides what to do with Belle Vue

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg purchased Belle Vue in 2016 and now they’ve decided what to do with it.

Town council decided to use it as a conference centre and wedding venue as part of last Tuesday night’s meeting. Councillor Diane Pouget declared conflict of interest due to the proximity of her home to the site while Councillor Jason Lavigne cited the proximity of his parents’ home as his reason for declaring conflict.

Councillor Rick Fryer had questions over maintenance for the property but CAO John Miceli noted the only real issues at this point is grass cutting. Maintenance for future issues like the botanical gardens are budgetary matters for down the road, but the Dalhousie St. property has to be developed first.

Use of taxpayer money was of concern to Councillor Leo Meloche, who wanted to ensure that no taxpayer money be committed for any work, repairs or restoration work without specific council approval identifiable to the project or undertaking. Meloche said council has to be aware of all repairs being done and not find out afterward that additional work is required.

Town council has formally decided the Belle Vue will be used as a conference centre and wedding venue.

Miceli said the town received grant money that was specifically earmarked for the roof project and debated with Meloche about whether that was taxpayer money.

Meloche added that the town has to “protect the asset” but at the same time, ensure there is financial accountability in place.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau stated that none of the work that has been done at the Belle Vue property happened before council was informed. Miceli added that “anyone suggesting we have not been transparent is more than welcome to look at the books.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the motion at hand was not to approve any funding for Belle Vue, but to assist with fundraising.

“We have had interest in fundraising with big numbers,” said DiCarlo, adding that potential donors want to know what will be happening with the site before committing any dollars to it.

“There shouldn’t be any concerns about money,” he said. “It will come before council.”

Changes necessary to Belle Vue roof project, CAO says project still underbudget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has been advised of changes to the roof restoration project at Belle Vue that will cost an additional $111,400 plus HST.

However, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) says that despite the extra costs, the project still remains underbudget.

According to a report from treasurer Justin Rousseau, town council approved $325,000 in the 2018 capital budget for the project, $250,000 of which is to be funded from donations. The roof was identified as the top priority in restoring the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion.

“During the construction phase of the project, additional structural issues have been identified and change orders have been requested,” Rousseau’s report stated.

Work began in the summer of 2018 and administration was presented “with a series of issues” that consultant ERA Architects Inc. identified during construction.

“The issues they identified would have not been known at the time of tender as the initial scope of the work was determined based on a non-invasive review of the structure,” Rousseau stated in his report.

The additional issues include sill beam repair and replacement, soffit replacement, eave components, fascia mounted copper gutters, face nailing detail, in-laid gutter supports, brick pier rebuilding and eve painting.

Rousseau noted that the town received confirmation from Parks Canada’s National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places that the town was approved for support up to $100,000 for improvements to Belle Vue and that the grant was applied for by the town “to help offset the cost of construction and further the cause of the restoration efforts.”

Change orders to the Belle Vue roof replacement project sparked a recent debate at town council. (Photo courtesy of the Belle Vue Conservancy Facebook page)

“The 2018 capital budget includes $325,000 for the Belle Vue restoration project. Project funding is based on receipt of $250,000 from donations and the balance from the general tax levy,” Rousseau stated in his report. “However, the budget did not account for the additional grant revenue of $100,000. These grant funds will be used to help offset the additional unexpected cost from the change orders being recommended by ERA Architects Ltd.”

Councillor Leo Meloche said he “thought this might happen” and wondered how much tax money would be spent on the project.

CAO John Miceli pointed out that the original budget was for $325,000 but now they have received a $100,000 grant. The total cost of the project is now estimated at $396,760 but Miceli said they now have $425,000 set aside thanks to the grant.

“We are still underbudget with the grant funding,” said the CAO.

Miceli noted there were items that need repairing that were hidden below the soffit and that efforts are being made to restore the soffit to its original condition.  Meloche said he disagreed with the approach taken, believing that a more invasive investigation should have been done on Belle Vue to get the full picture on what was needed to repair the roof.

Meloche also questioned why the repairs to the town-owned building still weren’t subject to review by the town’s heritage committee. Meloche is the council representative on that committee and questioned whether the town was “skirting our own rules but not getting the heritage committee involved” in the matter.

“Any homeowner has to come before us and get an approval,” said Meloche.

Councillor Rick Fryer opposed the town spending more money on Belle Vue, saying road projects such as Angstrom Cr. need it more.

“People drive on roads every day,” said Fryer.

Miceli noted that town council had already approved the budget for Belle Vue.

“If you are asking me to reallocate money from Belle Vue to Angstrom Cr., that’s a different situation,” said Miceli.