John Mullen

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.

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