Linda Jackson

Downton Abbey comes to Amherstburg



By Ron Giofu


People dressed in their Sunday finest and came down to King’s Navy Yard Park Sunday for the first-ever Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.

The event was presented in partnership between the town’s tourism department and the Belle Vue Conservancy. There were two sittings with manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota stating there were about 250 tickets sold combined.

“It’s a good number especially for a first year considering what a wet and dreary spring we had,” said Rota. “People were watching the weather forecasts. Mother Nature shined on us today.”

The weather for the tea was warm and sunny and Rota said the location proved to be a draw as well.

“I think, given the location of King’s Navy Yard Park and the magnificent blooms of the rhododendrons and azalea gardens, it’s a perfect fit for a garden tea party.”

A fundraising total for the Belle Vue restoration was not known as of press time, but Rota said the Downton Abbey-themed event was about raising awareness of the 200-year-old mansion as well. Belle Vue sits at 525 Dalhousie St. and the Belle Vue Conservancy is in its second year of raising money trying to try and restore it.

Joanna Starczewski, Maya Dobosz and David Wagner were winners of the costume awards at the morning session of the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party May 27. At right is Linda Jackson of the Belle Vue Conservancy.

The day also raised awareness of Amherstburg and the Navy Yard Park, Rota added.

“I think the Royal Wedding inspired people to come out in their hats and fascinators,” she added. “It’s all about costumes, role playing and coming out and having a great time in Amherstburg. That’s why we are Amherstburg Uncommon.”

The Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, which Rota alluded to, is Aug. 3-5.

Michael Prue and Shirley Curson-Prue were dressed to the nines for the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.

Linda Jackson, chair of corporate outreach for the Belle Vue Conservancy, pointed out the role Bob and Norma Sutherland had in creating the rhododendron and azalea beds in Navy Yard Park. She also recognized the volunteers who have maintained and grown the beds since.

Jackson added it was nice to see Navy Yard Park used that way. She also noted the proceeds from the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party will benefit the restoration of Belle Vue, which is getting a new roof. The windows are the next phase of the restoration project with fundraising currently underway for that.

“She will truly be a gem in the Windsor-Essex County area,” said Jackson, of Belle Vue.

Martha Minogue-Fiorino plays the harp during the morning session of the May 27 Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.

David and Helen Wagner of Windsor came to Amherstburg for the event and dressed in costume.

“We are into steampunk,” explained Helen. “We’ve been doing it for about seven years.”

David added they have a costume room at their home with various different steampunk attire.

For more photos, visit our Facebook album.

WSO presents “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance”



By Ron Giofu


A large crowd of music lovers came to Christ Anglican Church last Tuesday night to help raise funds towards the restoration of a 200-year-old mansion.

“Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” was held with 118 attending and the event raising $6,650 for the Belle Vue Conservancy. The music was performed by the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO) under the direction of conductor Peter Wiebe and musical director Robert Franz. Baritone Adam Iannetta performed with the WSO at points during the concert.

“It’s a nice house,” said event chair Linda Jackson, as she scanned the crowd inside the Ramsay St. church.

Jackson, who oversees corporate outreach for the Belle Vue Conservancy, said they were pleased to partner with Christ Anglican Church for the second consecutive year and bring the WSO back to Amherstburg.

“(The concert) is in a wonderful venue,” she said. “Some of the bricks from Belle Vue built part of this church.”

A total of 118 people came out to the Belle Vue Conservancy’s “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” held May 1 in conjunction with Christ Anglican Church and the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO).

This year is a milestone year for Belle Vue, Jackson pointed out, as the main portion of the building officially turns 200-years-old. The main block of the Dalhouise St. mansion was completed in 1818, she noted.

“We are celebrating Belle Vue’s 200th birthday,” Jackson explained.

The Belle Vue Conservancy said they appreciated the event sponsors, with Jackson stating the sponsors included Bornais Insurance, Families First Funeral Home and Scott Elliott and Mike Bezzoubkin from Amherstburg Chevrolet Buick GMC. The event also had support from local high schools, as Jackson said music students from both General Amherst High School and St. Thomas of Villanova volunteered.

Belle Vue will soon “get a facelift,” Jackson added, as work should begin soon on the new roof. Town council recently awarded a tender valued at $258,400 plus HST to Robertson Restoration.

The Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO), under the direction of conductor Peter Wiebe, performs May 1 at Christ Anglican Church.

The work will put Belle Vue in its “proper place as a 200-year-old national historic site” with Jackson also calling it “a national treasure within Windsor-Essex County.” The money is there for the roof, Jackson told the audience, and the next phase is currently being fundraised for.

“Now, it’s on to the windows,” said Jackson.

Jackson revealed that the town will be hosting public consultation sessions regarding Belle Vue May 29 and June 6 at the Libro Centre.

“The public is invited to come out and be part of Belle Vue’s restoration,” said Jackson. “Belle Vue truly belongs to all of us. We will open her doors again.”

The next fundraiser for Belle Vue is May 27, the Downton Abbey-themed “Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.” That event will feature 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. sittings in the King’s Navy Yard Park. Tickets are $30 each and people will also be able to view a garden dress display and participate in a costume contest for women, men and children.

Soloist Adam Domenico Iannetta sings as part of the concert.

Tickets are available at The Dalhousie Bistro, the Gordon House or Amherstburg Sobeys.

and online at

“The rhododendron gardens are one of the focal points of King’s Navy Yard Park each spring,” says Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We will be honored to welcome visitors with the new garden tea program. When the gardens are in full bloom, it’s an amazing spectacle and at this time of year, a great Mother’s Day gift idea!”

Rev. Bill Strang from Christ Anglican Church stated that Belle Vue isn’t the only place in Amherstburg that is two centuries old. He said Christ Anglican Church celebrates is 200th anniversary in 2019.

“We will be having a number of events next year,” said Strang.

For more information on the Belle Vue Conservancy, visit, “like” their Facebook page at or “follow” them on Twitter at

River Lights teams with Belle Vue Conservancy to spruce up historic home



By Ron Giofu


The historic Belle Vue home is being lit up for the holiday season.

The River Lights Winter Festival has stepped up and helped decorate the home with festive decorations and solar lights. Jennie Lajoie, who is involved with River Lights and the Belle Vue Conservancy, said the former agreed to take on the project.

“River Lights has kindly agreed to light up Belle Vue for the festival,” said Lajoie. “Most of the greenery came from the back of the property.”

Conservancy member Linda Jackson said they are “very excited” that River Lights took on the project.

Jennie Lajoie, Linda Jackson and Sarah Van Grinsven stand in front of a decorated Belle Vue.

“We cannot thank River Lights enough for what they are doing for us,” Jackson stated.

Sarah Van Grinsven, co-ordinator with the River Lights Winter Festival, said the decorations are connected to the period and they are not as “flashy” as some of the other River Lights decorations. She added that both groups wanted to work together to create the partnership.

“Everyone loves to work together in Amherstburg,” she said. “That’s what makes it so great.”

Lajoie noted that “every single dollar” the Belle Vue Conservancy raises goes straight to the 200-year-old home’s restoration. That is why River Lights stepped up to take care of the Christmas decorations, she added.

“It’s the re-birth of Belle Vue and the lighting up of the old girl,” remarked Lajoie.

For more on the River Lights Winter Festival, call 519-736-4642 or visit For more on the Belle Vue Conservancy, visit

Sold out crowd “puts on the ritz” for Belle Vue



By Ron Giofu


A sold out crowd was at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery Sunday evening for a five-course meal, fashion show and more all to help restore the historic Belle Vue house.

The Belle Vue Conservancy presented its “Puttin’ on the Ritz” gala with 185 tickets sold for the event. Early estimates have the event raising over $25,000.

“We’re just so grateful for everyone coming out to support the Belle Vue initiative. We can’t believe how many people have responded positively to our initiative and to our gala,” said conservancy member Linda Jackson, who also chaired the gala committee.

Nancy Greenaway was one of the models during Sunday evening’s fashion show that was featured as part of the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” fashion gala at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery. It was a fundraiser for the Belle Vue Conservancy.

Jackson thanked the sponsors, including elite level sponsor Elite K9 Kennels. Gold sponsors were Desjardins Financial Security, Dollars & Cents Investments and Bellavance Nursery and Landscaping while the Cole Clinic, Amherstburg GMC Buick, Seasons Amherstburg and Bornais Insurance were silver sponsors.

“The appeal is it’s a wonderful venue and we hope people came out to raise money for the Belle Vue national historic site,” Jackson said at Sunday’s gala.

Jackson also credited Natalia Bezzoubkin of A La Mode and Peter Leardi of 67 Richmond St. for aiding with the evening’s fashion show while Renee King-Jackson, Michael Karloff and Michael Karoub provided musical entertainment. Smashed Apple Gourmet Catering prepared the five-course meal. She also thanked Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery for going “out of their way to help us.”

Lynne Fox takes her turn down the runway at the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” gala Sept. 24.

The Belle Vue Conservancy has people with numerous backgrounds helping out, she added.

“We work very diligently, we work very hard for Belle Vue,” stated Jackson. “We are fortunate in our conservancy to have a diversity of people.”

Shirley Curson-Prue, conservancy president and gala co-chair, called it a “fabulous” turnout.

Renee King-Jackson performs at “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

“We’re trying to get into as many demographics as possible,” said Curson-Prue.

Curson-Prue said they want to involve more people as they continue to raise money.

Michael Prue, treasurer of the conservancy, said the community has pulled together for Belle Vue.

“I’m so proud of the community. I’m so proud of the people that are coming together for the house,” said Prue.

Among the attendees at last Sunday night’s gala were Cal Parent, Jack Edwards, Sandra Edwards and Linda Parent.

Prue said they are about one-third of the way to their $1 million goal and said the community is “helping us make a crown jewel for Amherstburg.”

To donate, visit or

Seasons chips in with donation to Belle Vue



By RTT Staff


Seasons Amherstburg has done its part to try and restore the 200-year-old Belle Vue property.

The local retirement home presented the Belle Vue Conservancy a cheque for $811 last Friday afternoon. Linda Jackson, chair of the conservancy’s corporate outreach, said it is a national historic site that is two centuries old and that Seasons has helped out in the past.

Jackson pointed out that Robert and Debra Honor, also conservancy members, have presented information sessions at Seasons regarding the Belle Vue property. She added Seasons is a silver sponsor for the Sept. 24 “Puttin’ on the Ritz” gala being held for Belle Vue at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.

Staff and residents from Seasons present a cheque for $811 to the Belle Vue Conservancy and Amherstburg Community Foundation last Friday afternoon.

Staff and residents from Seasons present a cheque for $811 to the Belle Vue Conservancy and Amherstburg Community Foundation last Friday afternoon.

“We can’t thank you enough for all of your help,” Jackson told Seasons staff.

Rick Daly, manager of programming and development with the town of Amherstburg, represented the Amherstburg Community Foundation and thanked Seasons staff and residents for their generosity as well.

Heather Vandenham, leasing manager at Seasons Amherstburg, said the money was raised at the retirement community’s Canada Day festivities.

“There were raffles and donations made through that event,” said Vandenham.

Many Seasons residents remember Belle Vue from some of its former uses and they would like to see it used again.

“They grew up here,” she said. “They love this community as much as we do.”

Seasons also tries to keep history alive through its residents, Vandenham added, and that residents want to keep history alive in Amherstburg.

To make a donation, people can visit