Welcome to the beginning of what will definitely be a very moving experience as you travel back in time to get a taste of just how Canada became what she is today!
We begin this tour of a lifetime at the entrance to the core of Amherstburg. As you look past the cottage that is the Amherstburg Visitor Information Centre, take in one of the greatest lookout points in Amherstburg. This Visitor Centre is located along the Detroit River just before it spills into Lake Erie to the South. Before the cabin became a Visitor Information Center it was “Country Charm Gift Shop.”
It was Mr. and Mrs. Paul Renaud that spotted the cabin for sale by Mr. & Mrs. Clarke at a farm in Oxley for $22,000.00. Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce raised the required $85, 000 for the purchase and moving of the cabin from Oxley 30km away from its current location. Plaques in the cabin commemorate the donations of time and money that made the project possible.The municipal government provided the land and on December 4th, 1993 the doors of the cabin officially opened as the Amherstburg Visitor Information Center. Situated along the Detroit River it is a very peaceful, scenic location. This beautiful river location is the reason that Amherstburg is here. A strategic location and safe deep water harbor, this location was chosen for Fort Amherstburg (Fort Malden) and the Kings Navy Yard in 1796. Water transportation was a significant part in the fur trade and mercantile traffic which continues until today as a port along the St. Lawrence Seaway. As well this beautiful waterway provides endless enjoyment for recreation and leisure to residences and visitors.
The Wyandotte Reserve & The Brunner Mond Story
Wyandotte Reserve Cemetery: At the lights at County Rd. 10
About five minutes north of here is the Wyandotte Burial Grounds, where the stories of this town originated. This is the only graveyard identified on the map of the Huron Reserve in 1836, any other graveyards are no longer visible. Most of the tombstones in this graveyard read “White,” “Warrow,” “Spitlog,” or “Hunt,” as these are some of the largest Native families in the area. The most recent burials here are of Samuel Drouillard in 1961, Stan Drouillard in 1977 and Cecile Drouillard in 1979. Another Wyandotte burial ground is a minute or so east of this graveyard. Two tombstones remain here, both from the late 1800′s. The Wyandottes or Hurons had originally been reserved the land that is present day Anderdon Township, but these two burial grounds are the only remaining land not under private ownership. On this reserve the Hurons ran stone quarries, which laid the necessary groundwork for such companies as Brunner Mond Limited, Church & Dwight, General Chemical, Allied Chemical and Honeywell.
Soda ash is an important chemical used in many everyday products. Take a drink of softened water from a glass, drink sweetened soft drinks, use medication to relieve any physical discomfort or use detergent in your home, soda ash is required. Even glass in your car windows need soda ash. Chances are this soda ash came from the Amherstburg Soda Ash plant originally known as Brunner Mond Canada Limited, then by General Chemical Canada Limited, and finally Allied Chemical Canada Limited. This soda ash production plant was the first of its kind in Canada, and in 1996 it was the only remaining of its kind in all of North America. Church & Dwight used the by-product from soda ash to make what we know as Cow Brand and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.
The process to make great quantities of soda Ash began in Europe, where American, English and German chemists and engineers brainstormed and conducted trials to determine the most efficient process. The Solvay process was deemed the best, and it spread from Europe back to America, specifically to Delray, Michigan near Detroit. It was under the management of Andrew H. Green, who enjoyed many vacations in this very town of Amherstburg. Coincidentally he stayed in the large 1859 cottage which was built for the superintendent of the Malden Lunatic Asylum. It was Rev. Thomas H. Nattress of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church who informed Green of the abundance of essential ingredients in the area for soda ash production. Green began purchasing the old Wyandotte quarries of Anderdon. He then donated stone from these quarries for the building of the library, and St. Anthony’s school (now House of Shalom). Mr. Green brought Thomas W. Bellhouse to become manager of the quarry who helped to increase production, allowing the Solvay Process Company to be persuaded to build a major production plant of soda ash near their quarries here. To many it seemed positive that the plant would be built in Amherstburg, but there were a few conflicts.
A new plant was opened in Kansas, which decreased the need for a plant in Amherstburg. Just after the opening of this new plant however, the original Brunner Mond plant in England was stopping production of soda ash in order to be converted for war production. Since most of Canada’s soda ash came from England, there would be a greatly increased need for soda ash from other sources. Because of this conversion of the Brunner Mond Company of England to war production, the British were pressured into building another plant outside of England.
It was two Sutherland boys of Amherstburg (wealthy miners interested in investing) that helped to seal the deal of building a plant in Amherstburg. One of the boys traveled to England in hopes of being invited into the inner circle of the wealthy men of the British Empire.
He purchased a car known as “the Silver Cloud,” in hopes of attracting attention of wealthy British investors. He was able to attract the interest of Dr. Ludwig Mond who had already invested a great deal in a nickel mine in Sudbury and would eventually invest in the soda ash plant, Brunner Mond Canada Limited. Once it was decided to build the soda ash plant in Amherstburg, it still wasn’t smooth sailing. There were still some issues with the plan however; the proposed waste disposal of the plant would be dumped into the river, near Amherstburg’s water intake. At this time, there were many leaks in the water system, which meant Amherstburg had to take in almost twice as much water as it actually used. The water was also very dirty, which caused sickness, misery and sometimes death. The plant agreed to expand its water system to assist Amherstburg’s need for water, and it would also move its water disposal location out of Amherstburg’s water intake range. Finally, the plant could be built! Brunner Mond and later Allied Chemical provided water for Amherstburg until the province built a water treatment plant in the 1960’s for a public municipal system.
100 Laird Avenue
Guided Tours and educational programmes may be arranged in advance by calling 519-736-5416 or explored independently.
From Laird Avenue enter the Orientation Centre. Take a few moments to browse the Garrison gift shop and begin to travel back two hundred years ago, when this great nation of Canada was just surfacing. The Fort and its facilities are accessible to everyone, each providing many learning opportunities and the ability to experience different aspects of life in the nineteenth century.
The Fort was first built in 1796 by the British as a key defense post against the Americans and therefore played a major factor in Canada’s destiny. The Fort is situated along the Detroit River (just before it opens into Lake Erie) and served as a garrison for the British army, the meeting place for Chief Tecumseh and General Isaac Brock as well as the location where General Isaac Brockprepared for the attack against Detroit!
Its location along the River was a key factor in the war, so when control of Lake Erie was lost to the Americans after the Battle of Lake Erie, it became very difficult for the British to receive supplies.
In September 1813 the British burned the fort and retreated east along the Thames River to Niagara. The Americans occupied the site from October 1813 until peace in July of 1815, at which time the British returned. When visiting today there are no visible remains of the first Fort. What we see is the Fort which was rebuilt first by the Americans during their occupation and later by the British. The Fort included the King’s Navy Yard, which today is the King’s Navy Yard Park which is walking distance away.
The Navy Yard was where the British Navy built many vessels and had their dockyard and harbor.
Fort Malden tells the story of the War of 1812 and the Upper Canadian Rebellion in the Detroit River Region. After the military period, the site was used as a Lunatic Asylum and later was sold for public use including a lumber mill, and residential development. Today the site has been declared nationally significant and includes a fabulous museum and restored buildings. This site should not be missed for a visit.
General Amherst High School: Murals
After your visit to Fort Malden, turn right onto Laird Avenue. To your left you will see the murals on the west wall of General Amherst High School painted by Kingsville’s Anne Fines in 1967. When leaving take your time and observe them all, trying to pick out what Anne is trying to portray in each.
Beginning with the Northern mural (on the far left hand side), this represents Canada’s centennial. Notice factories representing industry, modern ships for business, a flag for multiculturalism and a maple leaf to represent the nation. Continuing to the right, the second mural depicts the Underground Railroad and the experiences of the fugitive slaves titled “North to Freedom 1793,” broken chains and a map of the United States are among the images of this mural. “Teacher and Trader 1684,” the third mural, illustrates a cabin, French-Canadian priest, native woman cooking and a trader (woodsman).
The fourth mural is of a pioneer clearing the forest. In the fifth mural, a horse mounted Native looks on as the Griffon (the French explorer LaSalle’s ships) sails on. The next mural depicts Fort Malden which provided forest and field products until the end of the 18th Century (1700’s).
The last three murals are of extra importance as they deal directly with the War of 1812. This seventh mural depicts the alliance between General Isaac Brock and Native Chief Tecumseh. In the eighth mural, the Battle of Lake Erie at Put-In-Bay (in present day Ohio) is illustrated. It was this battle that cut off Fort Malden’s supply source and drove the British from the Great Lakes, making the Fort vulnerable to American attack. The final mural is a visual of American ships firing at Fort Malden, and the Fort later being burned by the British just before their retreat up the Thames River (near Chatham, ON).
Park House Museum
214 Dalhousie St. S
The Park House offers tours, demonstrations and interesting events year round.Call 519-736-2511
Take a look at the plaque outside the house, and prepare yourself for a breathtaking experience. You are about to enter a house that is the oldest house within 250 miles. As the staff will inform you, the Park House was originally located in Detroit near the mouth of the Rouge River. However, once Detroit was handed over to the Americans the house was dismantled and floated down the Detroit River to Amherstburg in 1799.
Although the Park family was not the original owners of the house, together they occupied the house for 102 years. In 1972 the House was threatened to be destroyed but due to its significance, it was eventually saved and relocated from its original location in Amherstburg (to the North of Duffy’s Tavern) to its current location further North on Dalhousie St. The first floor is restored to the 1850 period. The second floor contains exhibits of medical practice and changing exhibits tell stories of our community up to 1950.
Today, Amherstburg is proud to call the Park House Museum our Community Gem.
Kings Navy Yard Park
Ask the staff to direct you to the exit of the house which brings you inside the King’s Navy Yard Park. When the Park was still a navy yard, it consisted of a storehouse, two blockhouses, a timber yard, sawpit, pier and a privately owned rope walk. William Mills and William Gilkinson were the suppliers of the rope walk. This rope walk was important to the navy yard, since a great amount of rope and cable is essential for the building of vessels. The rope walk began at Ramsay Street and ran parallel to Sandwich Street. If you visit the Commissariat in the park, a very small sample of a rope walk can be observed. Here materials such as hemp, used to make ropes would be laid and then twisted into rope. Under the lead of Master Builder William Bell, the yard produced and repaired many ships. It also built the British fleet of war vessels for the provincial marine to use in the war of 1812. The first dock was built in 1797. The Navy Yard was an excellent source of income, and characterized Amherstburg as a port town. Amherstburg still has a port today at the Coast Guard docks. American trade dominated, in 1874 there were 15 Canadian Steamers at the port, compared to 323 American Steamers. The majority of Amherstburg men were employed in shipbuilding at these dockyards as shipwrights, joiners, sawyers, blacksmiths, block makers and laborers. In the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie, the naval yard lost its fleet of ships. The Navy Yard was burnt alongside Fort Malden during the British retreat in 1813.
After the War of 1812, Fort Malden continued to own the Navy Yard until they sold it to a private owner in 1859. The park then became a grist mill owned by C.W. Thomas until 1891 when the town purchased some of the land and built a waterworks by Rankin St. When Bruner Mond built a water purification plant in 1919 and began to supply the town with clean water, a swimming wharf and break wall were built at the waterworks so it became a popular swimming spot.
Before the Navy Yard was opened as a park on September 28, 1980, the Detroit River was dredged to construct a seawall. This dredging process unearthed 30, 000 artifacts. In 1984, Bob Sutherland of the Fort Malden Horticultural Society introduced rhododendrons and azaleas to the park. The Navy Yard now houses the Cenotaph, an important part of Remembrance Day Ceremonies. Originally it was located on the left side of General Amherst High School until it was moved to the southeast corner of Centennial Park. It stayed in the park until the King’s Navy Yard Park was complete. It is rumored that an old field gun from World War I is buried beneath the monument.
Once inside the 10.5 acre passive park overlooking the Detroit River, there are many plaques and monuments to be observed. Read each one as you pass and discover the historical wealth of this park. One such plaque regarding the Great Sauk Trail can be observed. The Great Sauk Trail begins at Rock Island (in present-day Illinois) to the Detroit River. This is the ancient network of Indian paths which led pro-British tribes (the Sauk and the Fox tribes) to Fort Malden where alliances were formed and strengthened with the British. As you walk throughout the beautiful landscapes of the park you will come across the commissariat office. It was here that the British Government could purchase staple items for the garrison from locals.
Home to Provincial Marine Amherstburg Re enactment Unit: 224 Dalhousie St.
Today, the Provincial Marine Amherstburg Re-enactment Unit uses it as an interpretive centre for visitors. Be sure to take advantage of the knowledge that these volunteers can give to you! Stop in to learn more about the history of this Navy Yard.
Walking out of the building and looking across the River, Bois Blanc Island (often referred to as Boblo Island) is directly visible, today landmarks of the island include many large homes, a lighthouse on the southern point and a tall white observation tower. Before the island was a Resort Community or an Amusement Park, it was strategically important to Fort Malden in guarding the passage along the Detroit River. Interaction between the Island and the Fort secured the river since guns fired from the Fort could reach the island across the water. During the War of 1812, the island served as headquarters for Chief Tecumseh (a British ally).
Walking Tours Available with Experienced Guide! Brochures for self guides are available at the Amherstburg Visitor Information Center for more information. 519 736-8320
If you continue along the River in the Navy Yard Park, and follow the path which circles back in the direction of the entrance, take in the beautiful flower gardens. As you pass under the flower wisteria arbour, take a right and you will come up behind the Gordon House. This beautiful building was built between the years of 1798 and 1804. William Mills used the building as a warehouse . Then the young Scottish man, the Hon. James Gordon became the first occupant of the building as a house.
In 1875, fire ravaged this area of town (on Murray St. Between Ramsey and Dalhousie Streets), the fire caused $25 000 damage (in 1875 dollars) and was known as “The Great Conflagration of 1875.” The fire began at roughly 2am on a Sunday morning in Gilbert Lafferty’s large two storey building. J.H. Crawley witnessed the flames and sounded the alarm.
Before the fire was put out, it burnt two general stores on either side of Lafferty’s building, a tailor shop across the street, the News store, the barber shop, the Prince Albert Hotel, the butcher’s stalls, Joseph Reaume’s stores, Louis Cadaret’s grocery store, Bungey’s Hotel, Smith’s barber shop, two vacant stores, two barns and the home of John R. Park. The only buildings saved in this fire were the ones closer to the river. They are the buildings where Caldwell’s Grant and the Downtown Espresso Cafe are located.
273 Ramsay. St.
Found on Ramsay St. present day address is 273, across the road from the Kolfage Residence (the only two remaining Georgian brick buildings). It was built in 1849 as one of only three brick buildings built this year, when the population was a mere 900 individuals. William Mickel was the original owner, born in Scotland, he then moved to the United States and eventually Amherstburg. Mickle was the ship carpenter. Thanks to David Bernhardt of Olde Walkerville in Windsor, and then homeowners Stuart & Teddie Keith, the house is still around today for people to witness. The house was threatened with destruction or at best severe modernization in the 1960′s. After Mickle’s death, the house was then turned into a bakeshop and James Dunbar’s residence. It then housed the Amherstburg library for twenty years, then in 1911 part of the house was transformed into a machine shop, and in 1917 it was the Amherstburg Continuation School until General Amherst High School opened in 1921, at which time the house fell back into the hands of several homeowners. The Keith’s have since done many restorations to the house to bring it back to its 1840 appearance. As you admire the exterior of the house, take special notice of the windows, all eighteen of which are the originals from over one hundred and fifty years ago. Mr. Keith has revealed that he often finds artifacts from the past around the house. Underneath the house for instance he recently found a clay pipe and small cannon ball.
Salmoni Place Condominiums
252 Dalhousie Street South: Site of Salmoni House Tavern 1849
In 1849 Thomas Salmoni whose family was from England, built a hotel and a general store at this location. The third floor was designated as the Masonic lodge as Thomas Salmoni was a mason. The building became Stedman’s Dealer Store and then the Navy Yard Restaurant. The building was recently demolished to make way for the beautiful waterfront condominiums that you see today. The condominiums have kept the Salmoni name. Upon the demolition of the original Salmoni House, many artifacts from the military period were unearthed. The Salmoni family came to America for one of their sons to fight in a boxing match, he unfortunately lost the match and because the family had bet financially so heavily on him winning, they only had the money to come to Canada rather than return to England. It was in Amherstburg that Thomas re-established himself. Thomas gave the building to his son Mark, and when Mark died, several proprietors took over the building as a “dime store.”
Chittenden (Berthelot) House
296 Ramsay St.
As you stand on the corner of Ramsay and Gore, try to step back nearly two hundred years ago. A great deal would change around you, but one thing would be familiar, the Berthelot Residence would still be in front of you. This regency style home was once the Caldwell Arms Tea Room and later the Museum Tea Room.
263 Dalhousie Street
This 1820 building was first built to be a hotel and tavern where stage and mail coaches entered to the interior yard. Until 1907 it was a stage terminal and has since been completely altered.
Billette (Askin) House
298 Ramsay Street
This Ramsay street home was built in the 1830’s by John Askin Jr., son of a famous Detroit merchant and Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Western Development.
284 Ramsay Street
Now a private residence, this 1840 building has a great deal of history behind it. The lot, on which this building stands, had belonged to Simon Girty’s son-in-law, whom built and ran an inn here. Upon Girty’s death in 1818, the inn was torn down and the lot sold. The house has been owned by the Duncanson Family, and later to J.G Kolfage (the first mayor) and his family.
140 Richmond Street
In 1892, this building had a much different role than the Gallery it is today, it was the Michigan Central Railroad Station, which was in operation until 1969 when it became an arts centre. Be sure to take a look at the Railcar behind the gallery as a reminder of this buildings former use.
Today, the Gibson Art Gallery offers world class exhibits and art displays. Call 519-736-2826
Bondy (Caldwell) Residence
207 Gore Street
This original log house was built between 1835 and 1840 by James Caldwell. Caldwell served with the British Army during the Revolutionary War. At the end of this war, he was given a large tract of land in Amherstburg for his service.
You are looking at the home of Captain Frances Bondhead Hackett. He along with his six brothers were keepers of the Bois Blanc
lighthouse, he was also a prominent seafarer.
Methodist Meeting House
(now the Municipal Parking Lot) Burned in 1887.
The first Methodist Meeting Place was on the corner of Richmond Street and Ramsay Street. Although the building no longer exists, it is understood to be similar to the layout of the Park House. The house consisted of two rooms, one larger meeting room, and a smaller room where the pastor would sleep.
Christ Church and statue in Garden
317 Ramsey Street
Standing in front of Christ Church you are looking at one of the first places of Anglican worship in western Upper Canada and one of the oldest remaining churches in the entire province. A brief history is located on the plaque outside the church. Worship in present day Amherstburg first began at the Indian Council House near Fort Malden with the arrival of the British forces led by Reverend Richard Pollard.
Pollard was taken as a prisoner during the War of 1812, and both his churches at Fort Malden and in Sandwich were destroyed at this time. It was not until after the war that he was provided grants to build churches, one of them being Christ Church in 1818-19.Col. Caldwell donated the land for the church in exchange for a pew to be reserved at the church for his family. This exchange is still recognized today by a plaque within the church. Soldiers from Fort Malden built the church. The original structure of the church is still visible, but many renovations have taken place since it was first built, including a war memorial on its East side. The windows of the church pay tribute to the church’s Masonic connection, sailors during Amherstburg’s prosperous time as a port, longtime mayor Dr. Fred Park, Magistrate McCormick, John R. Park and to Walter Ranta, who gave a great deal of time to the church’s restoration.
To the left of the church is located Christ Church Graveyard. This was the original burial grounds for the community. The north end was the military burials and the south end for civilian burials. Christ Church faced on to Ramsey Street. The Roman Catholic Chapel faced on to Bathurst Street. The burial ground contains graves dating as far back as 1813 and from the fallen of the War of 1812 and the Upper Canadian Rebellion of 1837. By the 1840’s, the Roman Catholic Chapel had been relocated to Brock Street with the establishment of St. John the Baptist Church and its burial ground. By the 1860’s, Rosehill Cemetery had been established on Alma Street and St. John the Baptist Cemetery on Meloche Road.
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church 129 Simcoe St.
A Presbyterian congregation has been in Amherstburg sine 1828. The first church was built on Bathurst Street in December 1831 and was known as the Old Kirk. It is now a private home. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was built in May 1846 on the corner of Simcoe and Bathurst Streets. It was Scottish Reverend Alexander Gale, and some of his fellow Scottish priests that began worship at St. Andrew’s, and one of Amherstburg’s first public school teachers, Rev. Robert Peden, that first led worship out of the new church in 1846. The Gothic wooden windows of the church were installed by soldiers of the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment at Fort Malden.
North American Black Historical Museum & The Nazrey African
Methodist Episcopal Church
277 King Street
Canada was a special place for Black refugees, where they could feel free after being enslaved for so long. As you approach this church, consider how it symbolizes their hope of finally being respected and recognized as human beings.
Under the leadership of Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, Upper Canada became the first British territory to legislate in opposition to slavery. The 1793 Act did not end slavery, but it was an essential stepping stone leading to the Act of 1833, which completely abolished slavery in British territories. The terms of the 1793 Anti- Slave act stopped the importation of slaves into Canada and stated that those born after the date of the Act would be free when they reached the age of 25.
Blacks lived in this area as early as 1784, some arriving as slaves; others, like James Fry and James Robertson, having been granted land for their help in defending the British Empire. By 1828 the number of Blacks in Amherstburg reached 100 and continued to grow as activity of the Underground Railroad (movement of slaves from the United States to Canada in search of freedom) increased due to the the British Abolition of Slavery Law of 1833 and the U.S. Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Amherstburg was a critical entry point for fugitives escaping slavery by way of this Underground Railroad because of the narrow crossing point of the Detroit River from the United States to Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada. Bois Blanc Island served as a stopover point for some refugees before finishing the final leg of their journey to freedom.
The Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal was built by Black refugees in 1848, one of the oldest existing Black churches in Canada. Bishop Willis Nazrey was the first pastor there, connected with the Canadian based British Methodist Episcopal Church which allowed refugees to govern their own churches. The Nazrey provided shelter, fellowship, education and the teaching of essential skills which contributed to the success of many Black individuals in Amherstburg. Many Blacks put their skills to good use as sailors, prosperous farmers, innkeepers (William Hamilton), grocers (Henry Turner), millers (James Alexander) and shoemakers (Albany Pines). John H. Alexander was principal of the school for the Black community, later serving on the school board, town council and as town assessor.
The stone walls of the restored church are the same walls that Black refugees put up almost 165 years ago. After the Civil War in the United States, the church became part of the African Methodist Episcopal Conference. In 1979 the old Nazrey A.M.E church building began to show severe signs of aging and attendance of the church declined until the church was closed in 1987 after being declared unsafe.
In 1975, the North American Black Historical Museum was incorporated, and the building to the right of Nazrey Church opened in 1981, in order to tell the story of the Black refugees’ journeys to freedom in Canada. Two of the key individuals responsible for the establishment of the museum were Melvin and Betty Simpson.
Among the many successful Black individuals who have excelled in this town are Delos Davis, who became Canada’s first Black King’s Counsel in 1886; Jesse Henderson, who earned five medals from four different countries while he served as an army gunner in the Second World War; and Wayne Hurst who became the town’s first Black mayor in 1997.George W.F. McCurdy became Human Rights Commissioner in Nova Scotia. Howard McCurdy, Ph. D. was elected to the House of Commons in 1984, serving as the first Black MP for the New Democratic Party.
Descendants of fugitive slaves still live in Amherstburg today. Family names include Harris, Hurst, Thompson, Simpson, Wilson, McCurdy, Nelson, Henderson, Stewart, Jefferson and Chapman, among many others. Immediately south of the Nazrey Church and NABHM is the Simpson House. Built around 1848, this King Street home is one of only four known buildings which date to the time of the Underground Railroad. Melvin (Mac) Simpson, founder of the North American Black Historical Museum, resided here. Melvin’s hope of “illuminating the history of Black people in a dignified manner” finally became a reality with the opening of the museum in 1981.
Another noteworthy church is First Baptist, located at 232 George Street. Established in 1836, it is one of the oldest Baptist church buildings in Ontario. This church was one of the final stations of the Underground Railroad and is considered to be the “Mother Church” to the Amherstburg Regular Missionary Baptist Association. Among the carpenters and builders of the church were the deacons of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, including George Crawford.
The limestone building at 250 King Street was constructed in 1875 as the King Street School, replacing an earlier log structure on that site. When school segregation ended in 1909, Black students attended Amherstburg Public School on Richmond Street. The King Street building was used as a barracks during the First World War for recruits needed for service overseas. George Pettypiece bought the building in 1918 and operated his cement works there for many years. In 1949 it was purchased by Mount Beulah Church of God in Christ. A Sunday school room, washrooms, kitchen, dining area and pastor’s study were added to the rear of the building in 1984.
Guided Tours available :Call 519 736-5433
225 Brock St
The town’s first Roman Catholic congregation worshipped at their log chapel on Bathurst Street when Amherstburg was still very young. This first building was small, but as Amherstburg grew, so did the parish and by 1830 a larger building was needed and fourteen years later when Father Louis Boue became pastor of the church. St. John the Baptist Church was built at its current location on Brock St for $9, 728.00.
The stone for the church was donated by the Wyandotte family from their quarry. In 1994, stone from the same quarry was used to build the stone sign located just to the right of the front entrance of the church.
For some time, the first front pews were reserved for the Wyandotte’s for their donation of the stone, and they were exempt from paying any pastoral fees and dues. Citizens of Amherstburg donated manual labor to the building of the church, many of which have family still attending the church today. Side galleries were built in the new church to accommodate soldiers from Fort Malden; these galleries are not present today, as they were later destroyed. If you enter the church from the left front entrance on Brock St, just up the stairs to your left is a plaque in memory of Father Boue. Work on the church continued after Father Boue’s death, and it was not finished until many years later. The addition of a bell tower was directed by Basilian Father Pierre Dominic Laurent in 1860. The steeple atop the church today was restored just a few years ago.
Visible from both inside and outside the church are stained glass windows on the North and South side walls. Two of these windows were imported from Belgium in 1883, followed by eight more in 1894, and the rest in the early 1900′s. Despite many restorations and renovations over the years, the outer walls of the church were the original walls present at the Golden Jubilee over one hundred years ago.
On the corner of Brock and Gore streets stands the House of Shalom, which used to be St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic school. The school was built in 1910 to compensate for the overcrowding of St. Rose Elementary School. It was built with four classrooms, and only students in the lower grades were transferred here originally, until another four classrooms were added in 1929 to bring the rest of the students from St. Rose here. It was first a primary/junior school and then an intermediate/senior school until it was closed in 1972 when it became the House of Shalom.
Located on 259 Richmond Street, the Smith residence in 1850 served as the convent for the Sisters of the Holy Names until their large stone convent building was completed on the corner of Brock and Richmond some fifteen years later. Lighthouse Chapel-Evangelical Baptist Church served as the school for St. John the Baptist Parish in 1875. It was then a parish hall for the church until the Evangelical Baptist Church took it over. St. Rose School was a high school only for girls until 1928 when boys were allowed. .
The school was well known for its academics, basketball and football teams. In 1951, additions were added to the school due to increased enrolment. Just over ten years later there were only 84 students left at the school, so the 1965-66 school year was the last year the school graduated students before it was destroyed in 1971.
To the north of St. John the Baptist Church was the early Roman Catholic Cemetery. The graveyard operated here until 1864 and was replaced by St. John the Baptist Cemetery on Meloche Road. Today the property beside St. John the Baptist Church has been developed, including the former Ecole St. Jean Baptiste. There are no gravestones left at this location. A monument erected in 1996 commemorates this old cemetery.
Robert Reynolds,Catherine & Margaret Reynolds
525 Dalhousie Street South
Step back nearly two hundred years ago to the year 1816 when Robert Reynolds (commissariat officer at Fort Malden) first built this breathtaking neo-classical home. Bellevue house cost $250, 000 (in 1816 dollars) and took 197 men of the 37th Regiment to build. Robert Reynolds also donated the bricks for the construction of Christ Church. The original house still stands today although it has seen many alterations. You can still see the gabled dependencies which were connected to the main house by covered passages; a component of many Neo-Classical homes. This home also features a large central hip-roofed block, reception rooms with fine proportion and delicate detail, twelve shuttered windows, detailed ionic columns in the front and mantelpieces with reiding, paterae and swags of fruit and flowers. In 1820, Catherine Reynolds painted a watercolour of the house, which is now located in the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“Miss Reynolds’ water-colour the large windows, their lintels ornamented with keystones on the facade and sides of the house, were glazed with double-hung sashes of equal size, six panes to a sash, making a total of twelve panes per window. The water-colour shows a small-scale repeat pattern in the roof cornice such as would be produced by the application of the Neo-classic Doric Order.” (41, 42 of The Ancestral Roof, Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada by Marion Macrae).
This 23 room home was home to the Reynolds family for two generations, and then owned by a local druggist from 1865 to 1884. One wing of this Georgian Mansion was later converted into an Indian Artefact Museum by Perry B. Leighton. In 1946 the house became a Veterans’ Convalescent home and fifteen years later in 1961 St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church purchased the house and named Bellevue as “Ukrainian Village” in 1962. Privately owned, this house has been designated by the province, the nation and the municipality. Please feel free to read the historic plaques on the property.
In the words of Marion Macrae in her book “The Ancestral Roof, Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada.”
“Seemingly the initial step towards building a fine Neo-classic house in Upper Canada in 1818 was to marry a fur trader’s widow. Bishop Strachan set the example; Robert Reynolds of Amherstburg followed suit. He even married into the same fortune when Therese Bouchette des Rivieres, widow of the step-son of James McGill, became his wife. Perhaps Therese provided the name as well as the money. At any rate Bellevue, a brick house of imposing size, still looks out over the Detroit at Amherstburg, surviving but much altered since that day in 1820 when Catherine Reynolds painted the water-colour of it which now reposes in the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Bellevue in 1820 had the Neo-classic plan beloved in Virginia: a large central hip-roofed block with gabled dependencies attached by covered passages to the main unit. In Miss Reynolds’ water-colour the large windows, their lintels ornamented with keystones on the facade and sides of the house, were glazed with double-hung sashes of equal size, six panes to a sash, making a total of twelve panes per window.
The water-colour shows a small-scale repeat pattern in the roof cornice such as would be produced by the application of the Neoclassic Doric Order. Bellevue in its hey-day was Neo-classic in the true Adamesque sense: all principal reception rooms enjoyed fine propertions and delicate detail. The mantelpieces, now perhaps over-restored, boasted the reeding, the paterae (flat, formal rosettes), the swags of fruit and flowers which graced the best buildings of Robert Adam or Samuel McINtire of Salem..” (41-2 Marion) .
Annual Crossing to Freedom Re enactment by Provincial Marine and Amherstburg Heritage Homecoming
(You will see a designation plaque on the east side of 779 Front Rd. S. The property is a little way up from that on the waterside. )
This is quite possibly one of the most significant sites in terms of both history and archaeology in Ontario, and probably even Canada. This site is so unique because it is one of few sites where European, African and native histories are intertwined. This was the site where Matthew Elliott originally of Pennsylvania (British Colonel, Loyalist and important member of the British Indian Department) lived. With 5400 acres of property, he was considered to be one of the most prosperous farmers in Upper Canada.
The Elliott’s owned property from the River up to the 6th Concession in Malden. Prominent individuals of the War of 1812, such as Chief Tecumseh, would have visited and even stayed at the Elliott estate. During the War of 1812, the Americans invaded and occupied Amherstburg. The Elliotts, like the majority of Amherstburg residents evacuated with the British in 1813. They fled to Burlington where Matthew died at the age of 74 years old. Sarah and her family returned to Amherstburg to a ransacked home. Sarah claimed war damages, and sometime between 1830 and 1835 she received funds from the government to rebuild her home. She built this brick house you see now, in 1835 and lived there until the 1860′s. The original architectural plans remain in the Toronto Archives, while a copy of these plans (including pencil adjustments thought to have been made by Sarah and her family) are located in the Fort Malden archives. Fort Malden has a beautifully carved chesterfield that was from the Drawing Room when Sarah lived in the house. The house was kept within the family who were very prominent in the town, especially in politics. It was owned most recently by the Duff family (relatives of the Elliott’s). This Regency style home is relatively plain on the outside, with large windows and it once had a veranda. Mr. Duff restored the home, and refinished the Black Walnut interior and notable elliptical wood staircase.
As you continue your tour of this historic town, keep in mind that Amherstburg, along with Sandwich was one of the first towns within Essex County. Amherstburg was established in 1796 when the British gave up Detroit. Since that time Amherstburg has grown as a garrison town across from Bois Blanc Island. The Detroit River region was first settled by the French based out of Detroit. Some were farming and trapping seasonally along the southern Detroit River. It is estimated that the Reaume family had Establish|ed a cabin and farm land along the river in what is now Malden by 1785.
They would work their farm in the summer and retreat to the fort in the winter. Charles Reaume was an interpretator for the British Indian Department and was given land grants in Amherstburg, Sandwich, Belle River and lot 9 in Malden. Eventually he was also granted Lot 10 on Second Street in Amherstburg. During the American Revolution, anyone loyal to the British was referred to as a “Loyalist”. On March 28, 1778 Alexander McKee, Matthew Elliott and Simon Girty fled from Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania to the fort at Detroit and joined the British side. These men became valuable assets to the British Indian Department and because of their close relationships with the Natives, they were able to sway them to the British cause. The British promised to help the Natives protect their land from American expansion in return. William Caldwell of Butlers Rangers also worked closely with the Indians as a skilled tactician and a devoted loyalist. For their efforts they were given land by the Natives in what is now Malden township, and operated through to the War of 1812 as members of the British Indian Department.. William Caldwell owned Lot 3 and marsh area in Malden Township. Caldwell donated property for the Anglican Church and asked that a pew be reserved for his family in exchange. William Caldwell’s wife was catholic and today his grave remains along side his wife’s in the old St. John the Baptist Cemetery.
In 1796 Detroit has given to the United States and a new military reserve and fort was established at Amherstburg. In 1797 the government approved for houses to be built on the military reserve at Fort Amherstburg. The lots were allotted to traders or merchants, with the exception of four lots which were given to military personnel. First Street (presently Dalhousie Street), was occupied by such men as James Allan, Shepherd & Duff, Innes & Pattinson, John Askin Sr., Alexander McKenzie, Robert Forsyth and Robert Reynolds. The following year Second Street (now Ramsay Street) was laid out behind First Street. Eight lots were allotted on this street, and they were all either occupied by the Reaumes or Pougets. One year later Third Street (now Bathurst St.) was laid out which housed a burial round and twenty-eight lots available for building. Later in 1799, the Natives of the Huron Reserve gave the Crown 1380 acres to ensure that Amherstburg would have enough timber for firewood and building materials.
Typical housing for Amherstburg residents was a square home of timber, less than two-storeys high. Often the main door would open onto the dirt road, or unpaved street. Livestock, gardens and outhouses were usually fenced in and occupying the remainder of the lot. In 1803, pigs were prohibited from roaming free in Amherstburg. Sources of jobs for Amherstburg residents were mainly shipbuilding (shipwrights, joiners, sawyers, blacksmiths, block makers, labourers), clerks of businesses, working at the Robert Innes’ tan yard, tailors, innkeepers, shoemakers, hatters and millers. Many men were also employed in the fur trade with the Natives.
With the peace on 1 July 1815, Amherstburg and Fort Malden were returned to Britain. Although left in much distress and poverty after the War of 1812 Amherstburg rebuilt itself and became on of the best harbours in Canada. With Amherstburg’s rebirth came new farm products, such as tobacco, wheat and Indian corn to replace fur trading. By 1820, the town’s population had grown to five hundred people.
The Light House at Boblo Island
The Ste. Clare that took thousands of excited children from Detroit, Michigan USA to Boblo Amusement Park ~ “Let’s all go to Boblo” they sang! Looking out across the Detroit River is definitely a sight to see. There is a great deal to look at, lake freighters, pleasure boats, wildlife and most notably, Bois Blanc (known by most as “Boblo”) Island. The first European settlers in the area were the French who established Detroit in 1701.They named the island at the mouth of the Detroit River Bois Blanc or White Woods for the birch and silver poplar trees that grew there. Around the 1730’s a mission to the Huron peoples was established by the French on Bois Blanc. Due to continued attacks on the mission by the native people from the south they were relocated in 1748 directly across from Detroit and became known as the Huron Reserve.
The narrow channel between Bois Blanc and the mainland was the only navigable channel into the Detroit River from Lake Erie and therefore it was a strategic military location. In 1796, when Fort Detroit was given to the United States a new British fort, Fort Amherstburg was built to guard this channel. This location was very important during the War of 1812 especially for maintaining the oyalty of the native people. The Shawnee leader, Chief Tecumseh met with General Brock and Chief Tecumseh used Bois Blanc Island as a place for his people to encamp while his warriors fought with the British during the War of 1812.
The lighthouse at the southern tip of the island was built in 1837 to mark the entrance to the Amherstburg channel, and to guide ships around Bois Blanc Island. The six brothers of the Hackett family cared for the lighthouse until 1924. The Lighthouse is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building. The Lighthouse is a structure that is closely associated with the theme of the navigational aids for maritime traffic of the Great Lakes during the 1830’s. It was the third lighthouse constructed to improve the safety of Lake Erie navigation. It is also closely related to the history of the Hackett family, who were lighthouse keepers for three generations until the automation of the light in the 1970’s.
From the 1830’s through to the end of the American Civil War, Bois Blanc Island was a crossing point from the American shore to freedom in Amherstburg during the Black refugee’s journey along the Underground Railroad.
For a short time, there was an effort to use the white silica sand found at the mouth of the Detroit River to produce glass. A failed car factory was turned into a glass production plant. The plant closed almost immediately and the glass can still be found today around the property. The same sand used in these factories is located on the man-made and popular local beach of White Sands.
In 1897 the Detroit, Belle Isle & Windsor Ferry Company began running ferries and barges from Amherstburg and Boblo Island to Detroit. The company also had plans to build such attractions as a casino, golf course, baseball diamond and bathing beach among other things.
As more people became interested in taking ferries to the island, two story dance pavilion (the size of a city block), a cafeteria, Vernor’s ginger ale factory, carousel and miniature coasters were built marking the beginning of the Boblo Amusement park era. During World War I, men of draft-age in the United States, were not allowed to leave the country, unless they were going to spend the day at Boblo Island, this speaks volumes for the success and popularity of the island at that time. In 1934, the park did not open due to the depression, but was back up and running the following 1935 season. The park was sold to several different companies, each improving and expanding the park, until 1994.