What is in store for the oldest home in St. Catharines?


Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

The results of a recent study conducted by Webb Management Services (WMS) around the future direction of The Brown Homestead hosted by the John Brown Heritage Foundation (JBHF) is to be presented at Brock University.

This presentation will take place on Saturday January 18, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Pond Inlet at Brock University where WMS will release the findings of the feasibility study undertaken to determine the sustainability of JBHF’s plans for the future of the homestead.

“Webb Management will be telling the results of that study. The results of that study will be used to formally put together the plan for the rest of the site development and our business plan moving forward,” said Jennifer Humeniuk, the director of programming and community engagement for JBHF. “It is incredibly exciting to be at this point  because it has been a lot of work to get here and we really believe that we can create something that will be extraordinary for the Niagara community.”

The Brown Homestead is the oldest home in St. Catharines and has a rich history. The John Brown house itself was built in 1802, incorporating an existing home from 1796. According to Humeniuk, the home at one time was used as a tavern and stagecoach stop as well as being used during World War I by the Canadian military and was a working farmhouse for 180 years. In recent history it was a family home for many years.

Currently the home is still under restoration. In 2015 the homestead was purchased from the owners by the JBHF charity with the intentions to specifically preserve the house. JBHF continues to work towards a plan that is relevant for the community and to fulfill their mission statement: “reimagining historic sites as engines of progress and development.”

The old models of how historic sites like Black Creek Pioneer Village do not have the same draw as they once had, so JBHF set out to develop something more sustainable. Through the feasibility study results they will be developing a model that will take the homestead into the future.

“This is a model as well in terms of sustainability and in terms of slightly tweaking and reimaging the approach to historical sites that will allow historic sites to re-emerge as community game changers and where the community congregates and where we learn together and we move forward together, it is really something we feel historic sites have the opportunity to do,” said Humeniuk.

The plans for the future of the homestead will be discussed at the presentation but the site has other programs and opportunities for the community to take part in.

Currently, the public is welcome to make an appointment for a tour. This year some of their programs the community can get involved in include a gardening program called The Deadheaders, a volunteer project in the spring where they will be building a split rail fence at the back of the property as well as bi-weekly town hall meetings from June until September.

“[The results presentation] is a great way to get an introduction to [JBHF], but we would like to have people come out to the site they can give a call anytime. Our  number is on the website. We are there five days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and we would love to show people around, give them a tour and get their feedback,” said Humeniuk.

The preservation of The Brown Homestead is an important endeavor for JBHF. The presentation of the study results are a continuation of their efforts to preserve local history and make positive strides towards its future in the community.

“The conservation of  the house and site presents us with a tremendous opportunity to share and celebrate that history while simultaneously working to promote a brighter future. A community’s history is the story of who we are and how we got here. Preserving historic sites is a way of sharing that collective story, and of better understanding ourselves and where we are going,” said Humeniuk.

For more information and to register to attend the event go to eventbrite.ca and search Reimagining The Brown Homestead! Or for information on the John Brown Heritage Foundation visit jbhf.ca.

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