Queenston resident Jane Calver shares her views of her village’s past, present and future.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is being invaded again. This time it is not by the British but by developers from the north of us, who have the mentality for building large homes on miniscule lots, all very similar in style or design. Judicious development is necessary for the healthy growth needed by a community to sustain itself. This is simply development inspired by greed.
However, nestled under the Escarpment, along the Niagara River is a unique village, Queenston. We are a part of the municipality of Niagara-on-the Lake, yet in some ways removed from it. It is a special community of both environmental and historical significance. It received its name, unofficially, in 1792 from Sir John Graves Simcoe. The Queens Rangers were stationed here, hence the name. At that time, it was a thriving centre with taverns, stores and warehouses. It was the northern terminus for goods, coming from the port of Montreal, to be transported by wagon along the Portage Road to Chippawa and Fort Erie and beyond.
During the War of 1812, a significant battle, considered the turning point, was fought and won on the heights here. The native peoples were instrumental in the outcome and a memorial, “The Landscape of Nations” is being constructed this fall in the park, which is dominated by the monument to Brock. Soon, steamships came bringing visitors, continuing by the railroad, to view the Falls.
Few vestiges remain of this time in our history. But, today there are many homes and buildings that were built in the early 19th century, some constructed on the foundations remaining after the destruction during the war. Some are now private homes, others are maintained by the Niagara Parks and open to the public. Willowbank, a beautiful stone neo-classical home has become a school for restoration arts. There is a wonderful museum, called Riverbrink featuring the collections of artwork, documents and books of Samuel Weir, Q.C.
Today, Queenston has an eclectic streetscape and access to the river. It is worth a visit to remind people of Niagara’s important part in our history. The residents here have a strong sense of community.
Those living in Queenston work hard to preserve the historical and environmental integrity of our village. Volunteers sponsor a sale of plants from our gardens in the spring. For 37 years, we have held an Art Show and Sale that features Niagara area artists. This fall it is being held over the Thanksgiving weekend. In early December, we hold a Bake Sale, featuring pre-ordered chicken casseroles and tourtieres. With funds raised, we give back to the community of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Our community events focus on our Community Centre, a restored stone Baptist church built in 1846.
Queenston, as one resident commented, tongue in cheek, is not “Brigadoon.” However, it appears to be a place that has kept in touch with its past. I encourage you to come and experience Queenston with us.