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Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Meloen’s walking tour highlights secrets of Chautauqua’s past
ick Meloen grew up in the neighbourhood of Chautauqua. His unique knowledge of the area made for an interesting instalment of the Neighbourhood Walks series. (JULIA SACCO)

The neighbourhood of Chautauqua began as one of many “adult summer camps” in Niagara, as Rick Meloen describes them. 

The Chautauqua movement of outdoor-minded adults began in the United States in the late 19th century, and in 1887, the Canadian Chautauqua observed its first season in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

By 1894, the group was no more – but left behind was an interesting community.

“It was a wonderful place to grow up,” said Meloen, who led Friday’s tour of the area as the final installment of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum’s Neighbourhood Walks series. 

“For an 11 to 12-year-old boy, it was like being in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”

Meloen moved out of Chautauqua in 1979 after he married, but a lot of what he held dear about the community remains to this day. 

Some of Meloen’s favourite remaining features of the neighbourhood are the original cottages, including the colourful Peake Inn estate on Vincent Avenue.

“I would imagine it’s almost fully intact,” said Meloen. 

“It’s a really fine example of the cottages that the Niagara Assembly had hoped to have interspersed throughout.” 

The tour also made a stop at Ryerson Park, a familiar spot for many people in town and an often-forgotten part of the War of 1812’s history: the capture of Fort George on May 27, 1813.

“This was a real turning point in the history of the town of course, because when the Americans left, they burned the town,” Meloen said.

Meloen explained that those who live in Chautauqua may have some remnants of history in their own backyards. 

“If you find a marble in your yard that looks like a musket ball, it probably is a musket ball,” he said.

Meloen’s guided trek marked the last in the museum’s May series, but regular walking tours will begin again in June every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. 

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