The Niagara Foundation is hoping to buy a half-interest in a historically designated property at 407 King St. in Niagara-on-the-Lake to protect it from further development.
The 5.5-acre area, known to many locals as the Wilderness, is historically significant to Canada and “must be preserved,” according to the Foundation.
Brad Nixon, vice-president of Niagara Foundation, said there is a signed agreement of purchase and sale, though the sale still needs to be approved by a court.
He said a final price tag won’t be certain until the court approval.
“We’re quite excited about this,” said Nixon.
“What we hope to see is something like an urban park with a lot of heritage restoration and preservation and history.”
The entirety of the property, located across the road from the Royal Canadian Legion, was given historical designation by the Town of NOTL in 1994, including the heavily wooded area and the building structures such as a house built in 1816.
“If we can acquire it and clean it up, we can transform it into a really important urban park,” said Nixon.
He said the forest is original Carolinian forest, with a protected creek that runs through it.
“It’s not only important buildings and history but it’s important land,” he said.
The creek connects to Lake Ontario near Ryerson Beach in Chautauqua and runs to John St. and through the property of Randwood Estate.
Nixon said a conservation easement prevents the creek, the creek banks and the land around the creek from being altered without approval from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
Michael Howe, Niagara Foundation president, said the area is “also important to Indigenous people and our region’s military and political history, as far back as the 18th century.”
The property was once home to William Claus, deputy superintendent of the Indian Department and one of the three trustees of the Six Nations, whose wife Nancy Johnson was originally given the land by the Six Nations “in token of her many deeds of kindness,” said a Niagara Foundation news release.
Nancy’s father Sir William Johnson was responsible for negotiating the Treaty of Niagara with 24 Indigenous nations in 1764, a treaty that would — according to the Foundation — form the basis for the original treaty relationship between Indigenous peoples and settlers in Eastern North America.
The “Wilderness” site also provided shelter for soldiers and a family in a root cellar during the War of 1812 after NOTL was razed by the fleeing American forces in 1813.
The property is the former jointly-owned estate of two NOTL sisters, Ruth Parker and Fran MacKay. MacKay’s interest was transferred to her daughter Kea Reid, who is also now deceased, so the other interest is owed by her estate.
Nixon said the Foundation will be purchasing Parker’s interest.