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Monday, March 27, 2023
Goettler foundation donates $1M to help preserve The Wilderness
NOTL residents Vaughn and Lauren Goettler have donated $1 million to protect The Wilderness property. File

Niagara-on-the-Lake philanthropists Lauren and Vaughn Goettler have pledged $1 million to help ensure the acquisition, stabilization and protection of 407 King St., the site better known in town as The Wilderness.

“We love our home in Niagara-on-the-Lake and think heritage attributes like The Wilderness contribute to making this a special place to live,” Lauren Goettler said in announcing the donation to the Niagara Foundation.

Lyle Hall, incoming president of the foundation, said, “This generous gift will further the foundation’s efforts to acquire the half-interest in The Wilderness we don’t already have claim to.”

“We want to acquire this heritage property and honour its unique place in the history and culture of Niagara-on-the- Lake.”

The foundation claims its half-interest through the will of Ruth Parker, one of three sisters who owned the property. Parker died in 2013.

Hall said the executor of her estate determined that the Niagara Foundation was the best organization to respect her wishes that the heritage elements of The Wilderness be preserved and maintained for the benefit of the public.

The Goettler Family Foundation pledge kicks off a process that will extend into 2023.

“This is a great start to a larger fundraising effort,” said Hall.

“Acquisition is the first step. Then, we need to determine how best to realize Ruth Parker’s wish of preservation and maintenance of this historic property.”

Vaughn Goettler said he hopes his family’s gift becomes a catalyst for others to step forward and help the Niagara Foundation.

“Let’s do something we can be proud of for years to come,” he said.

Hall said the Niagara Foundation is grateful to the Goettlers and their foundation for the pledge to help safeguard The Wilderness.

The 5.5-acre wooded property and its historic buildings in the heart of Old Town were once the home of William Claus, deputy superintendent of the Indian department and one of the three trustees of the Six Nations.

The Wilderness was originally given by the Six Nations to Claus’s wife Nancy Johnson as a “token of her many deeds of kindness.”

Her father, Sir William Johnson, negotiated the Treaty of Niagara with 24 Indigenous nations in 1764, the Niagara Foundation said.

The treaty formed the basis for the original treaty relationship between Indigenous Peoples and settlers in eastern North America.

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake designated The Wilderness a heritage property in 1994.

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