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Niagara Falls
Saturday, July 13, 2024
Museum lecture explores history of the Wilderness property

The property at 407 King St. known as the Wilderness has been in existence for more than 200 years and represents the intersection of this land’s Indigenous population, its military and political history and the natural world surrounding the home.

The Wilderness is the subject of an upcoming lecture at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum on Thursday, June 20, by Richard Merritt.

The museum’s current exhibition, “The Prettiest Town: Beyond the Bricks & Mortar,” highlights the history of some of the community’s historic homes, and the stories of the people who have lived on these properties.

As part of its lecture series this year, three of its monthly presentations will focus on important historical properties and houses in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Partially hidden behind its overgrown, deteriorating streetscapes, on both King and Regent streets in Old Town, lies an almost five-acre parcel of land known for more than a century as the Wilderness.

The property was originally built 1799 and presented to Ann Johnson Claus by the chiefs of the Six Nations, or Haudenosaunee, in gratitude for her family’s “many kindnesses” toward them.

After the property was destroyed during the War of 1812 by American troops, it was rebuilt in 1816 by Ann’s son, William Claus, who inherited the property and his wife, Catherine.

“The property is unique for its natural, Indigenous, military, political, architectural and horticultural history,” Merritt said in a media release.

In April, The Lake Report reported that the Niagara Foundation has become the owner of the entire property after years of negotiations and legal proceedings.

The foundation received a half-interest through the will of Ruth Parker, one of three sisters who owned the property.

Parker died in 2013 and her will stipulated that the heritage elements of the Wilderness be preserved and maintained for the benefit of the public.

In his lecture, Merritt will share the historical saga of this remnant of the town’s natural and built heritage, including its various owners and residents over the years.

A retired opthalmologist with a lifelong passion for Niagara’s history, Merritt has authored several books on the subject and was the president of the Niagara Historical Society, Friends of Fort George and the Niagara Foundation.

The Niagara Foundation named him a “living landmark” for his documentation and preservation of Niagara’s heritage.

The museum says the talk will conclude with an important update on the status of this property.

“The Wilderness: Worth Preserving” will start at 7:30 p.m. at the museum, at 43 Castlereagh St.

For more information, visit notlmuseum.ca/whats-on.

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