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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Letter: A plan for the future of the Rand Estate
Writer Elizabeth Masson thinks Benny Marotta should donate the Rand Estate to the Town of NOTL. FILE

This is the text of Elizabeth Masson’s presentation Tuesday to Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors regarding the Rand Estate’s character study. A copy was submitted for publication. Masson was the author of a four-part series on the history of the Rand Estate that was published in The Lake Report in late 2020.

I wish to comment on three aspects of the Randwood character study and then conclude with a proposal that I hope will interest Solmar Development Corp. and town council.

The first heritage feature I wish to talk about is the wall that surrounds three sides of the Rand Estate.

The Randwood Wall is recognized by not only the residents of this town but by the many visitors to Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

The section on John Street is in relatively good shape, being made of concrete. However, the part that runs down Charlotte Street is beginning to deteriorate and the section on the south side of the estate along the former train tracks is in terrible disrepair.

I’ve been told how difficult the wall is to repair. First, one must search for the correct-sized stones to replace the ones that have disappeared and then attempt to fix them in place, a long and difficult procedure. 

I would like to see the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake start maintaining the Randwood Wall as soon as possible. It is definitely the best-known wall in the region, if not the entire province. 

The garden around the Rands’ swimming pool was designed by the Dunington-Grubbs in about 1925. When seen shortly before the property was bought by Solmar, the peony alley was still intact and producing numerous blooms. The climbing roses had grown incredibly thick in the 85 years since they were planted and had prolific rosehips. 

I would like to see these horticultural features maintained as soon as possible. All gardeners will acknowledge that if perennials are neglected for more than two years or so, they are overrun with weeds. This is especially true in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which seems to be the world capital of goutweed.

I was pleased to see the recommendation of installing the axial pathway from the railroad gazebo across the fields to John Street, thereby creating a pathway from the Upper Canada Heritage Trail to the Commons. 

While some people would say that the public should not be allowed to cross private property, I would remind them of how welcoming the Rand family and the Foxes, who owned 144 and 176 John St. from 1993 to 2004, were to the townspeople of Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

Many people today talk of being invited to the Rand swimming pool, the first one built in town, while others speak of the tennis tournaments held on the Randwood courts. 

Hope Elliott Bradley has told me about the dances held in the Randwood stables that the young people in town attended in the 1940s. In its early years, the opening night party for the Shaw Festival was held on the grounds of Randwood. 

Bill and Carol Fox, who ran the School of Philosophy in the buildings that face John Street, allowed organizations in town to hold luncheons in the Randwood house. 

They also invited neighbours to explore the pathways at 144 and 176 John St.  

However, more recently, all the gates have been shut and nailed closed. I very much hope that the townspeople of Niagara-on-the-Lake will soon be welcome on the Rand Estate.

It is evident that if the official plan amendment under consideration is adopted, there will be very little land remaining on which to build housing units. 

I would like to propose that council invite Benny Marotta, the CEO of Solmar Development Corp., to donate the property at 200 John St. and 588 Charlotte St. to the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

He and his family have lived here for at least 12 years and have established many successful businesses in town. 

Since they are known for their generosity as witnessed by major donations to Niagara College, the new Niagara Falls hospital and the St. Catharines hospital, why not make a donation of this heritage estate so the townspeople of Niagara-on-the-Lake can enjoy the beauty of the Rand Estate? 

I hope the council and Mr. Marotta will consider this idea.

 

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