‘… He said the federal government has already reinstated funding to the Canadian Tourism Commission to reach out to potential American tourists.

“The federal government recognizes the importance of Americans to Canadian tourism. They are our closest customers.”’

Thus speaks the Niagara Falls Mayor who knowingly supported turning the US position at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane into affordable housing. This instead of availing himself of up to $500,000 in federal funding to create a commemorative park on the site.

At the Ontario Municipal Board hearing last year, acknowledged expert Donald Graves (author of the definitive account, Where Right and Glory Lead! The Battle of Lundy’s Lane 1814) testified that an interaction which is “the stuff of American schoolboy legend” took place on the site in question.

Might not it make sense to “reach out to potential American tourists” and recognize their importance by conserving their nation’s position at the climactic battle of the War of 1812?

Especially since the City of Niagara Falls OWNS the land in question?

6015 Barker Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario is where the American units emerged into the sunlit open ground from the path through the woods they’d taken. Here they changed from column into line formation, in full view of the British gunners partway up the southeastern slope of the hill. From here they charged unsuccessfully. And here they were mown down as they stood in formation waiting for their next orders.

Here, too, Captain James Miller’s famous retort to the order to capture those guns – “I’ll try, Sir!” – was uttered.

But the City of Niagara Falls does not deem this ground, upon which so much bravery was exhibited and so much blood was shed, worthy of protection.

Instead the City of Niagara Falls spent hundreds of thousands of local tax dollars fighting to turn that hallowed spot into low income housing.

How can the City expect federal dollars to “reach out to potential American tourists” when it has been busy throwing away the once in a lifetime opportunity to do this very thing with land it already owns? And with federal funds available to do the work?


Path of the 21st detail

At the recent Ontario Municipal Board hearing, the Board accepted testimony from two acknowledged experts:

Canadian military historian Donald E. Graves, who wrote the definitive account of the battle – Where Right and Glory Lead! Battle of Lundy’s Lane 1814 – and War of 1812 military tactics expert Dr. John Grodzinski of the Royal Military College.

Mr. Graves testified that the American Army came onto the field via a path through the woods that terminated at a spot now occupied by the former Battlefield School building.

Dr. Grodzinski also testified that the American troops entered the field and came under fire in that same place.



Mr. Graves explained the location of the “military crest” where the British guns were placed. This was not at the top of the hill, as is commonly assumed, but at a point lower down on the south-eastern slope, where a view could still be obtained and the gun’s trajectory was aligned to defend against an enemy moving from the south.

Mr. Graves testified that land now occupied by the school is important to the interpretation of a battle in which the British chose lands south of the crest of the hill, and now within the Drummond Hill Cemetery.

Mr. Graves repeatedly indicated that Miller’s US 21st Infantry advanced in their successful attack on the British guns over the area now occupied by the school footprint. He testified that one of the famous catchphrases in US history – Miller’s “I’ll try, Sir” – is associated with the school footprint area.

He also indicated that school area is important from a tactical (battle level) perspective, and that the battle was important from an operational (campaign) perspective since the British would have had to abandon Niagara if the Americans had won at Lundy’s Lane.

Mr. Graves additionally testified that the area occupied by the school building is important to interpreting the battle from the American side of the action. He described its protection as a “moral imperative.”


Dr. Grodzinski testified that this was the largest battle fought in the northern theatre in the War of 1812, and that it demonstrates the tenacity of the US troops and the resolve of the British-Canadians. He ascribed operational importance to this battle since it blunted the American offensive for this region.

He indicated that the Americans were trying to influence events in Europe and hoped to achieve a decisive victory that they could use at Ghent to get the upper hand. If there had been a significant British defeat at Lundy’s Lane, the British could have traded territory in the negotiations. Dr. Grodzinski thus attached a strategic (highest level) importance to the outcome of the battle.

Dr. Grodzinski testified that the school footprint “takes up an important part of the battlefield, and interrupts the view and interpretation.”

He advised that Winfield Scott’s unit deployed on the south side of the school building. He described how, as they came to the south-eastern corner of the school property, nine companies of US General Scott’s units would have deployed to the east and west in shoulder to shoulder formation.

He stressed that the southeast corner of the school property is where the majority of the American forces came into the battlefield and became exposed to casualties. The school building is located where the US troops arrived and funnelled out, deploying from column formation into lines, were fired upon and decimated.

Dr. Grodzinski testified that the school building is in the way of seeing where that happened and that privatization of the lands would intensify an existing problem: “the Americans are behind us” when looking up at the hill from the rear of the building.

Dr. Grodzinski testified that the portion of the school land now fronting onto Barker Street was involved in all three phases of the battle. In the second phase of the battle, the US 21st Infantry on the attack moved through what is now the school building. In the third phase, it was the line of communication, and used for moving reinforcements up and casualties back. He attached especial significance to that area.

Dr. Grodzinski has led tours for senior representatives of other governments, serving military and NATO personnel, and representatives from other Canadian military alliances visiting the Lundy’s Lane battlefield to study and discuss how units move on the field.

He testified that interpretation requires being able to access the Southeast portion of the former school lands to get a sense of the terrain and convey what happened. The Americans formed and were fired upon there.

Dr. Grodzinski emphasized the great need for continued public access to this portion of the subject lands: “where the 21st moved is critical to understanding of the battle.” He testified that narrow access ways are not conducive to tours.

Dr. Grodzinski testified that preserving only the section the City proposes to keep would dismiss what happened outside of that area, and that what was left would be almost useless for interpretation.

Author Graves to speak Monday

donald e graves

Donald E. Graves, author of Where Right and Glory Lead! The Battle of Lundy’s Lane 1814, the definitive account of the iconic War of 1812 battle, will be speaking at Niagara Falls City Hall on Monday, May 5th.

Graves is a writer and historian specializing in Canadian military history. Educated at the University of Saskatchewan, he has worked as a historian for the National Historiic Sites Service, the National Archives of Canada and the Canadian Forces. He is currently the Managing Director of the Ensign Heritage Group. He served briefly in the Canadian Militia.

Graves’ work has been widely praised. A review by Jon Latimer in Times Literary Supplement declared: “Donald E. Graves is probably Canada’s foremost military historian.”

Graves is appearing as an expert witness at the Ontario Municipal Board hearing to decide the fate of the last publicly accessible portion of the US position at the battle. The southern portion of the property in question, the former Battlefield School, is the last remaining part of the “killing ground” in public hands.

The City of Niagara Falls is attempting to rezone and sell that portion for parking and subsidized housing. The Friends of the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield, an established public charity mandated to promote the preservation of the central battlefield lands, is fighting to conserve the land, bringing balance to the battlefield, and restoring the currently impaired viewshed and viewscape.

The Friends have the opportunity to secure up to $500,000 in federal funding to demolish the redundant 44-year old school building and create a commemorative park in the restored open space. The park will commemorate the Aboriginal, Black and Women’s History associated with the site, as well as the outcomes of the War of 1812 and the US position.

According to an aerial photo that came out of the Master Plan Study conducted for the City, the building lies directly atop the avenue of approach of the US Twenty-First Infantry in the pivotal minutes of the climactic battle of the War of 1812. The Friends project, in restoring the open space so visitors can follow the path of that unit to the hilltop, promises to hold the key to building as complete a destination as can be achieved at this time.

Instead of embracing the opportunity to achieve this goal, the City is spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal, planning and other experts in its fight to throw this unique opportunity away. The hearing begins at 10:00 a.m. in Council Chambers.

Spring 2013 Update

Despite the opportunity to have the redundant school building razed and a commemorative park developed at no cost to the City of Niagara Falls, the City Council has approved development of the central US position.

On February 26, with only two Council members voting in opposition, three zoning by-laws were passed regarding the former school property:  One rezoned the southern portion of the site to R5A Apartment use, another the northern portion to Open Space, a third the eastern portion to General Commercial.

The R5A zoning would permit the development of 30 apartments in the former school building, directly atop the path taken by the US 21st Infantry in the pivotal minutes of the climactic battle of the War of 1812.  The area zoned R5A encompasses much of what Canadian military expert Don Graves referred to his, the definitive account of the battle, as the “killing ground.”

The General Commercial zoning is intended to permit the expansion of parking for a funeral home onto this “killing ground.”  The lands slated for General Commercial zoning and conversion to a parking lot have always been green space.

The rezoning is intended to allow the majority of the school property, long held in public ownership, to be sold to private interests.  Lands central to the US position would be lost to intense multi-residential and commercial use.

Visitors’ ability to experience the battlefield from the US perspective would be lost.  The view of the US position from the British-Canadian position on the hill, would be severely constrained.

Graves describes, in Where Right and Glory Lead! :  ’Drummond saw at a glance that the ground would make a good defensive position.  The gentle southern slope of the hill would allow his artillery to transform the cleared fields in front into what a later generation of soldiers would call a “killing ground.”’

Future visitors standing where Drummond stood would be severely challenged to envision the “open sunlit area” into which Scott’s forces emerged.  They would see parking lots and an apartment building where those forces charged and fell.

Both the R5A and General Commercial zoning by-laws are under appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

By popular demand, a petition has been created:


What else?

Friends of the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield, a registered public foundation, is currently accepting contributions to the Battlefield Defence Fund.  These contributions will provide professional representation in support of our Ontario Municipal Board appeal.

Tax receipts will be issued for contributions of $10 and up              

Public Foundation Registration Number 869831396RR0001

Send cheques payable to Friends of the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield to:  5993 Barker Street, Niagara Falls, ON  L2G 1Y5

Niagara Falls Municipal Heritage Committee Supportive

Friends President Bill Colclough and member Jock Ainslie attended a special meeting of the  Municipal Heritage Committee this past Monday and found unanimous support there.  Below is the written submission Bill sent in advance of the meeting.

[We would like to thank the The Old Stone Inn, where Mr. Graves stays when in the area, for providing his room at a reduced rate for his appearance referenced in the first paragraph.]


Cultural Heritage Value of the Central Lundy’s Lane Battlefield

On January 22, 2013, Canadian military heritage expert Donald E. Graves, who had driven in from Ottawa to appear at the Council meeting, told Niagara Falls Council that the most intense fighting occurred in area bounded by Barker, Drummond, Lundy’s Lane and Main.

Mr. Graves had previously advised Council of this in writing, in his April 20, 2012 letter to Council [Appendices A1, A2 and A3]:

Within this general area, the two opposing armies manoeuvered and fought but the hardest combat occurred in the area bounded by Barker Street, Drummond Road, Lundy’s Lane and Main Street — and areas outside that limit but immediately adjacent.

The “area bounded by Barker Street, Drummond Road, Lundy’s Lane and Main Street” is the same area proposed to be purchased, leveled, and preserved as a national commemorative park under the federal government’s sesquicentennial (1964-5) Battlefield Park National Shrine Plan [Appendices B1, B2, B3 and B4].

During the course of the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield Master Plan Study commissioned by the City of Niagara Falls in the late 1990s, Master Plan project lead Carl Bray produced an aerial photo of the central battlefield on which he outlined troop movements during Phase II of the battle – the climactic phase in which the US forces overran and captured the British guns.  [Appendix C]

Bray’s work clearly shows the Battlefield School building lying squarely inside the route taken to the hilltop by the U.S. 21st Infantry under Col. James Miller, subsequently dubbed by his countrymen “The Hero of Lundy’s Lane” for the success of his daring exploit.

Miller’s response to General Winfield Scott that evening when ordered to take the hill, “I’ll try, Sir!” was adopted as the 1st’s regimental Motto.  When that unit was consolidated into the US Fifth Infantry in 1815, the Fifth adopted it as well.

I’ll try, Sir!” remains the motto today of the US Fifth Infantry, a unit which was engaged in the US Civil War and other 19th century wars, and has seen honourable service in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts.  Through these past 200 years, the Regimental Motto “I’ll try, Sir!” born at Lundy’s Lane has remained their motto.

Famous American author James Fennimore Cooper, best known for Last of the Mohicans, used as the setting of the climax of another of his novels, The Spy, these same central battlefield lands:

“Everything in the American camp announced an approaching struggle. At a
distance of a few miles, the sound of cannon and musketry was heard
above the roar of the cataract. The troops were soon in motion, and a
movement made to support the division of the army which was already
engaged. Night had set in before the reserve and irregulars reached the
foot of Lundy’s Lane, a road that diverged from the river and crossed a
conical eminence, at no great distance from the Niagara highway. The
summit of this hill was crowned with the cannon of the British, and in
the flat beneath was the remnant of Scott’s gallant brigade …”

The property at 6015 Barker is the central part of that “flat beneath” on which the concluding chapter of The Spy unfolds.

The City of Niagara Falls Official Plan defines a “Cultural Heritage Landscape” as being a defined geographic area … valued for its important contribution to our understanding of the history of a place, and event or a people.

The lands within the boundaries identified identically under the federal government’s sesquicentennial Battlefield Park National Shrine Plan and by Mr. Graves in 2012 and 2013 are important for their contribution to all three:


A)     PLACE:  The long-term preservation of the three largest parcels within that boundary in public hands speaks to our understanding of the history of this place, and to the community’s important role over the past 200 years in “doing justice to this special place,” as highlighted in the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield Master Plan (September 1998).

The two largest parcels within the area bounded by Barker, Drummond, Lundy’s Lane and Main are the Drummond Hill Cemetery (under the Niagara Parks Commission’s stewardship for most of the 20th century and the City of Niagara Falls’ since 1996) and the public school lands assembled and held from the late 1880s onward by the local public school board.

When the first school (Barker Street) was erected thereon late in the 19th century, education was seen as a noble purpose.  That was reflected in the newspaper coverage [Appendix B2] reference to this as “public institutional use.”

The majority of the property at 6015 Barker, most particularly that part on which the present school footprint lies, has been preserved in public hands for the past 135 years.

A smaller parcel along the southern border of the Drummond Hill Cemetery was acquired by the City in 1996 to be preserved for park purposes.  The viewscape looking toward the US position from within this parkland, and from within the Drummond Hill Cemetery, is severely constrained by the massive building currently sited at 6015 Barker. [Appendices D1, D2 and D3]

The City subsequently purchased three other properties within the area bounded by Barker, Drummond, Lundy’s Lane and Main and demolished the residential buildings located thereon (5986 Drummond, 6157 Buchner Place and 6156 Lundy’s Lane).  These properties are of far lesser contextual importance and historical significance than 6015 Barker, or in the history of the central battlefield as a place.


B)   EVENT:  The central Lundy’s Lane Battlefield lands are important to our understanding of the event took place on the evening of July 25, 1814 and into the next day.  The parcel known municipally as 6015 Barker Street is critically important in this regard, it being the central staging area for the US attacks and having figured prominently in Phases I and II of the battle.

An American force had come northward along the portage road early that evening.  Military historian and author Donald E. Graves, on page 117 of Where Right and Glory Lead! The Battle of Lundy’s Lane 1814, describes:

‘ It was about 7:15 P.M. when the First Brigade, with Scott at its head, debouched from the chestnut wood.  With colours flying, drums beating and fifes playing a lively air (probably the traditional “Yankee Doodle”), the grey-uniformed column moved from the shade of the trees into an open, sunlit area.  As they emerged, they came into “full view, and in easy range of a line of battle drawn up in Lundy’s Lane, more extensive than that defeated at Chippawa.” ‘

Graves describes in detail that “open sunlit area,” the area now bounded by Barker, Drummond, Lundy’s Lane and Main, into which Scott’s forces emerged, on pp. 119-120 of Where Right and Glory Lead!  At the bottom of page 120 he also relates why the lands now bounded by Barker, Drummond, Lundy’s Lane and Main were chosen:

‘ Drummond saw at a glance that the ground would make a good defensive position.  The gentle southern slope of the hill would allow his artillery to transform the cleared fields in front into what a later generation of soldiers would call a “killing ground.” ‘

The lands now municipally known as 6015 Barker Street are the central “killing ground” on which the majority of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane took place.

The land presently consumed by the school footprint was, additionally, the route over which US hero Col. James Miller led the US 21st on their way to successfully storming the guns on the hilltop.  As evidenced by Major Grodzinski’s January 22, 2013 submission to City Council [Appendix E], this space is vital to understanding the battle from the US perspective.

The ability to walk this space is essential to permitting visitors understand the US military tactics which allowed them to capture the British guns.  It is also vital to providing the opportunity for historically accurate reenactments in 2014 and beyond.

The school building currently presents a significant constraint on the site both physically and in terms of the viewscape from within the municipally owned lands.  Our ability to fully grasp and understand what took place here depends on being able restore the sweep of the topography in order to better visualize the battle that raged over it.

The information provided by an apartments proponent at the January 22, 2013 Council meeting – ie. that the walls are strong and will allow a second story to be constructed thereon so that they will be able to provide 30 units – indicates that the building’s massing (already huge, especially in relation to surrounding properties) would be nearly doubled under the proposal the City has put forward.

The viewscape from within the municipally-owned lands (already constrained) would be severely impeded; the opportunity to convey a sense of a historic place lost.  As Major Grodzinski pointed out:  “The development of the parcel of land on which the school currently rests would ruin, rather than enhance the battlefield. ”


C)  PEOPLE:   The central Lundy’s Lane battlefield lands have a contribution to make to our understanding of Canadians as a people.  The War of 1812, of which this was the climactic battle, marked the genesis of the Canadian identity, often popularly summarized as “not American.”

A Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque in the Drummond Hill Cemetery advises:

“This was the site of the bloodiest battle of the War of 1812.  On the afternoon of 25th July, 1814, Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond with about 2800 men engaged the invading American army which had recently been victorious at Chippewa.  The armies were evenly matched and the six-hour battle lasted until darkness and heavy losses put an end to the fighting.  Each force had lost over 800 men.  Although each claimed victory, the Americans had failed to dislodge Drummond from his position.  They withdrew the next day, ending their offensive in Upper Canada.”

For two long years, the Canadas had withstood invasion by the young republic to the south.  After Lundy’s Lane, the Americans fell back to Fort Erie and the war petered to a close.  The stand made by Drummond’s forces here on this hilltop, determinedly repelling, three weeks after being delivered a decisive defeat at Chippawa, the American forces arrayed on the plain below, was the watershed event in the War of 1812.

Our country’s former unofficial national anthem, Alexander Muir’s “The Maple Leaf Forever,” (which he composed in 1867 in celebration of Confederation) makes specific reference to this site:

At Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane,

Our brave fathers, side by side,

For freedom, homes and loved ones dear,

Firmly stood and nobly died;

The loyalties of the residents of Upper Canada, now the Province of Ontario, had been challenged and shaped by the War of 1812.  Were it not for the American forces’ ultimate inability to dislodge Drummond from his position at Lundy’s Lane, Upper Canada may have fallen to the invaders.

The Province of Ontario’s motto, Ut incepit Fidelis sic permanet, Latin for Loyal she began, loyal she remains, references the Loyalist refugees whom had originally settled this province following the American Revolution and whom formed the backbone of the civilian resistance to the 1812-1814 invasion.



The lands bounded by Barker, Drummond, Lundy’s Lane and Main meet not only the definition of a Cultural Heritage Landscape as per the City of Niagara Falls’ Official Plan; they also meet the definition in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 which specifically mentions “battlefields”:

2.6 Cultural Heritage and Archaeology

2.6.1 Significant built heritage resources and significant cultural heritage landscapes shall be conserved.


means the identification, protection, use and/or management of cultural heritage and archaeological resources in such a way that their heritage values, attributes and integrity are retained. This may be addressed through a conservation plan or heritage impact assessment.

Cultural heritage landscape:

means a defined geographical area of heritage significance which has been modified by human activities and is valued by a community. It involves a grouping(s) of individual heritage features such as structures, spaces, archaeological sites and natural elements, which together form a significant type of heritage form, distinctive from that of its constituent elements or parts. Examples may include, but are not limited to, heritage conservation districts designated under the Ontario Heritage Act; and villages, parks, gardens, battlefields, mainstreets and neighbourhoods, cemeteries, trailways and industrial complexes of cultural heritage value.

Heritage attributes:

means the principal features, characteristics, context and appearance that contribute to the cultural heritage significance of a protected heritage property.

Significant: means

g. in regard to cultural heritage and archaeology, resources that are valued for the important contribution they make to our understanding of the history of a place, an event, or a people.

Other applicable legislation is also cited at Appendix F1, including applicable portions of the City of Niagara Falls’ Official Plan.  Appendix F2 references information from Ontario Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation Architectural Conservation Note #6 Heritage Conservation Principles for Landuse Planning.

Protection of the “municipally owned sites plus related publicly-owned properties” (as per the Official Plan) as a Cultural Heritage Landscape is critical to allowing us to rediscover the heritage values of this site and give them the prominence they deserve, to better understand its significance and national importance, and “to do justice to this special place.”

Proposing to carve up the central “killing ground” that is now a “municipally owned site” specifically referenced in the Official Plan; and was previously “related publicly-owned properties” specifically referenced in the Official Plan (and had been publicly-owned for the past 135 years); during the midst of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 is ludicrous.

Proposing to carve up and sell off parts of what a Federal Cabinet Minister recently advised is part of a National Historic Site is even more ludicrous.  The Hon. Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, in a November 23, 2012 letter [Appendix G], advised: “The Drummond Hill property where the Battlefield Public School is located is within the boundaries of Lundy’s Lane National Historic Site of Canada.”

A review of the applicable Ontario Regulations made under the Ontario Heritage Act, discussion of potential Reasons For Designation, and recommendations are provided at Appendix H.

Appendix J provides correction to the erroneous statements in the Planning, Building & Development Department Inter-Department Memorandum RE: Former Battlefield School Property dated February 4, 2013.


Respectfully submitted by Friends of the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield President Bill Colclough on February 2, 2013.


Appendix A1

Appendix A2

Appendix A3

Appendix B1

Appendix C – Carl Bray’s aerial mapping

Appendix E

Appendix F1

Appendix F2

Appendix G

Appendix H

Appendix J