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.

 

CONCLUSION:

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.

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

 

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