Niagara-on-the-Lake has been awarded the 2020 Prince of Wales National Trust prize, recognizing “its sustained commitment to heritage conservation over time.”
The town is being celebrated for “its exemplary and effective revitalization practices, and demonstrated results in bringing heritage to life,” the announcement of the prize says.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero says she was very surprised and thrilled to get the phone call from the National Trust, telling her of the award. Town heritage planner Denise Horne had nominated the town, filling out the application with the help of Disero’s executive assistant Beth Audet, without telling anyone else.
“It was Denise’s plan,” says Disero. “She took it upon herself to nominate the town. When I got the call, I was thrilled. As much as I love Niagara-on-the-Lake, I couldn’t believe we’d won the award. I didn’t even know we’d been nominated.”
The recognition is all about the town, and the citizens’ “continuing efforts to uphold our heritage, and ensure it’s protected,” says Disero.
“This is about volunteers and staff working together. It’s about the town coming together.”
Disero says it adds one more award, similar to Communities in Bloom, that will attract visitors, who come for many reasons.
“They come for the Shaw Festival, the wineries, so many reasons, but everyone who comes is aware of how historic our town is, even if it’s not their principle reason for being here.”
The recognition will also inspire people to continue putting their energy and efforts toward the preservation of the town’s history, she says. “It will inspire us to continue to protect what we have.”
The announcement says that in keeping with The Prince of Wales’ commitment to architecture, the environment, and inner-city renewal, he agreed to lend his title to the creation of the National Trust prize in 1999. It’s awarded annually, recognizing communities and their local governments for the successful heritage stewardship of a town, city, rural region, First Nations reserve or community.
“Niagara-on-the-Lake is a compelling example of resilience grounded in built heritage. It is the recipient of the National Trust’s 2020 Prince of Wales Prize, which recognizes communities and their local governments for the successful heritage stewardship of a town, city, First Nations reserve or community, rural region, or district,” the announcement says.
It’s a community “proud of its past,” and “a living illustration of early 19th century Upper Canada.”
A National Historic Site of Canada, the town “boasts an extraordinary collection of residential, commercial, ecclesiastical and institutional buildings, many on their original sites close to the street. The town’s earliest citizens made a strong commitment to the restoration of local heritage structures, and to the active conservation of the town’s cultural heritage resources, which has led to the conservation and restoration of many early buildings by private property owners as well as local heritage organizations.”
In 1962, residents formed the Niagara Foundation, a local advocacy and fundraising group dedicated to preserving the town’s landmarks – including the Niagara Apothecary, then Ontario’s oldest continuously operating pharmacy. “The actions of these heritage advocates galvanized and inspired others in the conservation movement in Canada,” the announcement says.
Brad Nixon, vice-president of the foundation, says the organization had nothing to do with the awarding of the prize, although it is a member of the National Trust. “It’s a great recognition, and a very prestigious award,” he says. “It’s a real boost for people who are concerned about heritage preservation.”
It’s also a recognition of the work that’s been done in the past, and gives credit to all efforts of all the townspeople who have put their efforts into preservation, says Nixon, mentioning groups such as SORE (Save Our Rand Estate) and Chautauqua residents who have come together to protect their community. “I think the cooperative work of our town council also has to be commended,” he says.
For more information about the award, visit www.nationaltrustcanada.ca/awards/prince-of-wales-prize