Lauren and Vaughn Goettler and the Goettler Family Foundation have pledged $1 million toward the acquisition, stabilization and protection of The Wilderness.
The Niagara Foundation has claim to half of it, and is trying to secure the remaining portion in order to preserve the property.
“We love our home in Niagara-on-the-Lake and think heritage attributes like The Wilderness contribute to making this a special place to live,” said Lauren Goettler in a recent news release.
“This generous gift will further the foundation’s efforts to acquire the half interest in The Wilderness we don’t already have claim to,” said Lyle Hall, incoming Niagara Foundation president. “We want to acquire this heritage property and honour its unique place in the history and culture of Niagara-on-the-Lake.”
The foundation claims its half-interest through the will of Ruth Parker, one of three sisters who owned the property. Ruth passed away in 2013.
The executor of Parker’s estate determined the Niagara Foundation was the organization to respect her wishes that the heritage elements of The Wilderness be preserved and maintained for the benefit of the public.
The five-acre wooded property and its historic buildings on King Street in the heart of the Old Town was once the home of William Claus, deputy superintendent of the Indian Department, and one of the three trustees of the Six Nations. The Wilderness was originally given by Six Nations to Claus’ wife Nancy Johnson “in token of her many deeds of kindness.” Her father, Sir William Johnson, negotiated the Treaty of Niagara with 24 Indigenous nations in 1764. The treaty formed the basis for the original treaty relationship between Indigenous peoples and settlers in Eastern North America.
The town designated The Wilderness a heritage property in 1994. This designation applies both to the heavily wooded land as well as the entire exterior and interior of the house on the site, as well as the carriage house and the archaeological remains. The house was built in 1816. A creek that meanders through the property is protected by a conservation easement.
The Ontario Heritage Trust has strongly encouraged the preservation of this property, says Sunday’s news release.
The Goettler Family pledge kicks off a fundraising process that will extend into 2023.
“This is a great start to a larger fundraising effort,” said Hall. “Acquisition is the first step. Then, we need to determine how best to realize Ruth Parker’s wish of preservation and maintenance of this historic property.”
“Our hope is that this gift provides a catalyst for others to step forward and assist the foundation in this worthy cause,” said Vaughn Goettler. “Let’s do something we can be proud of for years to come.”
In the news release, the Niagara Foundation says it is “most grateful to Niagara-on-the-Lake citizens Lauren and Vaughn Goettler, and their foundation, for this most generous pledge” toward the campaign to safeguard The Wilderness.
The Goettler Family Foundation is a catalytic, innovative, philanthropic organization that chooses to initiate new projects, fund areas that are ignored by others, sponsor the forgotten and most in need, champion our traditions and history, and step in when projects have been neglected or stalled, says the news release.
The family foundation seeks out partners, internationally and locally, who are pivotal for changing the world for the better, acting according to the principles of effective altruism, and chooses to be a change agent, community builder and an active philanthropic leader, whose aim is to challenge and stimulate others to participate in making our world a better place, the news release says.
The Goettler Family Foundation has made financial commitments to a range of culture, arts and local history, the young people of Niagara, conservation causes and those most in need including: a Niagara College Scholarship; Yellow Door Theatre; the NOTL Museum; Music Niagara; Niagara Symphony Orchestra; Shaw Festival; Chorus Niagara; Coral Reefs; African Rift Valley; WVASA Initiative (Malawi); Doctors Without Borders (Ukraine); Bolivia Aquaponics Programme; GROW Together; THARS, Burundi.