Winter 2017

John Brown Heritage Foundation Winter 2017 Newsletter
John Brown House

Welcome to 2017

Thank you for being a part of 2016. It was a year of tremendous discovery for JBHF. We attended and participated in a number of heritage events and seminars and offered educational programming of our own. We further stabilized the John Brown House and the John Norton Cabin and we began cleaning up the grounds of the Brown Homestead in earnest. We had an incredible think-tank with "Museum Anarchist" Franklin Vagnone of Twisted Preservation, which began what we anticipate will be a long and fruitful friendship.
Outreach event at the John Brown House
We also got out and talked to folks in the community, and have begun to discern ways we can keep the John Brown House and the Brown Homestead not just a special historical artifact, but relevant to the area for years to come. Our initial outreach and investigations reaped additional profound rewards, namely the two pillars upon which we will move forward, and the beginning of our real work.

The first pillar is our contribution to the new movement which is redefining how we process, share and promote cultural heritage. The second pillar is embodying and demonstrating that process in the creation of a meaningful, sustainable and community based existence for the Brown Homestead. For the rest of 2017 - and the rest of this winter newsletter - we plan to address and embody both of those.
Norton Cabin basement
We invite you now to sign up to
Follow the JBHF Blog where a lot of exciting things are slated to begin in 2017. Following us will get you an alert in your email each time something goes live on the website. You can either read the blog post in your email or you can click a link to read it online. The JBHF blog will be a place to celebrate and feature other great heritage events and sites in the area, along with fantastic local farms, farmers markets, restaurants, chefs, wineries and breweries!

We will also be featuring regular updates and reflections about our process on both the organizational development and restoration fronts there. Our goal is to share our process, not just with those invested in the John Brown House and the Brown Homestead, but with other heritage advocates and professionals who are looking to make this journey themselves.

It's going to be quite a trip this year - we hope YOU will come along for the ride!

Local Eventspiration

We are big fans of local events that connect people with each other and with history. We'd like celebrate that by drawing your attention to some of the terrific events and experiences that inspire us in this amazing community of ours.
Books & Brews
at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre

February 21st, March 21st & April 18th
Learn, Indulge, Connect!

One of the Founding Principles of the John Brown Heritage Foundation is our understanding that history isn't just the province of the generals and the politicians, but is about the contributions of ordinary people like all of us. This winter's Books & Brews at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canal Centre is a great example of the principle: The books this winter focus on immigration and the discussion will also address how new Canadians have contributed to our history during the past 200 years. We were excited for obvious reasons: The John Brown whose home we are protecting and preserving at the Brown Homestead, was himself an immigrant who found his way to the Niagara area after joining the Loyalist cause during the American Revolution. His grandparents were part of the Palatine German migration to upstate New York in 1710.
Books & Brews
As you can tell by its name, Books & Brews is not your average book club. This one takes place in a museum and then adds tasting seminars and samplings of coffees, teas ... and beer! The St. Catharines Museum is always a treat. A great place to learn local history, they offer groups and activities for both young and old. And don't forget that there are also two observation decks from which to watch great freight ships navigate one of the world's engineering marvels - the locks of the Welland Canal! We were also glad to see the involvement of Mahtay Cafe and Lounge, another great hub for community connection that always celebrates local art and food.

What better way to start 2017 than with good books, good banter and good beer? Maybe we'll even see you there!

Making Plans
Upcoming Restoration Projects

We'd like to take this opportunity to share a couple of the exciting projects beginning at JBHF!

The romance of the garret

Whether sun-slanted or dark and gloomy, peacefully meditative or said to be haunted, attics are always compelling. Attics in older houses, especially. They are places where the ghosts and secrets of the past are stacked in boxes or hiding behind ancient, dusty furniture. But these garrets are also places of romance, where people have hidden from parents or governments, or held secret trysts. They are places where artists and authors have retreated to write or to paint or to dream.

With it's heavy beams and church-like a-frame, the John Brown House attic at the Brown Homestead is no different. Behind a nearly hidden door on the second floor landing, and up a steep and narrow stair, this space, empty but for some old windows stacked against one wall, already has a singular and intriguing ethos.John Brown House attic
Having sat quiet for who knows how many years, the floor of the Brown House attic has slowly amassed a thick collection of dust and debris. Thorough cleaning will allow the contemplative space to become useful once again, and should help the air quality in the house overall. This cleaning, however, is not one that will only need a mop and some elbow grease.

To ensure a thorough job, we intend to remove the floorboards themselves and clean down to the lathe of the 2nd floor ceiling below, then complete any repairs and relay the floor boards. This will also give us an opportunity to excavate the space under the floor. Who knows what long lost treasures may lie beneath the boards of a floor nearly 200 years old? We are going to find out!

The Garret Project will be completed as a workshop. Participants will learn proper documentation techniques when pulling up heritage flooring, how to make the necessary repairs and properly relay the flooring. They will also help to lay an excavation grid, photographing and documenting their findings! If this piques your fancy and you'd like to learn more or to join us, send an email to

Split Rail Fence
Rural simplicity at its best

We love the rustic split rail fence at the Brown Homestead. While a gentle reminder of the property line, it still feels inviting. It looks like the type of fence you could lean against or sit on with a drink in hand, lost in thought or having a casual conversation with a friend. Well, it could-be the perfect spot - if it wouldn't fall over if you got too relaxed. Which is why we need to fix it!

Cleanup of accumulated brush and overgrowth has also created the opportunity and need to expand the fence across the entire front of (and elsewhere on) the property. Here we owe a nod of recognition to Derek McCabe for donating his time and expertise to provide some much needed pruning work on a few of the larger trees on the property as well as to remove a large dead pine tree - an important part of the cleanup work. Thank you, Derek!
Derek McCabe removing a tree
Please join us later this spring in making the split-rail fence a little more sturdy. Participants will learn the techniques used in both building and repairing. The project will take place in the warmer months and will be a great opportunity to get out into the fresh air and get your hands dirty! For more details or to be part of this robust endeavour email us at When it's up to snuff, we can gather to confirm that it's the perfect casual, lean on, chat and have a drink spot ...

Theresa Felicetti - drinking on the job
More Local Eventspiration !

Drinking on the Job

(It's called research)

In our efforts to connect with the local food community, we were thrilled when we came across the Special Food & Craft Beer Event with Chef Drew Hall at The Old Crow Bar and Bistro in Niagara Falls. The Old Crow is a local treasure on Queen Street in Niagara Falls, renowned for serving up great food and local brews and hosting great community events like the 8th Bimonthly Rock N Swap on February 18th, where local artists and musicians share their talents and sell their art. This month's music-craft event is raising funds for the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario in honour of a family in the community who recently lost their daughter to the disease.

The Old Crow is also a known chef's bar, where food industry professionals often congregate after hours for libation and comradery. And last Sunday night, in a first of its kind event, Owner Darren Quinn and Chef Drew Hall (the executive chef at St. Catharines' Meridian Centre) served up a delicious five course meal, complete with local beer pairings, for an unbelievable price of $30.00 - tax included!

"Darren and I are close friends and one night we just mothballed the idea of doing this," said Chef Hall. "We weren't sure if it was feasible, but I always love a challenge. Catering chefs always love a challenge - doing things right when there's very little hope of success. We're almost nihilistic in that sense," he chuckled. "That's how it really came up. I pitched it to him, and then he kept pushing me on it, which I needed. I can be a procrastinator."
Chef Drew introducing the meal
Chef Drew introducing one of the five courses

There were two seatings of thirty at Sunday's event, and though we called shortly after the event went live, we got the last four seats available at the earlier seating. "It was amazing." Chef Hall said. "We put the thing online and we were booked out in I think less than 48 hours, which was incredibly flattering. I was really taken aback by that. I couldn't believe what the public response was."

And we understand why. With outstanding dishes like his first course, a deeply flavourful crawfish bouillabaisse with brown butter croutons and chive sugar, paired with Niagara-On-The Lake's Ironwood Hard Cider, who could pass it up? "That's the one that really speaks to my soul." Chef Drew smiles, when we compliment the dish. "That's kind of me in a bowl right there."

Not that there weren't challenges in coming into a new kitchen. "I think all chefs worry when you walk in somewhere - that is, I'm used to all my toys and bells ad whistles - all the tools I have access to back in my kitchen at the Meridian Centre," he explains. "When you're doing something like this, you know, in a smaller kitchen, you really have to engineer the menu around what you have access to, as far as kitchen equipment, space, refrigeration, all that sort of stuff. So originally I had some hesitation, but we have an old term that goes back to the Escoffier days [Georges Auguste Escoffier was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer in the early part of the 20th century, known for popularizing and updating French cooking methods] which we shortened to Systeme D. The actual term is French, but essentially it means, "work with what you've got." All we can say is, well done, Chef!
Pork Belly
Smoked pork belly and beer ... need we say more?

The event was local through and through. Along with several outstanding beers and ciders from area breweries, the meat was provided by the family owned Big Red Food Service in Thorold, the produce came from Dan's Produce Ltd in Niagara Falls and the dairy by PML Foods in St. Catharines. Many who attended were regulars to the bar, and there were several area chefs in attendance as well.

We want to help folks in the Niagara region continue to interact with their local chefs, farmers, brewers and wineries as their neighbours and their friends, and this little party at the Old Crow was a perfect example, further proof that success can and does come from locals supporting locals. Keep your eye out this month for our blog featuring an extended interview with Chef Hall, where he shares more of his insights into the local agri-food industry, his own culinary style and inspiration. In the meantime, slip down and try a local brew at the Old Crow, or get yourself an Ice Dogs ticket and try some of Chef Drew's amazing food down at the Meridian Centre!
Back Door Visitor to the John Brown House
Our security cameras tend to catch the comings and goings of an interesting
cast of characters - and sometimes even catch their attention!
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