Essex, ON – One of the region’s premier tourism destinations felt the love this Valentine’s day, as the Government of Canada announced a $600,000 grant to create a new Heritage Centre for the John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area in Essex.
Built in 1842, the Homestead is the only living agricultural museum west of London. It has twice received the distinction of being voted the best museum or heritage space in Windsor-Essex and was awarded the Russel K. Cooper Award as the best living history museum in Ontario
The Homestead welcomed more than 18,000 visitors last year, and the new Heritage Centre will enhance the educational and cultural experiences for all who visit. It will feature an adequate, climate-controlled creative commons for students of all ages, a significantly enhanced exhibit space, an outdoor classroom space and accessible and expanded washroom facilities. It will also serve as a tourism hub for the region.
Wanting to maximize this once-in-a-generation opportunity, the Essex Region Conservation Foundation has committed to match the funds granted by the Canadian Experiences Fund.
The Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation have kicked off the campaign with a donation of $100,000 to create a ‘first stop’, with a beautiful local artisan gift shop, innovative programming space and significantly enhanced tourism promotional area. This will be named the Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation Welcome Centre.
As well, $100,000 from the bequeathed estate of historian, and long-time Homestead supporter, Mrs. Alvira Wigle has been allocated to the project, and donations from dozens of individuals and the Friends of the John R. Park Homestead total an additional $40,000 to date. Of the $1.2 million budget, $840,000 has been raised.
The Park brothers were key in establishing our local shipping and manufacturing industries. Today, in the Park Family’s original pioneer-era blacksmith shop, the blacksmith engages students in forging and maintaining various tools and small pieces of hardware – making connections between the past and inspiring students into the future. The shop also provides exciting, hands-on opportunities for visitors of all ages to experience how early iron imports were forged into practical implements for the local farms and the developing region.
“Strong regional economies are essential for Canada’s success and sustainability. We are working with you to help businesses and innovators grow, succeed and create good jobs for Canadians. For that, we need to work together to make the right investments that will enable communities and businesses in all regions of the country to develop products and experiences to attract more tourists year-round. This will help our vibrant communities big and small reap the benefits of the global tourism boom, while showcasing Canada’s brand, centred on shared values of diversity and equality.”
- The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages
“I am so pleased to support tourism growth and economic development in the Windsor-Essex region. The John R. Park Homestead is an important educational and tourism destination in our region, preserving the stories of our past for future generations. This investment in the local tourism industry will complement and further enhance the many destinations and experiences to be explored in our beautiful region.”
- MP Irek Kusmierczyk, MP Windsor-Tecumseh
“The new Heritage Centre will allow us to better interpret the unique history of our region for the thousands of students who visit the site each year for hands-on, curriculum based experiential education. As well as supporting this educational programming, the new Heritage Centre will also serve as a Tourism Hub, promoting the unique experiences to be had in our region and providing enhanced visitor services.”
- Kieran McKenzie, Chair, Essex Region Conservation Authority
“Preserving our region’s heritage is one of the key focus areas for the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, and when we learned of this incredibly generous grant from the Canadian Experiences Fund, we could not have been more excited. We are so thankful to The Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation for once again leading this community with a $100,000 donation to create The Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation Welcome Centre as the first point of entry to our new Heritage Centre.”
- Susan Stockwell Andrews, President, Essex Region Conservation Foundation
“This new Heritage Centre will add important tourism and visitor services in our region. The authentic experiences offered at the John R. Park Homestead are a valued trip motivator that have twice been recognized as the best museum or heritage site in Windsor Essex. The Heritage Centre will further enhance the ability to interpret the stories of our agricultural and manufacturing history, create a new visitor data collection point and provide an important tourism hub for thousands of visitors and cyclists each year.”
- Gordon Orr, CEO, Tourism Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island
Danielle Breault Stuebing
Director, Communications & Outreach Services