Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mackenzie Heritage Printery and Newspaper Museum

Did you know that Ontario’s first newspaper was published in the little village of Queenston in Niagara-on-the-Lake? That is one of the many things you will learn at the Mackenzie Heritage Printery and Newspaper Museum.

Tucked away at the bottom of Queenston Heights sits the beautiful 200+ year old house in the village with a population of approximately 1500. Originally it was the home of William Lyon Mackenzie in the 1820s. He and his family opened a country store and worked day after day to get by like everyone else. He had a strong dislike for the malpractice of the Family Compact and decided something had to be done.

In May of 1824 this house became the home of Upper Canada’s first Newspaper – "The Colonial Advocate and Journal of Agriculture, Manufacture and Commerce". Although Mackenzie has come and gone, the house has been party destroyed and rebuilt and the original equipment has been relocated many times, the house is still a historical landmark.

Today visitors can have a guided tour, for a small fee, of the museum and get to use a couple of the printing presses hands on. The guide explains to you the history of the museum, the history of the presses, Mackenzie’s role in Canadian history and how each printing press works. Also, the museum holds “The Roy Press” – one of the oldest printing presses in history, which there is only 2 of left in the world.

As a guest you even get to use the type to place your name in the printing press and run a piece of paper through it. The first time I visited my brother and I did this we were surprised to discover that as we put our names in the type, we were actually “signing” a contract saying we would work at the museum unpaid for 3 years. The next two times it didn’t come as such a surprise, but makes for a cute souvenir.

If you get some spare time and you’re in the area, I suggest you stop by and take a quick tour. It’s educational, hands on and can be fun. But beware; there is a wax figure of William Lyon Mackenzie at the front door that is extremely creepy. And the basement of the museum is said to be haunted; maybe that’s why those quarters are closed off to the public? 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Olde Angel Inn

One of my favourite things about the Niagara Region is the amount of ghosts. It is said that Niagara-on-the-Lake is the most haunted town in Canada, due to the fact that thousands of soldiers died in the forts and barracks in town. However, the forts aren’t the only haunted places. The Olde Angel Inn is the oldest running pub in “Upper Canada” and also very haunted.

Since it was established in 1789 there are many stories involving the Angel Inn and its history. It was once one of the many British pubs in town, and now it is the only one. It has 3 fireplaces, a snug room and a dining room and 5 guest rooms upstairs. It’s a lovely old building that makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time and into London when you walk through the door onto the original 1815 hardwood floors.

Many historical figures have been hosted by the Inn such as Prince Edward and John Graves Simcoe. However, the most famous historic visitor is named General Swayze, and he is still there today. In the War of 1812 General Swayze was an officer of the regiment stationed at Fort George. He blossomed a romance with a local bar maiden at the Olde Angel Inn and would sneak out to see her during their free time. American troops wandered into the pub one night and caught word that a British officer was hiding in the wine cellar downstairs. Instead of searching for Swayze, the Americans just burned the inside of the pub down, killing Swayze at the same time.

Today the wine cellar is the women’s washroom, and can be quite eerie to use. Things such as doors opening on their own, a thick warm feeling in the air and the sense that you’re being watched makes it adventurous. Upstairs in the bar drinks are known to move by themselves, and every night a bottle of the General’s favourite Rye is moved and drank from. Those who are able to stay the night in one of the guest rooms without screaming, crying or leaving receive a “certificate of survival”, which makes for a fun night.

I suggest if you’re ever looking for somewhere new to eat, or just want to grab a few drinks with friends, to check out this historical gem in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fort Mississauga

The first historical site I am going to write about is Fort Mississauga – the “unknown” fort. I chose this site to write about first in hopes that readers won’t assume I will cover all of the over-advertised tourist traps.

Fort Mississauga is tucked away on the shore of Lake Ontario in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is very unnoticeable as an 18-hole golf course has been situated around it (the golf course being the oldest in Canada). It was built between the years of 1814-1816 to replace Fort George after it was burned in the War of 1812 along with the rest of the town. However, by the time it was finished being built the war was long over.  

The British Army was stationed at the fort from 1816 to 1855, followed by the Canadian Army in the 1870s. It was then used again by the Canadian Army during both world wars and the Korean War. The brick blockhouse is all that remains of the fort, along with the star-shaped earthworks surrounding it (the only star-shaped earthworks in the country). The public are able to walk through the fort, but there is no access into the blockhouse.

I would recommend making a visit to the fort as it is not locked or guarded by anyone, which can make for an eerie exploration. There are historical plaques inside the fort to inform the public and tunnels in the ground where prisoners would have been held. To get to the fort it is required that you walk a path that goes through the golf course, so be careful as golfers have the right of way.

It is a beautiful site, with an amazing few of the Toronto skyline and Fort Niagara in Lewiston, NY and just steps to the lake. It has become a popular site for wedding photos, so you may even see a blushing bride! And of course, like the rest of Niagara-on-the-Lake, it is haunted; so watch out for ghosts too!