QUEENSTON — Construction work will likely be completed this week on the Laura Secord homestead on Queen St. climaxing a two-year restoration project by the Laura Secord Candy Ltd. and its parent company, John Labatt Ltd.
John Burke-Gaffney, public relations director with Labatt's in London, Ont said landscaping should get under way at the end of this month "or whenever the weather becomes suitable."
The house — restored to its original 1813 condition) and authentically furnished — will be officially opened in early June.
Restoration of the 167-year-old house has been "pain staking job," he said. Going back to the original property purchase in 1969, the project will have involved more than 2 1/2 years of work by the time the house is open to the public this summer.
The house, located on Queen St. at the corner of Partition St., was the residence of War-of-1812 heroine Laura Secord at the time she made her historic walk from Queenston to Beaverdams to warn the British of an impending American attack.
One of the major problems in the restoration work was the existence of several additions that subsequent owners had put on the dwelling. ."We had a lot of speculative information on what the house looked like originally but with so many additions it was hard to tell for sure," Mr. Burke-Gaffney said.
Niagara-on-the-Lake architect Peter Stokes, an expert in old buildings, spent the summer of 1970 taking it apart piece by piece" to confirm the original size and shape of the house, he said.
His work resulted in a voluminous report in the fall of that year upon which he and architect Jim Secord based detailed plans for the restoration.
Actual construction work began last spring when a tender was let to Minerva General contractors of Queenston.
Since then, the company has demolished the additions and rebuilt the two original structures according to the architects' plans.
All the woodwork in the restored house has been done by hand using methods similar to those in use in Laura Secord's day, Mr. Burke-Gaffney said.
The biggest remaining job is furnishing the home, something planners have been working on for the past winter.
Furniture Collected ...
Under the direction of noted authority on early Canadian glassware and furniture Gerald Stevens, a collection of authentic furniture from the 1800-1835 period has been assembled.
It will be moved in some time before the official opening on a "moving day," likely some time in May. When it's opened, Labatt's will staff the house with costumed guides, all of them people from the Queenston area.
Mr. Burke-Gaffney said his company was working with the Niagara Parks Commission now to estimate tourist traffic and the number of people likely to tour the house annually.
Such information will be used to gauge the size of staff needed.
The house will be opened on a seasonal basis, likely from. Victoria Day to Thanksgiving Day.
Mr. Burke-Gaffney said a nominal admission fee is being considered.