The city is taking a big step toward building an interpretive centre for Battlefield Park with the purchase of land across the road from the nationally designated historic site.
Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark says the city opted to buy the one-hectare property for $1.8 million at the southwest corner of King Street East and Centennial Parkway because there wasn’t enough room for the centre at the park. He said the deal closed on Nov. 18 and the next step will be a feasibility study to determine the design of the building.
“The securing of the property was the real turning point for us,” Clark said. “We know now that we have a place to put the centre. The study is a pivotal document that will really tell us exactly what the potential is for the centre and then we move from there.”
The interpretive centre is part of the Battlefield Park National Historic Site Master Plan.
The 20,000-square-foot building had been initially proposed for the west side of the park.
But Clark said members of the advisory committee involved in implementing the plan expressed concerns the centre would take up programmable space that is already stretched to the limit during the annual Re-enactment of the Battle of Stoney Creek weekend.
They also worried that the new building would not match the park’s historic landscape, he added.
“The centre will now be just outside of the park, so the programmable space stays, which is excellent,” Clark said. “The building can be any number of different designs – it will be a modern building, hopefully environmentally-friendly, being so close to the escarpment. I think it’s a great win for Battlefield overall.”
The interpretive centre will act as a hub of public education about the War of 1812 and the city’s role. The master plan recommends the centre not only provide information about the Battle of Stoney Creek, but also interpret the war’s Hamilton and Scourge shipwrecks, located in the western end of Lake Ontario.
Clark said he’s advocated for a building of two to three storeys that would feature an amphitheatre for interpretation classes and a room for additional displays of materials from the 1800s.
“There also would be room for some type of museum about Stoney Creek,” he said. “I have had confidential discussions with collectors of rare 1800s memorabilia – dishes, furniture, paintings, you name it – who have put stuff together that are considering, and really have been very positive about, donating materials and artifacts to an interpretive centre and museum. This is developing into a significant project.”
The city’s tourism and culture division will be conducting a feasibility study on the design of the building.
Clark said the city has budgeted $100,000 for the study this year.
The feasibility study also will examine programming and projected costs, he added.
“We need to really look at the programming that would be used and needed for this particular building,” Clark said. “Once we have a price, then it will start my process with staff in terms of talking to the private sector about donations for such a building in our community and then, of course, the province and the feds. We would be approaching them after we understand what the private sector could do.”
Clark said seeing the interpretive centre move closer to completion is exciting.
“I have envisioned this for as long as I’ve been involved in public service,” he said. “To see it come to fruition, with all of the work that we’ve done in Battlefield and then of course down at Smith’s Knoll, is just thrilling. It really is becoming a historical icon in our community.”