Battlefield House Museum and Park – A pioneer in the history of preservation

Battlefield House

Photo: Battlefield House

Battlefield House Museum and Park

Photo: Battlefield House Museum and Park


Susan Ramsay and Marnie Maslin

Military heritage, Buildings and architecture

Published Date: May 10, 2007

Nestled under the Niagara Escarpment and situated in a park connected to the Bruce Trail, Battlefield House Museum National Historic Site in Stoney Creek is one of the earliest historic sites to be identified, interpreted and preserved in Ontario. Built in 1796 and occupied until 1835 by James and Mary Gage and their family, the house and its surrounding land were the site of the Battle of Stoney Creek on June 6, 1813.

The preservation of this historic site has its roots in 19th-century Canada. James and Mary Gage’s granddaughter, Sara Calder, had a passion for history and was instrumental in the site’s protection. In 1899, the Women’s Wentworth Historical Society was incorporated with Calder as their president. The Society purchased the farmhouse and four acres of surrounding land for $1,900. For several months, Stoney Creek residents worked diligently to refurbish the grounds and house. On October 21, 1899, the site was officially opened as a public park.

Sara Calder endeavoured to promote the history of the site and the Battle of Stoney Creek to the general population. Rather than soliciting donations, she concentrated on gathering subscriptions, with the hope that the message about the site and its importance to Canadian history would be more widespread.

Once the Society was incorporated, Sara immediately began correspondence with the Department of Militia and Defense, offering the site to the federal government for a monument to commemorate the Battle of Stoney Creek. In 1900, the architectural firm of F.J. Rastrick & Sons was chosen to build the monument with support from government grants.

On the centennial of the Battle of Stoney Creek, the completed monument was unveiled by Queen Mary in London by means of a transatlantic cable. Sara died a short time later, on March 16, 1914. In recognition of her efforts to preserve Battlefield House Museum and Park, a portrait was commissioned and unveiled later that year. It remains in the museum today.

The Women’s Wentworth Historical Society remained directly involved in the preservation of the museum until 1962 when the site was transferred to the Niagara Parks Commission. In 1982, the Society was officially dissolved, replaced by the Friends of Battlefield House. For almost 25 years, the Friends have supported the museum by providing financial aid, volunteers and assistance with the ongoing preservation of the site.

For over 100 years, Battlefield House Museum has relied on the support of various local, provincial and federal heritage and government institutions. In 2006-07, the museum gratefully accepted funding from the Province of Ontario and the Ontario Heritage Trust for re-pointing and the installation of a new observation deck for the Battlefield Monument.