from the Wrecker's Ball
restoration of what is truly the precious jewel of
Walkerville and indeed, Windsor, Willistead Manor, began nearly
twenty years ago. Built for E. Chandler Walker, one of the seven
children of visionary Hiram Walker, founder of Walkerville and Canadian
Club, the Manor was designed in the English Tudor style by the renowned
Albert Kahn and was completed in 1906.
In 1915, Chandler,
known fondly as Mr. Ed by the people of Walkerville, died. His wife
Mary Walker, decided to return to her family in the United States
in 1921 and the Walker family deeded the home to the town of Walkerville.
Serving at various
times as administrative offices, public library and as an art gallery,
the Manor exhibited signs of excessive wear and tear both inside
and out, by the 1970's. The expense of renovating the Manor caused
some to talk of actually tearing it down!
City Council instead designated Willistead as a historical site
and $1.25 million was raised to begin restorations. These funds
came from the City of Windsor, The Heritage Foundation, private
donations, a Canada Works grant and Wintario.
In 1981, after
three years of structural renovations and extensive revitalization
of the interior décor, Willistead reopened in its present
capacity as a manor home for public tours and a meeting facility
for private and public functions.
to the generosity of corporations, individuals and the government
over the last nineteen years, further Willistead renovations and
acquisitions have been completed or are ongoing. These include the
restoration of the Coach House which served at one time as the Walkerville
jail, the revitalization of the gardener's shed last year, the addition
of the Paul Martin Sr. Gardens on the east side of the Manor, as
well as further improvements to the interior and exterior of the
To maintain and
operate the Manor the annual budget is $190,000. Fortunately, the
Manor is now largely self-sustaining thanks in part to the success
of Rotary 1918's annual Art in the Park and the Classic Car Show.
However, any gifts from the public or business sector are very appreciated
as these allow for specific improvements to the Manor and grounds.
Among the projects
the Willistead Board of Directors has slated for the Year 2000 are
the installation of refurbished lamp standards saved from the former
Town of Riverside throughout the park, landscaping the area around
the gardener's shed, and continuing to acquire and install suitable
antique furnishings for the Manor.
If you would like
to become a part of history by contributing to the Willistead Restoration
Fund, please take the opportunity to complete the form at the end
of this article and send it to the Willistead Board of Directors
along with your tax deductible donation. Perhaps you could send
it on behalf of a friend or loved one who has an interest in history
or who is no longer with us.
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