A Happy 90th Birthday to Niagara, Ontario’s ‘Undisputed Queen of Heritage

Niagara’s Pamela Minns, a long-time heritage activist, is a model of good citizenship

Pamela Minns is Celebrated this December for her many years of Leadership in efforts to Preserve Niagara’s Heritage and for the Role she has played in the Revitalization of Thorold’s Award-Winning Downtown

A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

Posted December 23rd, 2019 on Niagara At Large

Read a paper or turn on the radio or television to the news these days, and it is so often filled with reports about nefarious individuals doing nefarious things in our country, our province, our region, and in the world beyond.

Thorold Mayor Terry Ugulini with a plaque expressing appreciation from the city, was one of many who gatherined this December to celebrate Pamela Minns’ decades of work to protect and preserve Niagara’s heritage. hoto by Doug Draper

As the late American playwright and author of books Lillian Hellman once put it of Cold War era blacklisting of almost anyone who criticized the government in her country during the 1950s; “We are living in scoundrel times.”

So much so these days, that it can often get depressing reading or turning on the news, and so much so that I’ve heard many people say they’re feeling on the verge of turning off completely.

When I am feeling that way, one of things I do to keep from turning off (because that’s what the scoundrels dearly want) is to turn my attention to at least some of the many good people out there, working every day and often without any great monetary rewards, to make life better in our communities.

And for me and for so many others who know her, one of those people  is Pamela Minns, a Thorold resident and long-time community activist who has devoted her passion and intelligence to protecting, preserving and revitalizing what is left of our rich architectural and cultural heritage in this Niagara region and beyond.

Pamela Minns, who has so rightfully been recognized many times over years by heritage organizations across Ontario and Canada, was celebrated once again, on the eve of her 90th birthday this past December 2nd,  at a large gathering of people in St. Catharines.

Among those who attended were Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey who read a letter of appreciation to her from Canada’s Prime minister Justin Trudeau, thanking Minns for “the contribution (she has) made to (her) community and her country.”

Pamela Minns, in partnership with others, has played a leadership role in revitalizing Thorold’s downtowns. Many other communities can learn from what has been accomplished here.

Badeway told Minns that in his view, when it comes to Canada being “a special place to live in, it is all about people like you.”

Others who spoke at the gathering included Jim Bradley, Niagara’s Regional Chair and former Liberal MPP for St. Catharines, who credited Minns for “leading the charge” on heritage preservation in the region, and Thorold’s current Mayor Terry Ugulini who presented her with a plague of appreciation from the city.

Ugulini went on to recognize Minns for the leadership role she has played for decades on Heritage Thorold, the city’s Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC) that accomplished an unprecedented number of heritage designation for historic homes, businesses and institutional buildings in the community.

The Thorold mayor called Minns  a “true visionary,” and to be one of those, he added, “you have to think outside the box  and Pamela does.”

Thorold’s historic firehall from th 1800s, one of many buildings in the city’s downtown area that Pamela Minns and members of the heritage committee worked to preserve, has received national recognition as a heritage site.

Without question, Minns’ many years of volunteer work on Thorold Heritage, in partnership with other members of the committee, successive members of the city’s council and local businesses and property owners, has been critical in breathing new life into a municipality that, like so many others across this region and other parts of the country, saw itself floundering with the loss of industry over the past 30 or 40 years and the exodus of people from the old heart of communities and their downtowns.

Thanks in no small part to the “leadership role” Minns has played, Thorold’s downtown has made such an amazing comeback that in recent years, it has been featured in national magazines and journals on heritage preservation and urban renewal.

In 2017, it received the Prince of Wales Prize for heritage, signed by Prince Charles himself, which Minns proudly says is something on par with “winning an Academy Award for heritage in Canada.”

Still others who spoke at the 90th birthday gathering for Minns called her “the undisputed Queen of Heritage. St. Catharines City Councillor Carlos Garcia, who has been engaged for years in heritage battles in Port Dalhousie, named her “Miss Heritage” for all the support she has provided to members of his community and to others across the region and province.

Working together with Pamela Minns and other heritage activists in Thorold, John Henderson and his family were among the first to invest energy and money in revitalizing Thorold’s downtown Front Street where their iconic Henderson’s Pharmacy store is located in a now thriving downtown to this day.

For this reporter, who has followed Pamela Minns’ efforts going back to my years at the then locally owned and independent St. Catharines Standard and at other news outlets , she has always shone as a beacon for what good citizenship is all about, and one that can and should serve as a role model for all of us.

“Thanks you again for coming and making my 90th birthday memorable,” said Minns as the December 1st celebratory gathering was coming to an end.. “We will see you again in 10 years for 100.”

With Pamela Minns’ passion and youthful spirit, I believe we will, and one thing is for sure.

Through her many years of community engagement, Pamela Minns has given us the gift of protections for historic landmarks and architectural gems that will enrich the lives of people and communities for generations to come.

You can’t leave a much better legacy than that. Thanks Pamela.

It is people like Pamela Minns, and not the scoundrels, that we should look to for hope and inspiration, and for proof positive that we can make this world a better place if we try.

(Thanks also to Rosemary Hale and so many others in the Niagara community for putting this celebration of Pamela Minns’ heritage work together – Doug Draper)

To read a piece Niagara At Large posted in 2017 by Pamela Minns, on the national recognition the revitalization of Thorold’s downtown has begun receiving, click on https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/10/18/city-of-thorold-wins-national-recognition-with-prestigious-prince-of-wales-prize-for-municipal-heritage-leadership-2017/

For another post by Pamela Minns on Niagara At Large, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2016/03/08/canadas-national-heritage-magazine-features-historic-buildings-in-thorold-ontario/

For more on Heritage Thorold LACAC and its ongoing heritage preservation work, click on www.heritagethorold.com .

For a post on the old Beaverdams Church in Thorold and what is being done to preserve it, click on – https://friendsofbeaverdamschurch.com/

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For More News And Commentary From Niagara At Large – An independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara Region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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