Public service will enable site to be open year-round
By Joshua Maloni
At Monday’s Village of Lewiston work session, Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Pauly petitioned local leaders to keep the International Peace Garden open year-round. She was joined by Chuck Barber, who owns the adjoining “Big Yellow House” on Ridge Street; and his tenant, Brooke Unversaw, who operates Queen B’s Cottage inside that building.
“I had written a letter, convening the businesses that surround the Peace Garden. They have all come to us, at various points throughout the year, regarding the Peace Garden – and, most notably, during the winter season, because it’s been closed,” Pauly said.
She explained, “There's been no access from Center Street through the garden. I know people are trying to use the restroom there, and it's closed for the winter. So, then they go asking all the other businesses over on the side.
“I figured if we could tackle this now, as we're approaching summer, we can figure out a plan for that Peace Garden.”
“I, personally, didn't realize that it was closed during the winter,” Pauly added. “I think, this year, we had a lot of snow, so maybe that's where it became more noticeable?
“The other aspect is the (former ‘Big Yellow House’ tenant) Arts Council didn't really use that back door of that building, so it may not have been brought up as much. But Brooke has had a successful business in there since the summer.”
Department of Public Works Superintendent Larry Wills said he fashioned the pavement inside the International Peace Garden almost 20 years ago. At that time, Wills explained, former Mayor Richard Soluri “wanted it to be seasonal, because everybody buys all those (fundraising) bricks. … He didn’t want anybody throwing salt in there, shoveling with metal; even rubber, over time, will slowly (erode the bricks, which are actually colored concrete). …
“There's a lot of money over there. And it was designed to be a delicate garden nine months out of the year.”
Wills offered a “solution that I have – and I’ve got no problem with this (idea of keeping the garden open) – is if the archway was taken out and, as we go down Center Street with the snowblower … we can swing and take that straight all the way back to where that little wall stops.
“So, if Chuck and Brooke meet me at that point … where the one little step comes down – you guys just take care of that – I'll make sure all that bulk stuff’s gone.”
Barber was amenable to Wills’ request.
Suggestions were offered to move the archway inside the courtyard.
Pauly said, “It's nice to see people walking through that garden. They do 365 days a year. And now that the concentration of businesses around that is growing, and are consistent businesses, I think it's just important to keep the cohesiveness there. So, we appreciate it.”
Trustee Tina Coppins made a motion to permit the DPW to clear the main pathway, when snow-covered, as laborers are available.
She said, “We'll do a test run this year. We'll see how it goes. And then what we'll do is we'll reconvene maybe next spring, and you guys come back in and we can talk about it some more.”
The action was approved.
Peace Garden History
At a ceremony in July 2010, former Lewiston Council on the Arts Artistic Director Eva Nicklas said, “In 2001, we (at LCA) decided that a courtyard would be so much better than a parking lot!
“Our past mayor, Dick Soluri, agreed with us and, even though the business community needed parking places, they wanted a courtyard more. So, with funds raised from the Taste of Lewiston, we commissioned the brilliant, Canadian landscape architect John Morley to create a plan for this space.
“The initial partnership brought together the Village of Lewiston, (Greater Lewiston Business and Professional Association) and the Art Council, and we began fundraising. … Together, we raised $85,000 and built the ‘bones’ of this courtyard … brick and concrete work, electricity, plumbing, fencing, a decorative fountain and a public restroom. Then came basic plantings … a thoughtful selection of low-maintenance trees and shrubs. …
“In August 2005, the Historic Lewiston Courtyard was officially dedicated.”
The popular Lewiston spot, also located behind the historic “Little Yellow House” on Center Street, was officially designated an 1812 Bicentennial Honorary International Peace Garden on Oct. 15, 2011.
Today, the site is maintained by the Lewiston Garden Club, the Lewiston Beautification Commission, and community volunteers.
Mayor Anne Welch noted members of Lower Niagara Moose Lodge 584 spent a Sunday in late April cleaning the garden.
“They did a fantastic job,” she said.
Plans are forming to relocate the International Peace Garden archway so as to allow the Village of Lewiston Department of Public Works to snowplow the walkway. That action will enable the site to remain open year-round. The pathway leads to a Queen B’s Cottage entrance.