Heritage Village, Vineland, Ontario

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Architectural Heritage


Replica of a Mennonite town, circa 1840's, is what the original developer, Frederick Short had in mind for Heritage Village

when he announced the project at a gathering of guests at Prudhommes, Vineland on January 1987.  He and Toronto architect Victor J. Heinrichs designed a self-contained community, similar to 19th Century settlements by the Pennsylvanian Dutch Mennonites. 

The earliest settler buildings in Vineland were log cabins, about 1800, then came frame houses by about 1815, such as the house of Jacob Fry (or Frey) located behind the Jordan Museum. Brick homes became possible by the 1830's, and some still stand today.  It is the red brick motif of these houses with their belvederes and cupolas that set the style for most buildings on the  47 acres of Heritage Village.The  Samuel Moyer house, circa 1851 was still on the acreage during the first phase of construction. 

 Phase I was a $20 million project to develop 200 homes: 12 detached, 45 garden court townhouses, 125 apartments and a 65 room respite care and retirement home. Robert (Bob) Short handled the early sales and promotions, calling it a "community unto itself" intended for young families and retirees alike.  "Adult lifestyle" marketing came after.

The architect was also inspired by the Colony of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, built earlier, circa 1753 by German, Swiss and French settlers, now on the UNESCO World Heritage List (since 1995).

Mennonite  House (Samuel I. Moyer,1851)   Lunenburg building  (~ 1753)      

Grand opening was on November 4, 1987 when only five houses were complete, starting at Frederick Avenue. The first phase clubhouse opened in 1988 with the pool taking in water a year later. The marketing motto in the formative years was: " Canada's Internationally Acclaimed Adult Community".  The sales office was first a tent, then a condo at Loganberry and finally 4100 John Charles Blvd.

The Manors were built with a protective wall to ward off the natives. These early buyers got their private enclave with pool, to make up for lack of other amenities pending clubhouse construction.  Condominium Bungalows were developed next, starting at Apple Blossom Lane,  under model names "Concord 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, and 12, some with lofts, sunrooms and vaulted ceilings.  The rectangular courtyards were such that each unit could be of different size and layout, yet blend into a coherent villa. The exterior designs were "Early Ontario" brick, aluminium or vinyl siding.

Sales and construction spread over some years. Two Nuts were built first (Hazelnut and Chestnut Courts). Then came the nuts and fruits bordering Robert George Mews: Almond, Beechnut, Strawberry and Blueberry Courts. The last to be built of the Courtyard condo townhouses was Cranberry Court. The first residents to buy units were able to cash in by way of a $1,000 "Pick Your Neighbour" referral program paid by the developer. These bribes accounted for 25% of sales.

 Spring of 1996 saw the development of the condos of Boysenberry Court as well as pre-sales for "The Arbours"  a 16 unit. two story, condominium apartment building with balconies or garden-style apartments in one or two bedroom floorplans and model names like "Tulip" and the "Rose". 

That year also saw construction of the Moses F. Rittenhouse Library, named after a Vineland lumber merchant who found riches in Chicago in the 19th Century and shared his wealth with his former community.   Unfortunately, the Lincoln Library bureaucrats feared that the new library would appear to be exclusive to Heritage Village, if the architectural theme applied.  So they opted for a yellow alien spacecraft design to disrupt the historical scene.  Moses Rittenhouse would not have been amused.

panoramic Heritage Village

Panoramic view of Heritage Village, circa 1993.

1992 was  the year that the Heritage Square was receiving occupants including the CIBC Bank, the now-defunct "Orchard Cafe", and time-share offices of accountant Harold Elizinga, lawyer Ron Martens and the real estate agent, Rose-Mary Mealing.  The old Moyer  house, still seen in picuture above,  was demolished in 1994.

 In late 1990's, the development of freeholds focused on "The Meadows" which later became known as Heritage Lane.  The bungalows, with or without lofts were known by model names as "Warwick", "Portsmouth", Barrington", "Bristol", Jamestown", "Newport-Providence" and "Block Island".   These names reveal the American architectural influence, alluding to the 13 Colonies, specifically Providence, Rhode Island.  It is not a coincidence that Providence underwent a massive urban renewal in the 1990's, uncovering buried rivers, to re-vitalize it as people friendly. Block Island, named after a Dutch explorer, is a nature retreat, while Newport, famous for mansions, was America's "first resort" destination.  The narrow street of Heritage Lane and its small yards reflect the radical shift in architectural thinking in the early 90's called New Urbanism - back to closer-knit communities and away from sprawl.  Heritage Village's phases capture that paradigm shift.

  Exterior designs in The Meadows" continued with "Early Ontario"earth tones and white, ivory or taupe finishes for Gables, Facias, Soffits, Columns and Cupolas.  Asphalt roofs were limited to mid to dark earth tones.  All copolas were decorated with the Heritage Village "Horse" weathervane.  The Garage doors were designed to be "colonial" style and matched with Benjamin Moore paints from their "Historical Colour Selections",  dressed with period Coach lights.

Initial plans for the Village included two clubhouses, a "Heritage Club" and a "Garden Club" on two sites, but these ideas were merged in 1995 after two years of debate.  The initial clubhouse was a square building intended for "phase I development" residents only. Eventually the first clubhouse with the pool, was expanded, starting October 1997, with an extension that included a Great Hall, Stage,  Dressing Rooms, Kitchen, basement Games rooms, Wood Workshop, Fitness Room, Pool and change rooms and a Library. The Clubhouse was designed to be the "heart" of the community with the goal to ensure the residents "Live Younger Longer".

The private three-story retirement residence, "The Orchards" was built in 1999 with some 75 units, adjoining the clubhouse extension.  This complex, featuring assisted living via dining and housekeeping services,  was sold to the Alegro Corporation circa 2008.  The company has been a good neighbour, preserving the architectural theme, and marketing discretely with  social events open to all Villagers.

The Heritage Village project is not yet complete, as of 2010.  New townhouses in a "Heritage Court" are scheduled for the site at Frederick Avenue (north) and John-Charles Bvd., on a lot originally reserved for the second clubhouse.  Ground has been prepared to extend The Orchards - but construction is on hold.  There are also vacant units in the Heritage Square - and a lonely "Restaurant" sign -  that wait for better ideas of sustainable business. 

 We are a Village rooted in the past, yet with sustainable architecture for the future.

© 2010 



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