In 1910 the 1st Niagara Scouts are formed. Of course they are not quite official as the Provincial Council hasn’t given them a charter yet. Oops, that’s right, there is no Council yet, 1912 is when that occurred. That’s what our charter says hanging just inside our front door, 1912! Don’t worry, none of this bothered Baden-Powell when he met the Scouts from 1st that year at the Ex, in Toronto. They shook hands and kept on Scouting
Many kids joined over the next few decades and the group progressed nicely, becoming strong and well organized with top quality leaders in each section. They also changed locations several times, with no permanent home to be found. But then in 1936 a miracle happened. The old block building on Leeming St., in the Falls, came up for sale. They no longer needed to make cement blocks for the war effort. Some of the Scouters decided this would make a lovely home for the group. They borrowed and re-mortgaged and purchased “The Hut”!, a one room shanty with a dirt floor, 45 gallon drum for heat, and an outhouse. The group was in heaven and the adventure began as everyone had visions of what The Hut would look like in the future. Over the next few decades the group did any and everything they could to raise funds. They also begged, borrowed and scrounged and worked from within. They paid off the mortgage, added on a kitchen, a indoor bathroom with 2 toilets, a stage area on the main room, 2 storage rooms, one on either side of the stage, a Rover Room, and a giant camp gear storage room right across the whole back building. Over the years the group has received help from friends, family, brother Scouts, and the community. But the gang at The Hut does most of the work, day in and day out. They also doubled the size of the back yard in the mid 80’s with a purchase from the back neighbour. The kids love the extra room to play in, and it’s safe as it’s completely fenced, especially at Halloween with the big scary party. This now brings us to the 90’s and closer to the real story for which this article is written. In the mid 90’s, the main room roof was sagging too much for our comfort. To replace would mean we would also have to update the heating, electrical, and plumbing, everything would have to meet today’s building codes. Ok, let’s go. $40,000.00 later our Hut is even more beautiful and semi modern. This should easily do us the rest of our lives!
March 11, 2005, 3:00am. Fire trucks are flyin’, phones ringing, hearts pounding, and flames roaring. No one was in the Hut!! Your worst nightmare, worse than the fear of break ins and vandalism. Fire burning at the Hut. Thanks to the beloved neighbour who called it in. If not for everyone’s quick actions we might have lost it all. The fire was in the furnace which went into the roof as the furnace was vented through the attic and not the cement walls. The roof was down and hanging but the walls seemed pretty good. The water was almost a foot deep. It was a mess! Lots of burned and charred wood. Water and insulation covering everything. The smell of smoke ingrained in your head, but not like when your sitting around the campfire. Many were there as the calls went far and wide, fast and furious. Our stomachs turned with every breath, we knew 1st Niagara was in there, what would it look like? Plaques, trophies, records, the charter, photos, flags, banners, ribbons, books, kilts, and history, history, history!! It had to survive!! As previously stated the fire was in the furnace. Furnace vented through attic. Fire burned roof and it dropped in, but on angles. The walls never really caught fire. 90% of 1st Niagara was on the walls. We are BLESSED. Unfortunately the roof was too dangerous, the captain wouldn’t let us in. “I’ll get stuff”, “I’ll go in”, “me too, I went here as a boy”, “you guys wait here, we’ll bring it to you”. Piece by piece, as careful as nuns, they brought 1st Niagara out and we loaded it into vehicles. Over the years literally thousands of kids had passed through these walls. Half the fire-fighters on the night shift, and half the day shift, knew these walls. Many, many van loads went out to houses for storage. The Detlor boys had most of it. A true miracle, but at the end of the day a lot was still in there. The Hut was then locked down as a fire investigation was to take place. No one in! They took part of the furnace, and the gas valve from beside the furnace. Late Monday afternoon we got the keys back. We were told it wasn’t safe. Tuesday morn, 8:00am, 3 nuts go in, no names please. Even though the roof was hanging there was much to retrieve, especially the Rover Room, you just had to know where to look, and very carefully. Another 4 truckloads came out including the table and the altar and the sword. Tuesday night the insurance lady called and said no one was to go in , the roof was too dangerous. We promised we’d stay out. Now to tell the whole rebuild story would take numerous pages, so here’s a short version. Our insurance company, and adjuster were the best. They made the whole process way less painful! Here’s a cheque, go get some camp gear we’ll figure it out later. You have great coverage on the building, camp gear, and contents. No fuss, no muss, let’s get it built and get the kids back in! Thanks Sharon Corlett, your a sweetheart, and a pleasure to work with. You must have some Scout in your blood. Our Scout leader knows a builder who likes to help kids and community. Hope they bid on the job. They won, Life is good.
The old 1st Niagara is gone, but the new 1st Niagara is here and gorgeous. The outer walls remained and were reinforced. We took down the inner walls and reconfigured. The stage is gone, but we gained 6 feet of length to the main room, and 3 feet of length on the two bathrooms and kitchen. Real showers and wheelchair accessible throughout. Storage out back, camp gear room near front door, and Rover Room in same spot but set up differently. Once again the community pitched in. Contractors gave us great prices and rates. Community businesses gave great prices on contents and of course the local Scouting community gave us brute force. Scouters from Hamilton and Mississauga helped with the new radiant floor heat system. Sock feet all winter, wow! And of course the present day 1st Niagara leaders, Rovers, and kids along with old 1st Niagara diehards were there. 10 medium and 5 large dumpsters full of garbage were hauled away cheaply. Thanks Danny, we appreciate it. Oh yay, the totals. 15 bins. 6 months to get it back to us. 3000 hours of our work. Over 4000 if you include the building committee, and us redecorating the inside when we got the building back in mid November so it could be ready for the grand opening in mid January. Ho, Ho, Ho, what a Christmas!! We also feature 36 inch doors throughout. Double doors to main room. Smoke detectors. Security system. A new roofline that is water and ice free. Fancy stonework outside along with siding. All inside walls are fireproof resistant as is the ceiling. All floors are one level, and 10 year guaranteed commercial tile from Europe. A set of cabinets in the main room to die for. Stereo, TV., speakers, projectors all from the 21st century. Stop the excitement, I’m gonna burst!! Even repaved the lot and got new curbs. Jan. 12 and 13, 2006 brought our grand opening. On Fri. the 12th we had the contractors in. We served them food and had plaques of appreciation for each contractor along with a main plaque with each one listed that stays at the hut. On Saturday we opened to the public, 1 to 4pm, an open house. We had some pomp and ceremony, officials, politicians, awards, and 150 guests. We also had the building blessed. Just before Christmas we had 80 in for a Christmas and 50th party for some old fool. We had about 50 in for the contractors day. Just after Christmas we had another birthday party for 25. All groups started back in in mid November. Well used right from the word go! The kids were ecstatic to be back. The church was ok, but not the “Hut”. 90% of our 1st Niagara “heart and soul” was saved and is back on the walls of the new Hut. Slightly tattered and worn, but still gorgeous. New character and history will start. And yes, of course we went to the fire hall. We got a special plaque made and had the kids go down and present it to the former Scouts/fire-fighters. It hangs in the station house. To wrap up I would say we are alive again. The charter is up and covered with a Lexan sheet. The Beaver group is back as of September 2006. Thank you to St. Andrew’s Church for putting the group up for 5 months. Scouts Canada, Brian Moore, and Grant Ferren, thanks for your support in helping us to go forward quickly and smoothly, greatly appreciated. To all the Scouters of Niagara who sweated through June on the clean up, your the best. Gino Sterrezzo and Larry Gill, fabulous Scout effort on the radiant floor heat and point of use hot water system. These guys even came down to help install, you’re brothers. To everyone else who participated in the rebuild, our heartfelt thanks and an extended left hand. And lastly, wherever Roly and Hughy are, I know you’re proud of what we accomplished at the Hut. It’s ready for the next 70 years!! To whoever and whatever lies ahead, bring it on. We are ready. We are “prepared” as we’ve been taught by our leaders. The adventure continues.
- ↑ Gary Dell, 1st Niagara Rover Advisor (http://www.rovering.org/publications/rte/2007-02-03_RTEFedMar07.pdf)