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Homeowners ensure former blacksmith shop 'will never be a townhouse, or an apartment, or a McDonald's'

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Heritage Thorold volunteers, the city now has the honour of claiming the most designated properties per capita in Ontario, boosting Thorold's attractiveness to residents and tourists.

Within their walls, charming, quaint cottages; stunning, stately mansions; even former blacksmith shops have captivating stories to tell.

Mary DeKeyser and David Tufford invited neighbours and heritage enthusiasts to witness as their 1871 Port Robinson homestead, AKA “The Pew House,” was officially designated as Thorold's 54th heritage property in late November.

“We are very happy to see our house designated today,” stated Tufford. “It will never be a townhouse, or an apartment, or a McDonald's.”

Thanking Heritage Thorold for their “hard work” in spearheading the designation, Tufford invited guests to tour what was once a vibrant blacksmith shop at 18 South Street South. 

Craig Finlay, chair of Heritage Thorold, said the home retains many of its original features. 

“I do not know if you can actually love a building, but if you can, Mary and Dave do,” he noted, adding that they are “determined to protect and preserve it. They are a perfect fit for the Pew House. They have signed a contract to maintain the building to a high heritage standard and when a new owner takes over the building, they will sign that same contract.”

According to DeKeyser, it was an orange tabby named Buddy that sealed the deal. Another potential buyer also wanted the house but because she and Tufford agreed to take on Buddy, they were chosen by the previous owners, she told

The fact that the word “Recitals” was listed in the margin of the sale of property “suggested that it was perhaps used as a musical venue,” said City Historian Sarah King Head.

In keeping with that, Wayne Malton—of famed Canadian duo Malton and Hamilton—played piano, accompanied by renowned local musician Walter Ostanek on accordion at the event.

King Head's research showed that the original property owner was Isaac Pew, who operated a blacksmith shop there for “nearly half a century. Isaac and his brother John were almost certainly (United Empire) Loyalists,” she surmised, “who came from New Jersey ... During the Fenian Invasion of 1866, Pew served as a farrier” for local militia who defended the attack on the Welland Canal in Thorold.

Eventually, she added, Pew was “forced into obsolescence” like other blacksmiths, and when he died in 1903, the home was sold to his nephew, George Pew. Isaac's two sons had emigrated to the U.S.

Fred Addis, who lived next door in his youth and later became an esteemed historian, said that “In 1871, two of the biggest paddlewheel steamships built in Canada were built here in Port Robinson, the Cumberland and the Manitoba, and there was a great demand for blacksmithing in building wooden ships” with custom parts.

Addis shared fond memories of Ivy Molton, who lived there after the Pew family and fostered his love for heritage, which turned into “a source of employment” for him in later years. 

“She drove us kids to Fort George, the McFarland House, DeCew Falls,” and “made sure we understood their importance ... I will always be thankful for how wonderful a difference one woman made in my life.”

Following plaque presentations to the homeowners from various levels of government, Addis gave DeKeyser and Tufford a 1950s photo of the Molton family.

“Our future lies in our past,” stated Mayor Terry Ugulini, adding that heritage tourism generates income and a source of pride for Thoroldites.

Regional Councillor Tim Whalen concurred. 

“Heritage sites foster a sense of hope and community, and remind us that our city's history belongs to all of us together. We must preserve it for future generations.”

Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey commented that historic properties highlight each town's unique identity, while showcasing “the skills of stonecutters, masons and artisans” from a bygone era.

Inspired by long-time heritage champion Pamela Minns, who led the charge in attaining Thorold's Prince of Wales Heritage Award in 2017, the volunteers of Heritage Thorold are dedicated to preserving those places that showcase the city’s colourful history, providing an actual glimpse into the past.

The Heritage Thorold volunteer committee includes chair Craig Finlay, vice chair/treasurer Tom Russell, secretary Joe Prytula, and members Linda Borland, Ray Borland, Michael Charron, Anna O'Hare, Tim O'Hare, and Randy Barnes.