Where is it?
A fine example of early Niagara craftsmanship that was built for one of Ontario’s oldest pubs. The Angel Inn dates back to 1789, when it was known as the Harmonious Coach House Inn. Governor John Graves Sicmoe, Thomas Moore, Prince Edward and others (I believe Christopher Walken during the filming of The Dead Zone), have been guests at this establishment. It was burned by the American military in 1813 and rebuilt by 1815.
Surrounding its hearth was a decorative wooden mantle, which in 1896, was included in the catalogue of the newly created Niagara Historical Society.
But over a hundred years passed. Collection documentation systems changed and opportunities for loss of provenance ensued.
I began to look into the mystery when I began my employment with the Niagara Historical Society in 2013. The above photograph showing a mantle is deduced to be the Angel Inn Mantel, as it is listed in order with all of the pieces displayed around it in the museum catalog.
Checking artifact storage, I came up empty handed. There were other mantels, and I could not determine which one was the original. I dug up all the information I could on the museums mantels and eliminated each one in our facility. It wasn’t there.
On a bit of a long shot, I texted one of my classmates from Brock University, who was working at Butler’s Barracks. I recalled that there were some artifacts that were apparently loaned to Parks Canada many years ago under a previous museum director, and the institutional history that keeps track of some of these artifacts had either been lost, or was in some way incomplete.
“Dave, you guys don’t have a wooden mantel in your museum do you?”
“We don’t have one in the collection” he replied, then stated, “We just have one above the fireplace, which is part of the building here.”
I sent him the photo above anyway.
“We have it.”
His response was immediately followed by several images of the wooden mantel at Butler’s Barracks:
I immediately strolled over to Sarah’s office and told her about my sleuthing. She suggested we take a drive over there to take a look.
When we arrived, Sarah inspected the mantel. It even had the nail holes in the exact same locations as the original display. Sarah looked into the fireplace, reached behind one of the sides and pulled out a Manila tag marked “NHM” (Niagara Historical Museum).
The mystery was solved and we confirmed the location of an original piece of the museum’s collection.
2 thoughts on “The Angel Inn Mantel”
I totally forgot about this! What a great memory to have found, makes me remember why I love history so much to begin with. Searching and finding things out that otherwise would have been forgotten can bring such joy.
Hope all is well,
Good to hear from you. This was really cool, I remember that day well. So cool to identify a part of the Angel Inn in the collection. I’m doing well, still working in the museum field too. Hope you are well too Dave.