What are your family’s summer traditions?
There are certain times of the year when memories flood my mind. After Christmas, summertime is the next season of vivid nostalgia. Seeing all the school signs this past week with “happy summer” messages has made me feel that same sweet sigh of relief I experienced as a child; I remember all the teachers waving to us as we left on the bus, leaving behind a life that revolved around alarm clocks, homework and piano lessons. We were trading that in for a schedule-less season of cottaging, popsicles and most importantly, increasing the value of my tree house through DIY renovations; these included chalk drawings on the walls, hanging dried wildflowers and old T-shirt curtains. (There was at one time a very detailed blueprint outlining some renovations and additions for the house, but budgeting, contracting and probably some bi-law issues prevented my Disney-World-inspired plans from becoming a reality).
These summer memories are precious to me.
Summer is also a great time to dive into your local history. One place I have recently discovered in Grimsby, which will help you create summer memories, while also engaging in the act of remembering itself, is Nelles Manor, located at 126 Main Street West, Grimsby. This beautiful old manor opens every year from Victoria Day to Labour Day. You can find their hours and rates here.
Nelles Manor in Grimsby is an expertly curated museum of one Grimsby family and their story that stretches across generations. You’ll enjoy walking down the pathway to Nelles Manor, below the towering trees strung with vintage bunting. There are a couple entrances, but the one furthest to the right is where the reception area is – remember to sign your name in the guestbook! You will be greeted by a tour guide dressed in authentic costume – perhaps someone like Jessica, who brought me into the story and experience of Nelles Manor with enthusiasm and expertise.
Colonel Robert Nelles first build the house in 1788, although the entire house has been constructed and restored in stages by the generations that followed, most recently by Barry and Linda Coutts. They purchased the house in 1972 when they were looking for a historic home to renovate as a project. They scraped at the paint on the walls until they could find the original colour. They found some Nelles family items around the house and sourced other pieces of furniture locally to make the manor as authentic as possible. It took 43 years to restore the house and it was made an official museum in 2015.
Jessica and I noted to each other as we walked through the manor:
“It must have been like putting a puzzle back together.”
As you go through this majestic house, take a moment to appreciate each and every detail placed with care by the Coutts:
- The original property deed hanging on the wall
- The small patch of scraped paint left on various walls to show the original colour
- The fireplace in the living room where Colonel Nelles officiated over 200 marriages
- The original books in the cupboards that show what the Nelles family read
- The ropes on the base of each bed which were tightened every night (Did you know that’s where the phrase “sleep tight” comes from?)
- Every mysterious looking item in the kitchen, that makes you wonder, if someone were to look through my house 200 years from now, would they be in awe over my garlic press, veggie spiralizer and essential oil diffuser? Would they know what they are?
Each detail in Nelles Manor will encourage you to stop and remember that we are part of a continually evolving story of human history: we’re always creating, adapting, making meaning and I think also, remembering. Each child born in this house made its story bigger. Every couple married in this house made it more intriguing. Every guest that visited, then and still today, makes its story more complex. A lot can change over 200 years, but then again, some basic aspects of our story seem to remain: stories of resilience, suffering, dreams fulfilled, hardships endured, friendships made and love lost.
Remembering. As I sit in my parent’s backyard writing this blog right now, I am remembering where my tree house used to stand, where I learned to dive into the pool for the first time, where my friends would gather for birthday parties and where nearly 100 people gathered last summer for my wedding. It’s only one perspective of this backyard’s history, but I know it makes it more diverse, along with everyone else’s. I am grateful to the passionate historians who are dedicated to reminding us of our larger, collective history, and the plethora of stories that make it up – especially in Grimsby, the place I call home. I am realizing more and more that creating memories of myself and bringing life to the memory of others is important for any of us trying to make a home, or find our way back to one.
Visit Nelles Manor this summer for a beautiful glimpse into one aspect of Grimsby’s story.