After a half century commitment to collecting papers, mementos and stories about Hiram Walker and Son’s Ltd., local historian Arthur Jahns was awarded a 2015 UWindsor History Department Community Heritage Medal.
This is the first year the department has given the medals, which recognize outstanding achievement in raising the profile of local history and heritage throughout Essex, Lambton and Kent Counties. Five were awarded this year.
“It was a surprise, and I was certainly pleased and honoured to get such an award,” says Jahns.
During his 40-year career at the distillery, Jahns became a dedicated historian who made an extraordinary contribution to the conservation of the City of Windsor’s heritage through his collecting, cataloguing and conserving documents and artifacts relating to the history of the Hiram Walker company; the Walker family; Willistead Manor; and the Walkerville district.
“He loves the history and stories of the Walker family and now he is the person people call when there’s a big pile of papers about to be thrown out, or bottles to be ditched, because they know he’ll come and salvage the gems,” says history professor Miriam Wright.
The artifacts Jahns has amassed are housed at the Canadian Club Brand Centre on Riverside Drive and where he was called out of retirement to work part-time in maintenance.
Dr. Wright served on the committee to choose the medal recipients and says the heritage building is a beautiful treasure that most people in Windsor are not aware exists.
“Jahns has created an impressive archive in a stunning building featuring mahogany panelling and rich furnishings. It reflects well on the history of the community and this region,” says Wright.
“Inspired by his own love of history and sense of community heritage, Art has spent countless hours in association with the Beam-Suntory Corporation, owners of Canadian Club Whisky, to insure the transformation of this collection into a world-class brand heritage centre and archive.”
The medal winner says Hiram Walker family members were kind and generous people who were world travellers, avid art collectors and genuinely distinguished people.
“There’s always something new to be found and when you dig deeper there are still bits and pieces out there,” says Jahns.
“I’m still putting together the jigsaw pieces and that’s what keeps me going.”
He has also used his expert knowledge to contribute to the heritage and conservation program of the Friends of Willistead Manor. He received his medal at the Brand Centre in June.
“It was nice to receive the award at the old heritage building that’s filled with all those memories,” says Jahns.