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Issue No. 120 | June 11, 2008

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Feature Stories

  1. The Speaker Comments on Loss of Alma College
  2. ACO Calls on the Province to be Pro-Active in Saving Ontario
  3. Minister of Culture Questioned on Loss of Alma College
  4. Toronto Star: JIm Coyle on Alma College
  5. TreeHugger: Alma College as an Environmental Disaster

Events

Music at Sharon Temple-June Sunday Afternoons
June Sundays
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Glass in Architecture: An Illustrated Talk
Saturday June 21st
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STREETS Exhibition Preview & Reception
June-11-08
+ read


Celebration of Ten Years of the Alex Wilson Community Garden
Saturday June 21, 2008
+ read


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1. The Speaker Comments on Loss of Alma College
Hansard-Speaker The Honourable Steve Peters

photo from St. Thomas Times
ALMA COLLEGE

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I need to seek the indulgence of the House for a moment. I recognize that I'm probably out of order and I can't rule myself out of order, but I lost a really good friend today, and it was a heritage building. Alma College was a historic school in my community that towered over the city. I could see it from my backyard and from my office every day. Tragically, it burned to the ground at noon this afternoon. I trust that if it was arson, they will find the culprits.

For me, Alma was a special place. First, it was incorporated by this very chamber in its beginning, and it stood as a monument for a long time. I worked at that college 20 years ago when I was a university student. It was a special thing to have a girls' school and being the only guy that could walk through the front gates of that school and not be arrested. I say this because there have been community citizens for over 20 years who have actively tried to find a new use for the building. And in over 20 years, we've had various governments.

I needed to make the statement for myself and to say thank you to the people over the years who worked so hard to preserve this building. I just ask that we remember that. I hope it's a lesson to all of us that our heritage is precious and that we need to collectively do what we can to ensure that we preserve our heritage for future generations. Once these buildings are gone, they're gone. You can't ever bring them back.

If nothing else, I hope that this fire today at Alma College-that all the work everyone has done over the years hasn't been in vain, that we can learn collectively that it's incumbent on all of us to make sure that we stand up and preserve our heritage and find ways of developing new and unique partnerships to make sure that these symbols will remain for generations to come. I thank the members for allowing me this opportunity.

Mr. Toby Barrett: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: My wife was one of those girls who graduated from Alma, and I thank you for your sense of history and for making that statement.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): It's not a point of order, but I will accept it as a point of order today. It was interesting speaking to the member from Parry Sound-Muskoka. Norm Miller's sister attended Alma College as well, and Norm very well remembers visiting the school and acting as a date for his sister for a graduation ceremony.


2. ACO Calls on the Province to be Pro-Active in Saving Ontario
Architectural Conservancy of Ontario

June 4, 2008 – Toronto

The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) is calling on the Province to become more proactive in preventing the loss of Ontario’s heritage buildings.

“Last week’s loss of Alma College to arson was entirely preventable. Failure to act in a timely manner, at all levels of government set the stage for this national disaster. We believe that an overabundance of caution by three Ontario Ministers of Culture regarding interfering in a “local matter” contributed to the loss.” commented Catherine Nasmith, president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. “This was one of the country’s most significant heritage buildings, locally and provincially, and could and should have been preserved.”
 
The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario wrote to the Ontario Minister of Culture three times in the past four years asking for intervention to save Alma.

Since 2005 Ontario Ministers of Culture have had the power to designate property of provincial significance but not one Minister has used it. In dealing with buildings at risk, the province’s practice has been to wait until beyond the 11th hour, after all avenues have been exhausted at the local level, before intervening.

The Minister did issue a stop order for the Moore farmhouse in Sparta, and considerable effort has been put in by the province to resolving the future of the Lister Block in Hamilton, yet these properties are still not designated as provincially significant and remain in crisis.

“We do not understand the province’s hesitancy to designate. Inaction guarantees that the province ends up dealing only with toxic situations, and as in the case of Lister and Alma, with properties that require massive investment to deal with the “demolition by neglect” that has been allowed to continue.”

“We believe the province needs to declare its interest early through an orderly identification of provincially significant properties. The province must partner with municipalities and bring resources to the table to prevent and reverse demolition by neglect. The McGuinty government took heritage a giant step forward with its 2005 changes to the Ontario Heritage Act. We have the sticks we need, now it is time for some carrots.” Nasmith continues.

ACO thanks the Minister of Culture for her recent grant of $50,000 to support our growth. With our rapidly increasing number of branches across Ontario, we are more than willing to assist the Ministry and the Ontario Heritage Trust in identifying the list of provincially significant property.

-30-
For Comment
Catherine Nasmith, President  416 598 4144, cnasmith@sympatico.ca
Rollo Myers, Manager, 416 367 8075,  aco@on.aibn.com


3. Letter Requesting Resignation of Minister Aileen Carroll
Richard Longley, Toronto

Dear Minister Carroll,

The loss of Alma College to arson was a sorry fate that must have been
anticipated by your Ministry. As a consequence of that event - and your
inability to adequately protect the Lister Block, Moore House, Marygrove,
the Kapuskasing Inn among many other of Ontario's heritage buildings -
including those of your own town of Barrie - I ask you to resign from your
position as protector of Ontario's built heritage.

Prior to passage of amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act in 2005 this
province's laws with regard to the protection of built heritage were reputed
to be the weakest in North America. I see no reason to believe that that
situation has been improved over the past three years.

I hope it can be soon; the present situation, in which the tails of
'development', local administration and the OMB wag the indifferent dog of
provincial government is a disgrace.

With regards - and best wishes for a future that will better suit your
talents and your passions that do not seem to relate the hard business of
preserving what remains of Ontario's built heritage.

Richard Longley
Toronto, Ontario


4. An Open Letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty
Robert F Foster, Brampton Ontario

Reduced to rubble
Dear Mr.Premier,

On Sunday June 8th, 2008 we had a memorial service for Alma College in St.Thomas,Ontario.

What a sad day to watch the citizens of this beautiful city saying goodbye to this magnificent structure. As you are well aware, the Ontario Municipal Board rendered it's final decision on May 16, 2008, allowing the Minister of Culture, Aileen Carroll, to openly make a comment (or) a decision, but for 12 days Aileen Carroll sat idle, almost like a deer caught in the headlights, unable to muster the courage to take a stand for our heritage.

Sadly her lack of interest in preserving our heritage allowed an arsonist plenty of time to set the college ablaze on Wednesday May 28th, 2008.

Thousands of Alma's supporter's followed all the government rules with regards to petitions we presented them at Queen's Park, and still Aileen Carroll ignored our pleas to step in and designate Alma College, ensuring it would be properly protected.

She hid behind reports, and said she didn't want to interfere with the OMB decision, when in fact her job is supposed be stepping in to SAVE historic buildings from being demolished or neglected.

If Aileen Carroll is AFRAID to interfere, then she must be replaced. We need a Minister of Culture, who is stedfast in her belief that our heritage is who we are. These structures link us to our past. Every time one of these historic buildings is allowed to fall a link to our past falls with it.

Aileen Carroll has FAILED in her duty as our Minister of Culture. If she could not render a decision, on the most beautiful building in all of Ontario, then all other historic buildings in Ontario are in danger. I shudder to think which building may be next. It is  only a matter of time before Aileen Carroll is caught in the headlights again, and another historic building will fall.

Mr.Premier, I'm asking you to please protect our heritage from Aileen Carroll because as it stands today, she is the number one reason our heritage is in danger.

I've included a few photograph's of the rubble of Alma College. If Aileen Carroll would like a 'brick' from Alma College,please let me know, and I will personally deliver it to Queen's Park, but of course, as long as she is Minister of Culture I'm sure there will be many more bricks, from many more historic buildings, that she will allow to fall.

Editor's Note:
A harsh, but heartfelt, letter. It is typical of the great sorrow and anger shared by so many over the loss of this building.


5. Letter to Editor: Re: Significance of the Alma College Loss
Cliff Robertson

I think that the loss of Ama College can be/should be a watershed moment for heritage conservation in this country - our 'Penn Station', so to speak. The press yeaterday with the page 3 article in the Globe and the beautiful photo is opportune. Many members of the public and those in the conservation field will be furious over this loss (I am) and this can/should translate into action.

The Ontario Minister of Culture, Aileen Carroll, as well as the Premier should be hammered on this. They should be grilled about what is going to be done to prevent a simlilar occurance - about what is their government is prepared to do so that this is not repeated with the Lister Block in Hamilton, for example, as well as the many other heritage sites in Ontario that are suffering 'demolition by neglect' - Commanda General Store is another good example - this site is ready to fall in on itself at any moment, literally.

This would be a great time to write an editorial to the Toronto Star/ Globe and Mail posing such questions and outlining the problems facing heritage conservation. I'm sure that the Globe or Star would be happy to publish such a piece since this is on their radar due to Alma College.

Also, Mr. Peters the MPP, has first hand experience now about how heritage "falls through the cracks". Will he act as our advocate on this in the larger scheme of increased heritage protection in Ontario now that he is aware of the issues facing heritage? Is he willing to champion our cause within the Ont government. Is he willing to take our concerns directly to the Premier and Minister of Culture? I think that Mr. Peters could be a great resource in our battle - at least in Ontario.

I think the heritge community could create some momentum and gain some traction due to this tragic loss if we act quickly and forcefully.

I appreciate all the efforts of the ACO.- thanks for all the good and important work.

Best,
Clint Robertson
(ACO member Toronto Chapter)

Editor's Note:
I agree with Cliff about the Alma College Loss being a real call to arms for everyone. There is plenty of blame to go around, and few accepting it. But the bottom line is it should never have happened, the system failed miserably. It is Ontario and Canada's shame. I believe letters to the editors of all local papers in Ontario, and all the major national media will be published. To get the attention of the political system that failed this will need to be kept front and centre for some time. ACO held a press conference on Thursday. There was some press attending.


6. Minister of Culture Questioned on Loss of Alma College
Hansard

Ontario Legislature
Hansard, Thursday, June 5, 2008


HERITAGE CONSERVATION

Mr. Peter Tabuns: To the Minister of Culture: Designating the Alma College a heritage site would have meant better upkeep that would have prevented the fire that gutted that architectural marvel.
This morning, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, the mayor of St. Thomas and concerned citizens were here asking for a proactive approach to preserving heritage properties. They don't want what happened at Alma College to happen again.

Will the minister agree to launch a provincial review into the protection and designation of heritage sites in this province?

Hon. M. Aileen Carroll:
 I know I am joined by everyone in the House in our sadness at the loss of the beautiful and historic building which was Alma College. I realize what a difficult time it must be for alumni and citizens of St. Thomas as they work through this loss.

However, Alma College faced a number of serious challenges, including the fact that it was in an advanced state of deterioration. The city had recognized the heritage value; they had designated. However, the building was allowed to deteriorate over a long period of time, and when it was brought to the attention of the OMB, which was asked to settle the dispute, a structural engineer at that time advised the OMB that it was in such a state of disrepair that the cost to rehabilitate was prohibitive, and the fact that there was no alternative use being proposed made their perspective very difficult to agree with.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: Minister,

as you well know, given those circumstances, in order to protect that building and those like it, it's going to require provincial intervention with cash. What concerned citizens have asked is that an Alma College heritage foundation fund be set up and operated by the province to preserve and protect heritage sites across Ontario.

Will you agree to establish this fund to ensure that heritage properties across Ontario don't meet the same fate as Alma College?

Hon. M. Aileen Carroll:

The Ontario Heritage Act was reviewed and updated by this government less than two years ago. Considerable improvements and strategies were built into that act. In addition to that, in 2006, the province, my ministry as it then was, was very proactive in setting up a working group among the owner, the city of St. Thomas and ministry officials to look for and find solutions that might have assisted with the situation of Alma College.

However, as I have mentioned-also it should be noted that the current owner walked away from those working group efforts-as I have noted, it was a sad case that this building was allowed to deteriorate. But it had been deteriorating over a long period of time, and it was far too late, in the opinion of structural engineers or any of the experts, to move in and assist the building, which would have been prohibitive in cost.

If I may just continue a moment, and that is to say that we have created a new act. We have a new process. We have given municipalities the ability to-

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. The time for question period has ended.

Editor's Note:
I was there, as President of the Architectural Conservancy, along with Grant and Brenda Head, Suzanne van Bommel and Dawn Doty from St. Thomas, when this question was put to the Minister. Her answer offered no new information and repeated what she has been saying in various pieces of correspondence. The drama of this disaster, not tragedy, is poignant. Suzanne van Bommell and Steve Peters had been meeting with the Premier's chief of staff Peter Wilkinson to press for action by the province as the building caught fire. There were a crowd of demonstrators outside the building calling for the Minister to designate when it caught fire. We were so close to an intervention.


7. Call for Resignation of Minister of Culture over Alma College
Rod Kelly

Minister,
as a life long Liberal I can no longer just sit by, keep quiet and watch after the unfortunate loss of Alma College yesterday in St. Thomas.

Although I know you did not strike the match, your total inaction on this file certainly contributed to the conditions regarding the building in that the
deterioration was able to continue as far as it did.

I have always been proud of the accomplishments of my Liberal party, prior to your appointment, on theheritage conservation front. A long-awaited
strengthened Heritage Act, initial positive action regarding the First Parliament site and regular interaction with heritage volunteers, the backbone of
heritage conservation in Ontario.

I can't think of one thing that you have done to promote the conservation of our built heritage resources since your appointment. I can think however
of about a dozen things that need attention and you just aren't there.

You are an embarrassment to fellow Liberals and your predecessors who have made ground breaking progress with respect to the conservation of our built
heritage.

Maybe your heart is still in Ottawa, but for sure your mind is not on heritage conservation. Why don't you step aside and let Minister Meilleur look after the
portfolio. Even on a part-time basis she would accomplish more than you seem to be able to do. Pick up the phone and call Caroline Di Cocco to learn how
it can be done.

Until then, do us all a favour, resign. I for one have now decided to stop just sitting by. You are just useless.


8. An Open letter to the Ontario Minster of (bacterial) Culture
Carl Strygg

An open letter to the Ontario Minster of (bacterial) Culture
 
This morning, as I read the news about the tragic loss of the glorious Alma College building in St. Thomas, Ontario to a suspicious fire, I was filled with astonishment that in these times of global warming and carbon footprints our governments still stand mute and helpless in the face of building demolitions. And make no mistake: this was a demolition. Although some will argue that this exquisite Grand Dame from 1877 wasn’t actually demolished - per se - the fact that she was allowed to fall by neglect and then fire, rather than the wreckers’ ball makes no difference as far as I am concerned. The result is the same: Untold tonnes of rubble now wait to be added to the masses of putrefying garbage that we continue to throw-out by the countless truckloads every day.
 
One could be forgiven for thinking that the Honourable Aileen Carroll, minister of Culture for Ontario, should actually take the title of:  Minister of Bacterial Culture, as she and her ministry stand idly by while historic landmarks like Alma College join the parade of rotting waste in landfills all over Ontario.
 
Amazing to me is the fact that our government lectures us about the use of incandescent bulbs and the need to recycle everything from paper to popcans, while refusing to abolish the absurd and unsustainable practice of throwing entire buildings in the garbage. Yes, it is astonishing. Clearly the Ontario Ministry of Culture is steeped in a culture of waste - Waste of energy; Waste of Materials; Waste of Labour; Waste of Money. And perhaps most of all: Waste of History.
 
Landmarks are not Landfill.
 
Yet, the equivalent of billions of pop cans just entered the waste stream in one fell swoop.


9. Letter to Steve Peters following Alma Fire
Monica Paabo, Toronto"an Alma girl"

The Hon. Steve Peters
Chair of the Board of Internal Economy
Speaker, Government of Ontario
MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London

Dear Hon. Steve Peters,

In the Build Heritage News I read your words in the Legislature regarding the loss of Alma College. Further I read that the Ontario Fire Marshal's office claims that it was due to arson and I hope that the wrongdoers will be apprehended. However that will not bring Alma College back.

Your tribute to Alma College is important to all of us for whom the school meant a lot. I attended Alma College towards the end of Dr. Flora Sifton's tenure as Principal from 1967-70, and before it began its gradual demise, due to poor leadership, and alleged board mismanagement of finances.

I was moved by the video of young students who were protesting at Alma when it burned down and by the activists and citizens of St. Thomas and London area for whom this place meant something.

The London Free Press's website coverage of this event is very telling. I have a great deal of admiration for Dawn Doty, an Alma College Heritage Advocate, who exclaimed on video that we live in a country and a province that does not enforce Ontario's Heritage Act. She said that people have been able to tromp around the site for 10 years. I can vouch for that - I visited Alma College twice in the past 15 years. As Alma girls, my friend Jennifer and I knew that we could access the site simply by going up the tracks and crossing the field. Perhaps I was too shocked by the desecration of the chapel, the broken windows and the weeds growing on the gym floor to be able to think, let alone to take action to write letters or more. Unfortunately, I thought the source of the problem was money and felt powerless. First, I learned about the financial mismanagement of the College; second the City Council was not able to properly protect and preserve the site; third, the site was overwhelmingly expensive to restore to Fire code and building standards and it had to be in the interests of a big educational enterprise or developer to do it; fourth, likely the site was not a priority for the province.

However, I now realize that all along there has been a lack of co-ordinated vision and leadership. I hope that people who care about the heritage of Alma College in St. Thomas will take action. In my view, the OMB's ruling requiring the preservation of the facade should be fought for and the approval for demolition be put on hold pending investigation and considerations in the broader public interest.

The loss of Alma has to be a shock to the whole community and its impacts will be felt for a long time. If there was sufficient interest, political will, funding and fund-raising, the entire site could be subdivided so that some part of the land could be bought for community use, firstly to preserve some part of the facade or a building, like the chapel. A small museum space could be considered to honour the heritage past, along with the developer's intended private property. Could a revenue-generating satellite of a college be attracted to meet the emerging skills and technology needs of the region?

In my view, the site of Alma College should have meaning and purpose for all generations, from children through to the elderly. I believe that Dr. Flora Sifton was an excellent leader and ensured excellent teaching and learning at Alma College, thus modelling the spirit of its founders for enlightened education for women. That heritage deserves to be preserved and I would be interested in keeping in touch with those who are involved in finding solutions for the future. I am copying the Built Heritage News website with thanks for posting the excellent coverage of this unfortunate event.

Thank you again for your kind words in the Legislature.


10. Alma College
Andrew Stewart

8Ontario Culture minister Aileen Carroll, together with the Ministry of Culture, have failed to protect Alma College in St Thomas, one of Ontario's great heritage buildings, now destroyed by a fire under suspicious circumstances.

The importance and plight of this building has been known a long time. The Heritage Canada Foundation listed Alma College on its 10 most endangered buildings list in 2005 and has remained on their "at risk" list ever since.

Local government did not have the resources, or will, to cope with this provincially and nationally significant building. The province had the expertise and all the facts to act, to ensure reuse of this building. And didn't.

We already lose too many architecturally and historically significant buildings each year that fail to get designated because of a lack of resources required to make the recommendation to designate. To also lose buildings that have been designated is inexcusable.

Aileen Carroll remained silent even after hundreds, probably thousands, of emails, phone calls and petition signatures were directed to her over this issue. She has demonstated zero leadership on heritage issues, despite the fact that a stronger Ontario Heritage Act, passed a few years ago, should make her job easier. She is responsible for this disaster and should resign.

Andrew Stewart
528 Bathurst St
Toronto M5S 2P9
(416) 968-1013


11. Letter to the Editor: Moore House
Sandra Fuller

Moore Farmhouse 1824
I am shocked that the Province has decided NOT to proceed with Provincial Designation of the J. Moore house, Sparta.  This shirking of duty on the part of the province allows the house to be vandalized, and the economic value of the community as a heritage district to be dismissed.

Sandra Fuller

Editor's Note:
I understand from someone who has seen the proposal that the garage will be completely overwhelmed by the new house, two car garage, front smashed in, and building over and on both sides of the former house. Breaks just about every provincial heritage principal I can think of and has the imprimature of the Minister of Culture. Disaster


12. Lister In Jeopardy: Urgent Request to the Minister of Culture
Grant Head

The LIster Block, Another Demolition by Neglect?
The Honourable M. Aileen Carroll
Minister of Culture
Province of Ontario
info.mcl@ontario.ca <mailto:info.mcl@ontario.ca> MOST URGENT PRIORITY

Dear Madam Minister:

LISTER BLOCK STOP ORDER REQUEST 6 June 2008.

This letter is a request that under the powers granted to you under the Ontario Heritage Act you issue today a stop order on work on the provincially-significant Lister Block, municipally known as 28-44 James Street North, Hamilton.

Copper Cliff Metals and Wrecking, already at work on the property, represented by CEO Tony De Pasquale and presumably working under the direction of the property owners Labourers’ International Union of North America, indicated on Wednesday 5 June that they intend to excavate behind and under the rear of the building to strip the basement level. They will thus be working amongst the foundations of the building directly under the provincially-significant heritage attribute of the arcade. Mr. De Pasquale is reported to have recognized that this work could collapse the rear wall of the building, and that this would take the eastern half of the provincially-significant arcade with it. He is reported to have noted that the arcade is in any case no longer worth saving (which was not the situation during the term of the Provincial Facilitator’s Working Group on the Lister Block in 2006).

Madam Minister you denied my request for a stop order on the Balfour Building adjacent, trusting that the heritage elements of the facade would be saved: one day later–Saturday 19 April 2008-- only scraps remained. The same wrecking contractor is now at work on the Lister Block proper.

I suggest that the public perception will be, Madam Minister, that you were in gross dereliction of your duty under the Ontario Heritage Act if you fail to issue a stop order on this current work. I remind you that the Lister Block is not only of provincial significance, but also one of Heritage Canada’s ten most endangered buildings. Your government has invested already a great deal of staff time and money for consultants on this building, and has dedicated $7 million towards this as a heritage project. It would seem more than reasonable that the province insist upon the direct supervision of a qualified heritage architect and full public transparency in this work on a provincially-significant and high-profile building.

To allow adequate controls to be established a stop order is required today. I await your response.

Thank you.

C. Grant Head.

Member of the Minister’s Interim Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (1974);

Member of the Board, Ontario Heritage Foundation (1975-1980);

Founding Chair, LACAC, City of Hamilton (1975-1980);

Member, Board of Directors, Heritage Hamilton Foundation, 1977-present;

Member of the Lister Block Working Group of the Provincial Facilitator’s Office. (2006)

Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement (2007).

<mailto:editor@raisethehammer.org>


13. Letter to the Editor: Financial Incentives for Heritage
Michael B. Vaughan, Q.C.

A recent issue contained two Editor’s Notes about demolition by neglect, asking when will governments fund heritage conservation, so that basic routine maintenance gets done. Demolition by neglect, by fire and by structural failure is a very, very important issue, but with the most profound respect, government funding is not an available solution. A call for government funding diverts the focus away from strategies that might help.  Municipalities do have the power to conduct necessary structural repairs and recover the cost through realty taxes.  But in order to exercise that power they need, first, someone to advise them of the potential structural problems and, second, someone to organize getting the work done.  The City of Toronto with the best of intentions, just simply does not have the staff available.  So maybe we as citizens have to get active.

Conserving heritage buildings costs cash money, often big money for an individual person to afford. Governments just won’t be dishing it out. They can’t politically and won’t be able to do so in the foreseeable future. So forget it. Demolition by neglect (or by fire, if simple neglect takes too long, or by structural collapse as an alternative) is important. We must get real about addressing it.

The fact is that every heritage building sits on land. The land is often more valuable if the heritage building disappears than if it stays; particularly if a cash infusion is needed to save the building. Why? Because the City often zones and official plans land to be used for a building or buildings that will produce more money, often a lot more money, if the heritage building were to disappear than if it were to it remain. Stupid, stupid, stupid, you say?  Why do municipalities do this? Because they don’t know any better. Why don’t they know any better?  Because the heritage constituency (us) is asleep at the switch. We don’t insist that the zoning be changed for heritage buildings so as to remove the right to use the land for a more valuable use than is embodied in the heritage building. The development rights that are in the zoning by-law (and policies in the official plan) often create an inexorable incentive to demolish the heritage building. We can all think of example after example after example of this; not only here but in other parts of the world. Much demolition by neglect or by fire, etc., is completely preventable. What needs to happen is that the land upon which the heritage building sits, be rezoned by the City to restrict the structure permitted on the land to the very heritage building that exists, possibly with additions. It is so easy and so obvious.

It is completely counterproductive for a city on the one hand, to designate a property and on the other hand provide, or continue to provide, a carrot encouraging demolition of that very heritage building through the right for redevelopment provided in the zoning by-law. That’s where the problem lies and it is up to all of us to get a protocol in place whereby zoning is made the handmaiden of heritage preservation rather than its enemy. Individual people have every right under the Planning Act to make applications to change the zoning on lands they do not own. Such applications are referred to as “third party applications” and if necessary people have the right to appeal those applications to the OMB where they will be dealt with on their merits.

In heritage conservation, as in so many other things, it is important to follow the money, not to bemoan the money that will never come from government. We must make sure that the government does not continue to provide, through zoning, a monetary incentive to demolish.

Editor's Note:
Thanks Michael, for your interesting comments. I remember there were doubts about getting stronger legislation too. All avenues must be worked. I'm going to keep asking for funding for heritage, but not think of it as the only way. Countries with heritage laws also offer funding programs....it is not too much to ask. Don't ask, Don't get! Tony Tung talked about the need to plug all loopholes, you have identified some big ones.


14. Port Dalhousie OMB hearing: Phil Goldsmith Cross Examination
Carlos Garcia

Yesterday was the 55th day of our marathon OMB Hearing and marked the end of the 15th week. You might remember that (in the seemingly distant past) the Hearing was originally scheduled to last 10 weeks and then extended to a target of 15. We have now gone those 15 (of which PDVC's case took over 10) and have a few more to go. The Hearing will resume Wednesday October 8th. While the wait is difficult, it will give us some breathing space to continue fundraising so we can keep up with the developer's side.

Yesterday's Hearing was all taken up with the cross-examination of our Heritage Architect Phil Goldsmith. The opposing lawyer brought out multiple exhibits about Phil's previous work in Toronto to attempt to show that he believes towers and heritage buildings are compatible in Toronto and not in Port Dalhousie. The examples included the National Ballet School on Jarvis St. and a historic mansion on Sherbourne St. Mr. Goldsmith remained steadfast in his replies which emphasized a large urban setting where, towers already abound, is a totally different context than Port's village setting with no high rises ANYWHERE in sight. Also, that the Toronto examples included individual heritage buildings as opposed to a designated Heritage District like Port Dalhousie.

In the afternoon, their lawyer started questioning about the different views of the proposed tower development that Mr. Goldsmith has introduced. He tried to get Mr. Goldsmith to attack the motives of PDVC's witnesses -like Mr. Kirkland had done to him by claiming he intended to mislead. Most appropriately, Mr. Goldsmith took the high road, as PROUD always has, and refused to attack his colleagues or speculate on their motivation. PDVC's lawyer was excruciatingly detailed and slow. So much so that cross-examination did not finish by 4 pm. This means Mr. Goldsmith now goes into a 4 month break during which he is not allowed to discuss the case.

Please remember our Fourth Annual Garage Sale is Saturday June 14th. We will need lots of donations of items to be sold. See poster below and phone Lorraine (905-646-1264) if you have any questions.


15. Heritage Toronto's New Website
Heritage Toronto

The Heritage Exploration Map
Heritagetoronto.org has been renovated and rejuvenated - a brand new website with features for the city's heritage community and beyond. The interactive site will enable Heritage Toronto to do a more effective job of speaking out on important heritage issues, including the preservation of our built heritage. Our new website was designed with our community in mind. Last year, someone told me that one of the reasons that Torontonians don't value the city's built heritage as much as they should is because they don't see themselves reflected in our city's stories. We want to change that. We want to reach out to communities across the city to share Toronto's stories, and help build knowledge and a common understanding of our heritage so we value our past," said Peggy Mooney, Executive Director of Heritage Toronto. For the first time ever, all of Heritage Toronto's nearly 200 plaques and markers are available online - their location, background and in some cases, plaque photos. Visitors will also be able to view archaeological sites (courtesy of Archaeological Services Inc.), museums and Heritage Toronto Walks in their neighbourhood. Searching for historical information has been made easy - search by neighbourhood, address, intersection or postal code to see what's in your backyard! see a snapshot of Toronto’s past in our photo blog, find out the story behind the picture, and in some cases, see how the site/building has changed with time in our Before and After photos. We have developed the first in a series of audio tours for download as podcasts for iPods and other mp3 players. The first was a tour of the Old Town Toronto in Michael Redhill's celebrated novel "Consolation" Other tours- the second one on Spadina - will be added this year. Community Stories and Profiles: Torontonians share their experiences and stories and community heritage groups will be profiled and lauded for their work. Your History - The Heritage Toronto Heritage activists - including Bill Greer, Derek Boles and Ron Williamson - and members of the community will encourage open dialog with readers, who will be invited to join the discussions. To visit the new Heritage Toronto website click on http://www.heritagetoronto.org.

Editor's Note:
This is a great addition to online sites


16. New Book: Toronto's Distillery District: History by the Lake
Sally Gibson

The Distillery District has just published the first book about the history of the site ... since E. B. Shuttleworth's 1924 book about the windmill and its times. Toronto's Distillery District:History by the Lake contains 45, lavishly illustrated articles by site historian Sally Gibson, who has spent the last 18 months immersed in all aspects of the history of this National Historic Site. Gibson discusses the people, buildings, artifacts, events, processes, and unusual happenings that have contributed to making the Distillery District such an important part of Toronto's history. Gibson's last book, "Inside Toronto: Urban Interiors 1880s to 1920s", won the 2006 Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence. The new book retails for $65.00, and;is currently available from several Distillery District vendors (Bergo, Pikto, Lileo), various bookstores (including Ben McNally Books, D & E Lake, Nicholas Hoare Ltd.), and directly from the Distillery District Management office via "emailto:


17. Researchers seeking to 'heritagize'

from the web site <http://envblogs.uwaterloo.ca/blogs/blog/archives/30> of the faculty of environmental studies

Planning professor Robert Shipley, director of UWs Heritage Resources Centre <http://www.fes.uwaterloo.ca/research/hrc> , is part of a group of 12 researchers from across Canada awarded a $2 million SSHRC Strategic Cluster grant to develop a Canadian Forum on Public Research in Heritage.

The intent is to mobilize divergent groups with an interest in heritage to create synergistic networks, a broader understanding of the subject and to „heritagize‰ resources. Other goals include attracting young researchers to heritage research, making new connections between researchers, professionals and citizens through the use of resources such as teleconferences, blogs, wiki-style online databases and more traditional means such as conferences and publications.

While heritage is an increasingly important economic asset the difficulty of integrating such a transdisciplinary topic has often left it isolated within universities and divided by provincial and municipal jurisdictional boundaries. The CFPRH aims to foster a truly pan-Canadian vision and make Canada a hub of global research in the field of heritage.

The team, which includes five Canada Research Chairs, is led by two professors at the University of Quebec at Montreal. Shipley brings his international expertise on the economics of heritage, governance of heritage institutions and evaluation of conservation led urban regeneration. Shipleys skills will complement the expertise of architectural historians, heritage building specialists and designers that make up the rest of the group.

Shipley is the chair person of a National Round Table on Heritage Education founded last year at the annual conference of the Heritage Canada Foundation in Edmonton and has been assisting the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and Community Heritage Ontario in their formation of a strategy to improve the public understanding of heritage issues in this province.


18. Toronto Star: JIm Coyle on Alma College
Jim Coyle

Ontario's combustible heritage

Broken promises are common in political venues. Genuinely broken hearts are not. But Suzanne van Bommel's seemed well and truly shattered.

It was almost a quarter-century ago that, as a 16-year-old, van Bommel walked through the gates of Alma College, then a private girls' school near St. Thomas, a Victorian gothic built in 1871.

"I fell in love with the hauntingly beautiful buildings and property," she said.

To her right, as van Bommel told the story recently, was a framed drawing of the school she'd brought with her from its place on her dining-room wall. To her left, was the poster-sized photo of Alma College engulfed in flames last month in a Hollywood-worthy inferno that destroyed it.

Two teenage boys have been charged in the May 28 blaze. But van Bommel says it was a failure on the part of those who should be custodians of Ontario's history and heritage that provided the kindling.

"There has definitely been a chain of failure that led to this tragic loss," she said. "The system failed Alma at every turn."

The timing was cruel. The campaign to save Alma – which had been closed and deteriorating for more than a decade – from demolition had been picking up steam. At almost the moment the school was burning to the ground, area MPPs were delivering petitions in the Legislature urging the province to intervene, halt demolition plans by the owner, and maintain the building while resources could be raised to restore it.

Van Bommel said supporters of Alma College had been "so close to turning the corner" and "opening a window to our past."

The tragedy should never have occurred, she said. "It was the culmination of more than a decade of neglect and inaction that brought this to such a devastating outcome."

And it's an example, she said, of what's happening to other buildings of historical significance across Ontario, calling on the province to be more active in designating heritage properties and providing resources to municipalities that simply can't handle such responsibilities.

St. Thomas Mayor Cliff Barwick said the estimated cost of needed structural repairs to Alma was about $2 million – almost the entire annual capital budget of his town of 36,000 residents.

Catherine Naismith, president of Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, said historic buildings are being lost because "there isn't the political will or resources to protect our built culture."

She blamed the "entirely avoidable" tragedy on excessive caution on the part of the province about interfering in local matters. The practice in dealing with buildings at risk, she said, has been to wait "beyond the 11th hour" until all local options are exhausted – permitting a kind of "demolition by neglect."

"We don't understand the province's hesitancy to designate."

For her part, Culture Minister Aileen Carroll said the province had been told by a structural engineer the building was beyond repair at anything but prohibitive cost.

But Barwick dismissed that as a "Marie Antoinette attitude" and said the minister should remove the word "culture" from her portfolio if she has so little zeal for protecting it.82008

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19. St. Thomas Times: Alma College Burns Down

Photo gallery on St. Thomas Times website shows progress of fire.

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20. TreeHugger: Alma College as an Environmental Disaster
Lloyd Alter

Another One Bites The Dust: Alma College Burns Down

I sometimes wonder how people like Catherine Nasmith keep going. She is the President of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, fighting to preserve buildings around the province. Next week she is holding a conference on Heritage Preservation and Environmental Sustainability;(which we will be covering) on the agenda was the fight to save Alma Ladies College. Owners wanted to knock it down, the City was spineless, the Ontario Municipal Board approved its demolition, but Catherine kept fighting, writing articles, going after the Minister of Culture to intervene, getting Members to speak in the House, getting petitions signed to save one of the most important historic buildings in Ontario. As NDP Culture Critic Peter Tabuns said in the House, "if this building is not worth preserving, which building in Ontario is worth preserving?

Today, in one of those great coincidences that happen so often to buildings that people are trying to save, it burned to the ground.

I serve on the Board of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, and recently wrote the article copied below for its magazine, The Acorn, on why old buildings are green, and why it is so important to save them. I never realized until joining the ACO what a lost cause it was, fighting rapacious developers and stupid politicians.

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21. Globe and Mail: Alma National Tragedy
Clint Robertson, Calgary

Heritage loss felt nationally

Calgary -- Alma College was an architectural gem; its loss is a travesty for the entire country (Hopes Of Saving Landmark Go Up In Smoke - May 30).

As a practitioner in the heritage field, I can say that many heritage properties are facing "demolition by neglect."

There are no federal incentives to preserve them, such as tax credits or grants for restoration, and provincial incentives nationwide are meagre, to say the least.

The new and much-touted Ontario Heritage Act failed to save the college in St. Thomas, Ont., and should be re-examined. The minister's failure to intervene in the building's protection speaks volumes about the laissez-faire attitude toward heritage in Ontario - and nationwide.

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22. Globe and Mail: Alma Disaster
Josh Wingrove

Hopes of saving landmark go up in smoke

A century-old Ontario school is gutted by arson, foiling attempts to stop it from being torn down

May 30, 2008

Politicians in St. Thomas, Ont., pledged yesterday to push to rebuild the facade of historic Alma College, one day after arsonists torched the prized heritage site.

Alma College - a century-old former school for girls in St. Thomas, just south of London - caught fire about noon Wednesday, hours after the region's MPP met with Premier Dalton McGuinty's staff to push for an order to preserve it.

The flames gutted the building, which had been unused for more than a decade - the subject of a long battle between the owners, who hoped to demolish it, and the city. Much of the college collapsed in the fire, while the rest was torn down yesterday.

"It is really a horrific end for such a beautiful, beautiful building," said Alma alumna Suzanne van Bommel, who had been pushing to preserve the building.

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23. St. Thomas Times-Journal Letter to the Editor
Bill Sandison

Alma murdered and Alma's loss their legacy - Barwick, council failed in

The defenceless Alma College was murdered on May 28th, torched a few weeks ahead of city council's scheduled execution by wrecking ball.

There have been many thoughtful opinions voiced about the grand old lady,
but when you sift through the debris, you uncover that the majority of
blame rests squarely with our city council. The owners defaced and defiled
their property on Moore Street, while city council sat back and twiddled
their thumbs.

Failed municipal property standards, failed enforcement of municipal
property standards, and failed leadership on city council and at city hall
sucked the very life out of Alma. That is the crux of Alma College's
demise.

Absolutely true to form, the mayor and council shun all responsibility for
Alma College and point blame elsewhere. This council is fooling no one; the
fire and wrecking ball took Alma to the ground a couple of weeks ahead of
the demolition permit that council had brokered with the owners, and
approved in chambers. This cowardly and treacherous deed forever betrayed
us, our children and future generations to come. Charges of willful neglect
should be considered against the St. Thomas city council and the owners of
Alma College.

A condolence book in, of all places, the mayor's office is a shallow and
pathetic attempt to mask their guilt. The mayor along with the chairman of
the environmental committee should immediately resign from office, and the
director of environmental services should be terminated. This farce has to
end.

Bill Sandison, St. Thomas

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24. St, Thomas Times: Alma Fire started in Chimney
Jackie Gill

Stairwell a chimneyAlma inferno started in basement: testing samples

The fire that destroyed historic Alma College started in a stairwell, according to an investigation that concluded Friday night.

The probe, which wrapped up at 8 p.m., pinpointed the fire’s origin in the basement of the main stairwell at the back of the building, says St. Thomas Fire Insp. Bill Todd.

From there, the fire spread upward, he said.

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25. St. Thomas Times-Journal: van Bommel asks for Review of Ontario Heritage Practices

A plea for preservation Says province needs to step up on heritage

Years ago, she took her lessons inside the walls of Alma College.

And now that the former school for girls is gone after last week's fire, Suzanne van Bommel wants to teach the province of Ontario a thing or two about heritage preservation ... and why the demise of a building like Alma College must never happen again.

With a packed lower gallery, and almost two dozen people filling the balcony, van Bommel appeared before St. Thomas council Monday. She asked for council's support as she, along with Mayor Cliff Barwick, prepare to head to Queen's Park on Thursday to get the province to take another look at its heritage policy.

She said Ontario's policy of intervening only after every other avenue has failed set the stage for what happened.

"The province of Ontario must immediately launch a blanket review in order to protect and preserve heritage. We must move toward a (better) approach when it comes to saving these buildings and not get stuck in this merry-go-round of last minute, knee-jerk, crisis-mode reactions," she said, noting her goal is to establish a fund, the Alma College Heritage Foundation, to provide dollars for communities and municipalities to preserve and protect their heritage.

"We have lost something breathtakingly beautiful in our community. This was not just a local tragedy. Alma College was the No. 1 most endangered property in the country. St. Thomas must accept this moment and show real leadership and make sure this never happens to another community in this province again."

Van Bommel noted, however, that no one single person is to blame for last Wednesday's fire, which destroyed the 131-year-old former school for girls.

"Wednesday's horrific act was by no means the single cause of the death of Alma College. It has been more than a decade of neglect and inaction that brought this to such a devastating outcome," she said. "There is no one person at fault. We are all to blame, whether it be by wilful act of vandalism and destruction or failure to act. Failure to protect the building from rain and the elements, failure to enforce property standards, failure to designate the building and property as provincially significant. There has been a chain of failure that has led to this tragic loss."

She noted that attempts were made to save Alma College. Hours before Alma burned, van Bommel and Elgin-Middlesex-London Liberal MPP Steve Peters met with the premier's office to stop demolition.

But it was too late

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26. London Free Press: Alma Press Conference at Queen's Park
KRISTA SEGGEWISS

Queen's Park pressed for heritage site cash

Fri, June 6, 2008

Activists and the mayor of St. Thomas were at Queen's Park yesterday, pressing for more money to preserve heritage buildings.

"A tragedy like the destruction of Alma College should never have happened," said Suzanne van Bommel, an Alma activist and Liberal candidate in Elgin-Middlesex-London in the last federal election. "The government of Ontario must immediately launch a comprehensive review into how it designates, protects and preserves heritage properties."

Van Bommel was joined by Architectural Conservancy of Ontario president Catherine Nasmith and Mayor Cliff Barwick at a news conference.

"Small- to mid-size municipalities do not have the financial means to ensure the preservation of heritage sites in their own backyard," van Bommel said.

Alma College, the former private girls' school that sat empty for more than a decade before it burned down last week, is a sad example of what is happening to many heritage buildings across Ontario, Nasmith said.

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27. St. Catharine's Standard: David Cuming Testimony

Development would be poor fit for Port, planner tells hearing

The planner who wrote the city’s heritage guidelines for Port Dalhousie said any construction over three storeys could have a potentially negative effect on the area.

Former consultant David Cuming also told the Ontario Municipal Board hearing that the proposed Port Place development won’t take into account the “Three Ds”: displacement, disruption and design.

“I don’t believe it is a comfortable fit or compatible,” he said.

His report, Port Dalhousie Heritage Conservation District: Guidelines for Conservation and Change, was prepared for the city in March 2001.

Cuming worked for Archaeological Services Inc. at that time, and is now acting manager in the City of Hamilton’s community planning and design section.

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28. St. Catharines Standard: Phil Goldsmith Testimony Port Dalhousie Tower
Peter Downs

'That tower, no matter how it is treated, will alter that skyline permanently'

Port Dalhousie is in danger of losing its “villageness,” an Ontario Municipal Board hearing was told Tuesday.

Testifying at the ongoing OMB hearing into the Port Place development proposal, heritage architect Philip Goldsmith maintained the lakeside community retains many “astonishingly” well-preserved characteristics of a 19th-century village.

Under examination by lawyer Jane Pepino, who represents anti-tower citizens group PROUD (Port Realizing Our Unique Distinction), Goldsmith said the village’s heritage character and qualities — something he repeatedly called “villageness” — would be overshadowed by the development.

Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corp. wants to revamp the community’s commercial core with a 17-storey, 80-unit condominium tower, a 70-room hotel, a 415-seat theatre and a retail centre.

Goldsmith argued the proposal is inconsistent with the village’s composition of low-rise buildings of no more than two or three stories.

“That village quality has not yet been breached,” he said.

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29. Toronto Star: New Bridge Over Fort York
Christopher Hume

Bridge's makeover a rare chance

A view from the original lake level, just west of the bridge location

It isn't surprising that a city of ravines would also be a city of bridges.

In this regard, Toronto has fared well; we have some remarkable structures. Just think of the iconic Humber River Footbridge (Montgomery Sisam Architects), the Mimico Creek Bridge (Santiago Calatrava) and the grandest of the lot, the Prince Edward Viaduct, which opened in 1918.

Of course, there are other examples that aren't quite so special. Some are downright unpleasant, eyesores even.

One of the least appealing is the Bathurst Street Bridge, which runs south from the railway tracks near Wellington St. all the way to Fleet St. Because only the northern end where steel trusses are visible is obviously a bridge, many don't realize how long it really is. Sadly, the Bathurst bridge (built originally in 1903 to span the Humber River) suffers from decades of neglect. It looks its age, in all the wrong ways.

Now the city has decided to rebuild the structure, or at least the southern stretch. Though not much has been made of this, it's a rare opportunity to create a Toronto landmark, improve civic infrastructure and in this case, make amends for the city's shabby treatment of Fort York.

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Editor's Note:Preserving views of the Fort, and the relationship between the park at the mouth of the former Garrison Creek and the fort under the bridge will be critically important in this design. There are also key archaeological resources under the bridge.


30. The Muskokan: Loss of Marygrove

Not Unloved, But Perhaps Too Expensive to Love Properly

I t’s Monday morning as I write this, and another piece of Muskoka
history is crumbling to the ground. By the time this paper hits the
streets, a building that stood for 70 years, a building that has been
hailed as one of Muskoka’s few fine examples of art deco architecture,
will be just another pile of rubble on its way to the landfill.
Marygrove was not a typical piece of Muskoka architecture. It had
none of the features associated with “olde Muskoka” – no deep veran-
dahs, wooden shingles, or 16-mullioned windows. No modern builder
is going to use Marygrove as a template for a new cottage. But it was
lovely nonetheless.

Built as Glen Home resort in 1939, it was from a school of architec-
ture that arrived long after most of the grand Victorian places were
built. With its flat roof and clean white lines, it always seemed a little
out of place on the shores of Lake Joe.

It’s not alone in that, for there are plenty of other cherished buildings
in Muskoka that don’t fit the conventional architecture. Not far from
Marygrove is a stone cottage that looks like it belongs on the grounds
of the University of Toronto rather than on the shore of a northern lake. Over on
Lake Rosseau, one of the 20th century’s most prominent architects produced the modernist glass cottage known as Llanrwrst. And there’s nothing anywhere else in Muskoka that resembles the round cement buildings of Bigwin Inn on Lake of  Bays.

None of these buildings really fit the local architectural style, yet all of them
have their fans. And all have been either maintained or restored, and are in excellent shape, just as Marygrove was.

That in itself is a remarkable achievement, as anyone who has owned an old
house knows well. Old buildings are expensive, balky, and inconvenient. They
need new roofs at the wrong time, their furnaces fail, their plumbing and wiring
need to be replaced at enormous cost and difficulty. That’s hard enough with an
old house or cottage, but it can be managed if someone loves the place enough.


31. Toronto Star: Recycling the Leslie Frost Centre
John Goddard

Passion rescues 'Ontario jewel'

Once-doomed Leslie Frost Centre to serve as school, camp, eco-research institute

DORSET, ONT.–An Algonquin Highlands cottager has come out of retirement to turn the historic Leslie Frost Centre into a top environmental institute.

Al Aubry, who was teaching himself cabinet-making until recently on Boshkung Lake, rescued what he calls "an Ontario jewel" from a proposed condominium development.

In two weeks, he is to reopen the place as a children's camp with an environmental theme and optional Grade 11 credit courses taught by University of Guelph biologists.

In September, he will be accepting applications for an international private school to open in 2009, for grades 7 to 12, specializing in environmental and outdoor education.

With the University of Guelph, he is also developing the institute as the world leader in vernal pool ecology – the study of pools that form in boreal forests when the snow melts and usually evaporate in summer. The study results are expected to lend insight into global warming.

"I knew about this place because my son came here a long time ago as a camper," Aubry said while walking last week through the centre's handsome, two-storey lodges and outbuildings.

"When the government shut it down (four years ago), I thought, `What a crazy time to be doing that,'" he said. "We need more environmental education, not less."

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Editor's Note:This is just the kind of purpose that Marygrove might have had if not prematurely demolished.


32. Bracebridge Examiner: Premature Demolition of Marygrove
Brett Thompson

Rezoned and without a buyer, Marygrove resort in Muskoka demolished

Photo: Brett Thompson, Bracebridge Examiner

May 28, 2008

A DEMOLITION CREW works on Marygrove, a Lake Joseph landmark. The former retreat of the Sisters of St. Joseph has been on the real estate market, and the subject of debate about heritage preservation, for two years now.

After two years of uncertainty, the fate of a Lake Joseph landmark was sealed last week as wrecking crews moved in.

Constructed in 1939 by Lambert Love across the lake from his other landmark resort, Elgin House, the Glen Home Hotel operated for 35 years. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Hamilton then used the property as a summer retreat, renamed Marygrove, for the next three decades.

The property was put on the market in 2006. The former Township of Muskoka Lakes Heritage Committee’s failed bid to see municipal council protect the site from demolition contributed to the resignation of all seven committee members.

Representatives for the Sisters of St. Joseph argued the property’s upkeep was too costly, and the spectre of large scale renovations sent numerous potential buyers away without a deal.

A demolition permit was issued last December and Muskoka Lakes Council approved the 23-acre property’s rezoning from commercial to residential earlier this month.

The plan is to subdivide the property into four residential lots pending further township approval related to environmental standards.

Liz Lundell, president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario’s Muskoka branch, says she was not convinced the property could serve no commercial use.

“I do think there was a compromise solution there,” she says. “Time ran out a little bit sooner than we had expected.”

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33. Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs: Fire at Kapuskasing Inn

High-risk investigation; Kapuskasing Inn fire site poses problems for fire, police crews - Timmins Daily News

Kapuskasing Inn before Fire-Wikipedia photo

(May 25, 2007)

An investigation into the cause of a fire at a Northern Ontario landmark continued Wednesday.

The fire, which started early Tuesday morning, gutted the top floor of the Kapuskasing Inn, but the cause of the blaze had not yet been determined by Fire Marshall Office fire investigator John Montgomery, who examined the scene with OPP forensics identification Const. Tom Gant all day Wednesday.

"We're limited as to what we can do at the scene," Montgomery said. "Accessing the hotel has been difficult."

Because the hotel has been closed for about five years, Montgomery explained that health and safety problems have made the almost 80-year-old inn too much of a hazardous environment to enter.

"There's a lot of mould throughout the entire building according to the local health unit," Montgomery said.

"We don't know the extent of it, but it's considered very risky to go inside."

Montgomery and the rest of the investigating team could only examine the ruins of the Kapuskasing Inn using a small mobile crane that could raise them up beside the top floor.


"It feels so empty, but I hope they fix it. It's very sad."

Pauline Dumas

Gant said that no one in authority felt comfortable permitting anyone to examine the interior of the hotel for fear of floors or other structural elements collapsing.

"It's a shame the hotel burnt like this," Gant said.

"There's so much history behind this building."

Montgomery could not disclose much, because the investigation is ongoing, but he believes the fire was started on the third, or top, floor and was put out before it spread much further.

The fire investigator said his work at the scene would likely conclude by the end of the day, then he would file his report and the OPP would continue to work with his findings.

Lead investigator OPP Det. Sgt. Todd Selvage added that the OPP is interviewing witnesses to the fire and following leads, but no suspects have been identified as of yet.

"This investigation is still so fresh," Selvage said.

"It's ongoing and a lot of what we conclude will hinge on what the fire investigation tells us."

Kapuskasing chief administrative officer Yvan Brousseau explained that the owner of the inn, Donato Di Salle, a private investor based in Toronto, will have 30 days to pull down the remains of the building once the investigation concludes.

"He wanted to revive the inn and bring it back to its original shape, but now that plan is gone, finished," Brousseau said.

"There's no way to renovate it now."

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34. Kitchener Waterloo Record: Big plan afoot for Lang building
Terry Pender

Developers hope to turn one of the city's largest historic buildings -- the former Lang tannery -- into a thriving people place, with restaurants, digital and multimedia offices and studios, and research space for the life sciences. Toronto-based Candan Inc. briefed city councillors yesterday on the $30-million project to transform the 100-year-old tannery into a high-profile bastion of the knowledge economy. The building, bounded by Victoria, Charles, Francis and Joseph streets will be called The Tannery.

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35. Owen Sound Sun Times: Demolition deja vu -
Denis Langlois

City council's decision to investigate designating part of St. Mary's High School as a heritage building has put the local school board in a quandary. The Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board does not have the money to fix up the original 1891 wing of the school and city council's move has temporarily restricted the board from demolishing it.

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36. Georgetown Independent Free Press: Fight continues over Norval store Fight continues over Norval store
Cynthia Gamble

Norval residents continued their battle to save The Carpet Palace from possible demolition by its owners, at a Halton Hills council meeting Monday night. The residents urged preservation of the existing building, at the corner of Guelph and Adamson Sts., that once housed the Norval post office, and was frequented regularly by famed Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery when she lived in the village between 1926-1935. The residents were protesting a decision made last week by the Town's advisory committee, Heritage Halton Hills (HHH), which agreed to sign off on The Carpet Palace's owner's permit for demolition. Confirmation of that decision will occur at the committee's June 18 meeting.

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37. Windsor Star: Hamlet tires of desecration
Gary Rennie

St. JOACHIM - The desecration of the parish war memorial in front of former St. Joachim Church has villagers shaking their heads and wondering if the dispute over preservation of the historic church will ever end. Vandals scaled the six-metre-high monument and duct-taped beer bottles to the outstretched hands of the statue of Jesus at the top. The names of parishioners who served in the First and Second World Wars are inscribed at the monument's base. The monument's message, in French, means "Heart of Jesus Save Us."

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38. Windsor Star: Threatened RC church wins heritage approval
Dave Battagello

One landmark church -- Holy Name of Mary -- has been approved and another is poised to receive heritage designation from city council. Our Lady of the Rosary, with its well-recognized twin domes towering over Riverside Drive East, received preliminary approval for designation earlier this month from the city's heritage committee. It could come up for final approval at council's next meeting June 9. That decision comes on the heels of city council's decision this month to recognize Holy Name as worthy of protection. "There are many churches in the city and we are not trying to save them all," said heritage chairman Greg Heil. "But there are key landmark properties which are a fundamental part of the fabric of the city. ";Beyond their use by the Catholic church, they warrant preservation based on architectural merit."

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39. Enterprise Bulletin: Collingwood Ontario Heritage Conference
Morgan Ian Adams

Just because its old, does that make it worth... PRESERVING

Rick Lex, Conference co-chair in downtown Collingwood Photo Enterprise Bulletin

Admiral Collingwood. Culham House. Palace Livery. In the last four years, the wrecker's ball has felled these three buildings; though in the case of the Culham House, considered the oldest residential brick building in town, rather than the remains trucked to the dump, the house found new life in a development on Camperdown Road.

The future of the Tremont Hotel, built in the late 1880s during a period of significant growth in Collingwood, also appears poised to suffer the same fate - even as heritage advocates in the community lobby to preserve the building.

What all three have in common - and, ostensibly, the Tremont - is they came down in a period after the passage of Ontario's revised Heritage Act and the Town of Collingwood's decision to designate the downtown and several surrounding blocks as a heritage district.

The provincial legislation is designed to protect buildings deemed to be of heritage significance; coincidentally, the Act was passed only days before Collingwood Town Council approved motions permitting the demolition of Admiral Collingwood and the Culham House.

In doing so, the council also opened the door on the same site to the Admiral Collingwood project, a proposed six-storey residential and commercial development site that critics said went against the guidelines laid down for the downtown heritage conservation district established in 2003.

While it has had its controversies - especially when it came to the Admiral project - nearly five years after the creation of the district, most building owners have come to accept, and even embrace, the guidelines for the district.

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40. Kitchen Waterloo Record: Grad House and Shipley Prevail
Terry Pender

Grad House receives reprieve

Heritage advocates at the University of Waterloo are claiming victory in their struggle to preserve Graduate House, one of the oldest buildings on campus.

As consultants prepare a new master plan for the south campus, one of the options has been to dismantle the additions made to Graduate House and move the rest of the structure to the west. The tree-shaded knoll would then be available for a new engineering building.

But now the dean of engineering, Adel Sedra, says he no longer supports moving Graduate House.

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41. InnisfilJournal.com: Developer aware of plan to move heritage house
Rick Vanderlinde

Toronto developer Trinity Development Group Inc., didn't believe a proposal to relocate the McConkey heritage home was "bona fide" so it demolished the 150-year-old house. In an e-mail to The Journal, Trinity development manager Ingrid Beausoleil said the company was aware of "a proposal to take the house." . . . The home was demolished the same day council was poised to consider "registering" the house under the Ontario Heritage Act, which would have revoked a demolition permit for at least 60 days.

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42. Peterborough Examiner: Empty heritage building has deep local roots
ANDREW ELLIOTT

What would you do with an empty designated heritage building? Would you let it sit vacant? Or would you take steps to preserve the building, re-use it, and even celebrate its history? Consider the example of Dixon House, an empty heritage building that has deep roots in the history of Peterborough. Neighbourhood children may tell you that the house is haunted, and that on Halloween, the ghosts of a child and two elderly people can be seen through the windows. Or perhaps you might wonder at the unusual story that this was once a place where spies worked during the Second World War. Or you might note that it is one of the oldest houses in the city, and also one of the few remaining stone houses. It was built in 1837 for William Dixon, who had been a young teenager among the original six families of settlers that arrived in the area in 1818. In 1829, he married and built his first house on this spot, and then in 1837 erected a stone house on the foundations of the old home.

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43. University of Waterloo: Big News for the Heritage Research Centre

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44. Ottawa Citizen: City moves to designate decrepit school as heritage building
Patrick Dare

The City of Ottawa is moving to designate Devonshire Public School as a heritage building, though the school is on the list of those in the worst condition in the province. The city's heritage planners are recommending the school on Breezehill Avenue be designated a heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act. The matter will go to the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee on Thursday, then to planning committee and city council. A city report says Devonshire was built in 1910 as an eight-room school designed by the school board's architect, W.B. Garvock. It was expanded in 1920. At a reopening ceremony in 1921, the governor-general of the day - the Duke of Devonshire - presided.

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45. Victoria Times Colonist: Historic buildings need work quickly - Report gives first glimpse inside four deteriorating downtown properties
Carolyn Heiman

Janion Building Victoria, from Hallmark Society Photos

A first-ever inspection of four historic downtown buildings neglected by their owner shows they can be saved -- but they need work quickly before the elements inflict more damage. The inspection report, obtained by the Times Colonist through a Freedom of Information request, notes that in the case of the waterfront Janion Building, "much of the interior remains in surprisingly intact condition, including the central staircase, newel posts and balustrades, wooden trim, doors, paneling, wainscoting and wooden flooring." But the report by heritage consultant Donald Luxton & Associates cautions that the building at 1612-1614 Store St. is "not being adequately maintained in good repair to retain the building's original exterior features and character-defining elements." The report -- more than 100 pages long -- calls for repairs to brick walls and mortar joints and making the building watertight to prevent further damage.

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46. Victoria Times-Colonist: Soda factory building to be restored - Developer known for heritage work buys seventh Old Town property
Carolyn Heiman

A developer who has restored some of Victoria's prime downtown heritage buildings has bought the historic Morley's Soda Water Factory building, with the intention of restoring it. Chris Le Fevre called the purchase of the Waddington Alley building "a very natural acquisition for me."

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47. Victoria Times-Colonist: Victoria smokeshop owner allowed to keep heritage signage
Tom McMillan

A tobacco store owner caught between anti-smoking advertising laws and Victoria's heritage bylaws will be allowed to keep up most of his store's antique tobacco signage. The news came as a standoff between Victoria city officials and the Vancouver Island Health Authority ended this week. On Wednesday, city heritage planners met with the health authority to discuss the window signs at Old Morris Tobacconist. They decided the store could retain most of its antique ads and signs, though a large banner would have to be covered up.

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48. Winnipeg Free Press: What downtown needs is a sense of urgency
Dan Lett

On the day I was hired at the Winnipeg Free Press, I stood on the north side of Portage Avenue and looked east towards Main Street with an appetite to familiarize myself with the city I would soon call home. It was September 1986 and as I walked out of the paper's old office building on Carlton Street, I could tell Winnipeg was going to be a different urban experience. . . In most cases, tax credits do not cost government much money. Buildings that are empty and in severe disrepair, or plots of land that sit undeveloped, are of little value to property owners or tax collectors. A tax holiday now, in exchange for new construction or rehabilitation of existing buildings, creates value down the road.

 

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49. Winnipeg Free Press: Warehouse makeover a split decision - One big property now three
Larry Kusch

When it comes to developing heritage buildings in the Exchange District, perhaps less is more. Less space translates into less cost, producing many more potential players. That's what the owners of the Bathgate Block at Princess Street and Alexander Avenue, in the city's Chinatown district, have discovered. Retrofitting the three-storey, 18,000 square foot, 125-year-old warehouse into a condo development, as they once planned, was financially risky. At today's prices, it would have required a $3 million investment, which lending institutions tend to shy away from in the Exchange. "The building was too small for big developers and too big for small developers,"said Brian Pearson, an intern architect and one of the owners.

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50. St. John's Telegram: Saving historic churches
DAVE BARTLETT

Saving historical religious buildings is the focus of a conference in St. John's that continues today. The conference began Friday morning at the Lantern on Barnes Road, which itself was a former Catholic school run by, and paid for, by the Presentation Sisters. George Chalker is the executive director of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (HFNL) which is hosting the conference. He says a number of churches in the province have been forced to close due to declining congregations, mostly in rural parts of the province.

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51. Newfoundland & Labrador Independent: Old as the hills - National heritage designation may be enough to save Bonavista
BRIAN CALLAHAN

The "oldest house" in Newfoundland and Labrador can't touch the massive icebergs lurking around every turn of the winding and sometimes white-knuckle drive to Bonavista. Unless, of course, you're Gordon Bradley. His jaw seemingly drops every time he enters a different room in the dilapidated Alexander Bridge House. And this is far from the first time he's done a walk-through of the crumbling 200-year-old structure. He steps over holes in the floor without even looking. ";It's been neglected shamefully," says Bradley, 78, president of the Bonavista Historical Society and chairman of the town's historic townscape foundation. . . . Alexander House was built, over a period of time, between 1811-1814. Mercantile businessman William Alexander, for whom the home was named, came to Newfoundland from Argylshire, on Scotland's west coast, in the early 1800s, commissioning "an associate" - Alexander Strathie, also a Scot - to design and build it.

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52. Victoria Times Colonist: Energy upgrade - A B.C. Hydro call to replace old windows has heritage-building enthusiasts up in arms, but experts say there are options
Joanne Hatherly

A B.C. Hydro advertising campaign could put Victoria's stock of heritage homes and buildings under threat, heritage advocates say. The Power Smart ad that ran in the Times Colonist on April 17 encourages homeowners to upgrade their old windows to new energy-efficient windows, saying "Having old windows is like having no windows at all." That assertion spurred Rick Goodacre, executive director at Heritage B.C., the umbrella group for heritage groups across the province, to write a letter in protest to B.C. Hydro and several B.C. government ministries. The campaign promotes the replacement of hundreds of thousands of existing windows, which would add needless waste to landfills, and expense to homeowners, Goodacre says.

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53. Saint John Telegraph-Journal - A town of faded glories - Staunton, Va - Don't bypass this extraordinary small Virginia town filled with Victorian mansions in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley
Fred Donnelly

Driving the Interstate 81, which runs from the border in Ontario to Tennessee, is, like many drives along most four-lane divided roadways, a bland experience. So many towns are bypassed the traveller misses too much of what the U.S. has to offer. Twice in years past I have skirted round Staunton, Va., but this year I made it a point to visit this extraordinary but small town of 24,000 people. Located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Staunton (pronounced STANTON as if the "u" wasn't there) has a surprisingly rich architectural and cultural heritage.

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54. Hawkesbury Tribune- Express: "Absurd" Canal fence raises protests in Grenville
Richard Mahoney

The fate of the Grenville Canal continues to make waves. The latest source of discord is the village's decision to install a second fence on both sides of the deteriorating site. Many homeowners beside the water course have complained that the wire barrier is unsightly and unnecessary. But Mayor Ronald Tittlit defends the move, stressing that the municipality has no choice to prevent public access to the shores of the canal, a heritage site that is now considered a public safety hazard. "It is totally absurd," states long-time canal resident Andre Bruneau. ";We know that it is not a popular decision. We are not thrilled with this, either, but it is something that has to be done," says Tittlit. The installation of the $6,000 fence was recommended by engineers who confirmed that the canal is in a"pitiful" state and recommended that the fence be erected, boats be banned and the wall on the north side of the canal, beside the park, be stabilized. The village is seeking government funding to cover the $300,000 cost of this work, as the municipality continues to press Ottawa and Quebec to pay the bill for the overall preservation of the canal, a job that could cost millions.

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55. Victoria Times Colonist: Future of four historic buildings hangs on city's bid to assign heritage status
Carolyn Heiman

The president of the Hallmark Society vows members of his group would lie down in front of a bulldozer if there were a move to demolish the historic downtown properties owned by a reclusive woman who has kept them empty for almost a half a century. ";We will lie down in front of the bulldozers on those buildings," Nick Russell said last week."They are part of Victoria's consciousness. They are what Victoria is." Russell said the society -- the oldest heritage preservation group in the capital region -- has been so concerned about the future of the buildings that they have written to Premier Gordon Campbell and the federal heritage minister to get support on saving the buildings. The Victoria Heritage Society has also called for the buildings to be protected under heritage laws.

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