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Issue No. 137 | February 17, 2009

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Feature Stories

  1. Globe and Mail: Fort York's latest battle - for funding
  2. Treehugger: French Stimulus Program Preserves Historic Buildings

Events

CHO-ACO Workshop: Preserving Heritage Schools
Saturday February 28, 2009
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Tollkeeper's Cottage Lecture Series

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Building Storeys
Feb. 17  22
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Heritage Showcase
Friday February 20th
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thinkTORONTO EXHIBIT AT 401 RICHMOND
to March 12
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Conference Industrial Strength
October 21- 4, 2009
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National Main Street Conference, Chicago
March 1-4
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Bulthaup Lecture Series
March 3
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1. Toronto: A city of secrets - dirty little secrets
Cathy Crowe

Faces on Places: A Grotesque Tour of Toronto by Terry Murray (Anansi Press, 2006) is one of my favourite books about this City. It’s a handsome pocketbook, a guide to Toronto’s old buildings and the stone menagerie that inhabit them. Did you know that gargoyles, griffins, winged lions, angels, gods and goddesses, kings and queens, deer and polar bears have been watching over this City for more than a century?

In his forward to the book, Christopher Hume writes “Toronto is a city of secrets. It reveals itself slowly, bit by bit, detail by detail.” I live and work in downtown Toronto so I almost always walk everywhere. I often choose my route in order to sneak a glance upwards at one of the historic stone legends atop a building. One of my favourites is the gargoyles atop the Jarvis Street Baptist Church.

Toronto is a city of secrets and these days, as I walk my City’s streets I am quietly noting another history.

I pass the parking garage on Adelaide where Garland S was found frozen to death.

I walk by the hotel on Bay Street, north of the Greyhound bus station, where Brian B died in his sleep, having rented a room for the night to take a break from the church basement program where he slept on the floor.

I seek out the steps of the synagogue in Kensington Market where Eddie F was found dead, only hours after he was discharged from Toronto Western Hospital.

I am thankful for the staff in St. Michael’s Hospital, known as ‘Toronto’s urban angel’ where James Kagoshima and hundreds of other homeless men and women have died, dying homeless due to cancers, heart disease, the cold, fire.

Today I sought out a specific location. It is the Bank of Montreal’s bank machine vestibule at King and Yonge where John Massie sought shelter, later dying from third-degree burns to 80% of his body. I met Bonnie Briggs, the founder of the Homeless Memorial Project. We went inside to get the manager’s card. I’ve decided I have to write him and Mr. William Downe, the President and Chief Executive Officer of BMO Financial Group. It’s not my first time at the site. I went there the morning after John Massie was burned and taken to St. Michael’s Hospital. There was no yellow police tape. No signs of an investigation. No CSI team. No signage from the bank acknowledging the tragedy. No flowers. Just cleaners, and an industrial fan to eliminate all the traces of smoke, the burned clothing and flesh.

Only the gargoyles, watching from above, would have seen what was to become another one of Toronto’s dirty little secrets, another homeless death. The coroner called it ‘misadventure.’ Shelters were full that night and Church basements overflowing. There was no 24 hour warming centre. City-funded outreach services were forbidden to provide survival supplies which would include hot food, sleeping bags and blankets. This, I find grotesque.

If you would like to help us honour and speak out against the deaths of homeless men, women and children please join Toronto Disaster Relief Committee at the Homeless Memorial, at 12 noon on the steps of the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Upcoming dates include February 10th, March 10th, April 14th. Join us for a free lunch inside the Church after the memorial and enjoy the Church’s history and social justice atmosphere. http://holytrinitytoronto.org/

Editor's Note:
Cathy's piece is little different for BHN readers, but I thought you would be interested to know that people you might not think of as allies also love the beauty of the built environment. I worked with Cathy Crowe ten years ago for a couple of years doing advocacy to have housing programs re-introduced in Canada and Ontario. I met her most recently at City TV where she was being interviewed after me by Adam Vaughan, I was there being interviewed about a threatened house in Toronto. I felt that my issue paled in comparison to people dying in the streets--but Cathy reassured me that she was also concerned about the needless destruction of the built fabric. Wouldn't it be nice to see new housing money targeted towards recycling our buildings.


2. Globe and Mail: Fort York's latest battle - for funding
Jeff Gray

Dust off the epaulettes and shoo away the beer festivals, the historic site is starting to get some friends in high places

Globe and Mail photo, towers encroaching in the view of the Fort

Retreating British soldiers, relinquishing the capital of Upper Canada to invading Americans on April 27, 1813, had one last-ditch trick: They blew up their ammunition stores with the enemy just outside the walls of Fort York, creating what one witness called a "a great confused mass of smoke, timber, men, earth," killing or wounding more than 250 U.S. troops.

Nowadays, it makes sense that Fort York's cannons are instead pointed at the cars roaring by on the towering concrete Gardiner Expressway, which looms overhead. Threats to the fort, the site where this city's future was sealed and an independent Canada was born, have long come not from Americans but from the indifference of Torontonians themselves.

And it is not just the indignity of the hulking Gardiner and the nearby flashing billboards. Landfill and a concrete plant - soon to be a park - have long cut off the fort from the lake, as the railways cut it off from the city to the north. A condo boom has now added a wall of glass-and-steel towers to dwarf the fort's 19th-century battlements. School trips are down. A proposed light-rail line just west of the fort's walls has raised alarms.

However, with plans forming to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 in June of 2012, the city and the site's supporters say it is time to make amends with the ghosts of Fort York - the city's only official national historic site - and treat it with the respect it deserves, starting with a $15-million visitors centre. But the battle to raise the cash from recession-weary governments and private donors is just beginning. "It has laid there forgotten," said Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, co-chair of the city's War of 1812 bicentennial committee. Now champion of the fort's revival, he says Torontonians need to be reminded of the war's importance.

He insists that early signs are good. The city has committed $5.7-million, and the federal government - the Conservatives promised to commemorate the War of 1812 in their election platform last year - cut a cheque last year for $617,000.

The city's attitude toward the site appears to be changing. There is now a Fort York Boulevard, a new entrance and new neighbourhood springing up around the fort. A new art installation, meant to mimic the reflection that water would create on the underside of the Gardiner, is slated to recall the 19th-century shoreline that abutted the fort. Pedestrian bridges are planned to link the site to dog walkers, joggers and cyclists in the neighbourhoods to its north. City officials are even investigating whether Fort York could win UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

And, Mr. Pantalone said, as of this summer, the fort will no longer be forced to rent out what is essentially a military graveyard to a summer beer festival that features beach volleyball and rock concerts.


3. Globe and Mail: Wright's DIY dreams continue to inspire
John Bentley Mays

The dream of a modern, mass-produced perfect house has haunted avant-garde architectural imagination for more than a century. Numerous designers have tried, and are trying, to create such a house, so far without the market success that would make the enterprise viable. Nevertheless, their attempts have supplied many appealing footnotes in the history of modern architecture.

Take, for example, Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Automatic, a building system that the architect devised in the early 1950s, when he was in his eighties. (One theory says "Usonian" is an abbreviation of "United States of North America," a reference to Wright's admiration for American democracy and egalitarianism. But the origin of the word is obscure.) Wright's method involved the prefabrication of small concrete blocks that could be stacked up by the purchasers themselves to make walls, and eventually a whole house. The blocks were secured with metal rods and grout.

A few Automatics were built. But, like so many others of its kind, this visionary architectural scheme turned out to be more expensive than Wright had anticipated. And, in any case, post-war home buyers were excited about the ticky-tacky boxes that developers were throwing up in suburbia, not Wright's experiment in do-it-yourself modernist housing. Interest in the Automatic languished.

Until now, that is. Luke Stern and Jesse Colin Jackson, graduate students in the University of Toronto's John H. Daniels faculty of architecture, landscape, and design, aren't aiming to put the Automatic on the assembly line. But their keen interest in this housing strategy resulted in an engaging little show of photographs, drawings and Automatic concrete blocks cast by Mr. Stern and Mr. Jackson at the architecture school's Larry Wayne Richards Gallery. The exhibition, which unfortunately ended its run last week, recalled well the progressive spirit at work in Wright's design.
Jesse Colin Jackson, left, and Luke Stern with cement blocks they have fabricated from a design originally conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright, part of a plan for the perfect low-cost house.
Enlarge Image

Jesse Colin Jackson, left, and Luke Stern with cement blocks they have fabricated from a design originally conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright, part of a plan for the perfect low-cost house. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
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The Globe and Mail

"Our show is a recreation of the system," Mr. Stern told me. "We've made a single-minded effort to take an existing design and recreate it fully at full scale. It doesn't carry any grand polemical baggage beyond that. One of the things we find really interesting right now is the idea that these blocks were designed to be manageable by the client. Two people could lift them in place and assemble a building."

But the fascination of Mr. Stern and Mr. Jackson with the Automatic goes beyond the ease of its material fabrication. They have seen how the project looks forward into the future, when the conservation of raw materials would become increasingly important to architects and the public.

"Wright's ideas of sustainability are really current. Concrete is readily available, it's cheap. He wanted to use sand from the site, so that very little was being shipped to the site except for the forms [for casting the concrete blocks]. This was all in an effort to lower the costs of construction. And it was a relatively green technology in terms of material use. Maybe not in terms of performance: The houses were not well insulated. But they were beginning to couple all the issues of sustainability in a way that is quite intriguing."

Though Wright is best known today for his mansions designed for the well-heeled, it's the architect's persistent desire to provide housing for everyone that attracted these two students. The quick-built Usonian houses of the 1930s were among Wright's early attempts to break out of the clutches of wealthy clients.

"The original Usonian was made of complicated carpentry, and the labour costs associated with the Usonian became too expensive [after the Second World War]," Mr. Jackson said. "So Wright stepped back and said: These Usonians are no longer for middle-class people, they're for wealthy people. So let's think of what different method and different material we can use to make a house that is legitimately constructible for someone with modest means."

Hence the turn to concrete for the Automatic — not a turn, despite Wright's best intentions, that was likely to appeal to the broad masses.

"Architects in general, unlike the general populace, have a real soft spot for concrete, and it takes a very special person or family to accept a house made out of concrete. It's easier for students in school and academics to accept the virtue of ugly concrete. It was quite easy to fall in love with [the Automatics]. They're very textured, the pattern is quite evocative, they cast these beautiful shadows, the perforated blocks are many, many small windows. They are very small, intimate spaces."

The Stern/Jackson show celebrates the raw beauty of concrete, and, just as clearly, it evokes the spirit of adventure and idealism that has so often infused the dream of the perfect mass-produced house.

"Here's an example of the most important architect in North America who had a very large investment in this problem [of sheltering the masses] over a really long span of time," Mr. Stern said. "For 30 or 40 years, he was trying different ways of dealing with this problem. So he does seem to be a relevant precedent for architects to look at directly.

"They need to experience all the successes and failings of the system completely, especially because our aspiration is to build things — to step outside our own design sensibilities for a moment, and recreate all the results of this basic idea. We were never compelled by Wright's formal logic, but we were very interested in his ideological and social ideas manifested in these projects. We take inspiration from that investment and experimentation."

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4. Leaside Town Crier: The history of the Talbot apts. fight

Kris Scheuer

The plan to demolish three Leaside heritage buildings and redevelop the Bayview Ave. site had taken many twists and turns. Here is a timeline for this ongoing match between the City of Toronto and Context Developments Inc.

1939 – Leaside mayor Henry Howard Talbot constructs Kelvingrove, Glen Leven and Strathavon apartments.

March 2007 – Leasiders contact the Town Crier about rumours of redevelopment of the site at 1325, 1351 and 1365 Bayview Ave.

January to April 2007 – Context begins meetings with city and residents on development plans.

March 27, 2007 – Context shows community four options for redevelopment at a meeting.

July 2007 – Leasider Owen Sheppard develops documentary about the people who live in the apartment complex.

Sept. 12, 2007 – Toronto Heritage Preservation Board recommends heritage designation of all three buildings.

Oct. 2, 2007 – The city approves intent to designate the buildings.

Dec. 2007 – Context appeals heritage designation to Conservation Review Board.

March 13, 2008 – Context submits an application for an eight-storey, 140-unit rental structure and 54 townhouses and plan to demolish the existing rental complexes.

Mid-July 2008 – City refuses Context’s plan to redevelop the site.

July 2008 – Context appeals development refusal to Ontario Municipal Board.

Aug. 25-28 2008 – Hearing are held by the Conservation Review Board to appeal city’s intent to designate buildings.

Oct. 15, 2008 – Conservation Review Board issues decision siding with the city.

Oct. 2008 – City refuses demolition permits.

Nov. 2008 – Context appeals City of Toronto’s refusal of a demolition permit for the buildings stating city missed the decision deadline.

Jan. 9, 2009 – Demolition application appeal goes to Superior Court of Justice.

Jan. 20, 2009 – Superior Court of Justice rules in favour of the city.

Jan. 26, 2009 – Prehearings begin before the Ontario Municipal Board.

Jan. 27, 2009 – Context releases statement that it will appeal Superior Court Justice ruling on demo permit to Court of Appeal.

Jan. 27, 2009 – City council receives Conservation Review Board’s decision supporting heritage designation and city formalizes designation. Buildings are now designated as heritage properties under Ontario Heritage Act.

Aug. 24, 2009 – Ontario Municipal Board hearing scheduled to begin.

Sources: City of Toronto, Councillor John Parker’s office, Town Crier articles.

Click here for Link


5. Toronto Star: Old buildings given new life; Architect Joan Burt spent decades fighting to leave her stamp on Toronto's landscape
Nicole Baute

Joan Burt has spent much of her life fighting.

She fought her way into the male-dominated profession of architecture in the 1950s. She stood up to city hall when zoning or municipal projects clashed with her vision of the city. She spent decades battling to save Toronto's historic row houses from those who could only imagine the new, not the restored.

She lost at least one fight. By the early '70s, she had one of the most influential jobs a city architect could, as chair of the Ontario College of Art's department of design. In January 1986, her suspension and subsequent departure made headlines.

She does not like to talk about it.

But the 78-year-old is happy to talk about the profession she has devoted her life to, and her city.

She sits in a cafe facing College St., one of her favourites. She looks younger than her years; her white hair is short, pixie-like, revealing large silver swirls of earrings.

"It's not my idea of a good time," she says of fights with city hall. "But sometimes you just have to brazen it out, you know?"

Burt is nothing if not brazen.

Click here for Link


6. Globe and Mail: Conference to explore creativity in urban centres
Jeff Gray

In a partnership with the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto - headed by urban thinker Richard Florida - the city of Toronto will spend $10,000 on an international conference this June on "cultural mapping."

The conference, highlighted in yesterday's city budget, will be called Placing Creativity. It will include international cultural policy researchers and "explore the connection between place, creativity and the economy."

The event, billed in a budget document as a "major gathering of international thinkers," will focus on the geographic discipline of "cultural mapping," which looks at the way artists and art institutions cluster and the effect they have on neighbouring businesses.

Rita Davies, head of the city's culture department, says the conference will examine, among other things, how rapid gentrification can harm arts communities, citing the recent fights over condominium developments on Queen Street West as an example.

"With Queen West, we learned that what's important is to get ahead of that curve, understand where those communities are, and what we need to do, whether it's through zoning or other kinds of policy to ensure their stability," Ms. Davies said in an interview.

Speakers at the academic conference include British-based cultural policy expert Colin Mercer and urban sociologist Richard Lloyd of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, as well as local experts.

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:This is the same theme as the Ontario Heritage Conference in Peterborough in June


7. Brantford Expositor: Developer 'hopeful' of deal to save Paris old town hall
Michael-Allen Marion

Heritage advocates trying the save the Paris old town hall will have to wait until a March council meeting for word on the building's fate.

"It's not a done deal, but I'm hopeful," Gabriel Kirchberger, president of G. K. York Management Services, said Tuesday.

He and members of a group of artistic and cultural devotees led by Deano Wilson Rouse appeared before Brant County council's corporate development committee Monday evening to make their pitch for a plan to have the developer buy the property and make space available at affordable rates to organizations.

A major condition in the deal is that the county would have to declare the property tax exempt.

After discussing the plan, the committee directed staff to prepare a report for the March 3 council meeting on the feasibility of the project, including details about the building, non-profit financing and plans for future use.

Then Kirchberger and the advocates will have until April to submit documents concerning the designation of the property by the province and a business plan.

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8. Brantford Expositor: Historic church for sale - Wesley United congregation looking for new home
SUSAN GAMBLE

from the Church website

The historic building that has housed Wesley United Church for 105 years is for sale, but the little church is determined to carry on with new vigour in new surroundings. A For Sale sign on the Superior Street church building heralds the coming end of an era for the ongregation which moved into the spanking new sanctuary in 1903. "This is a beautiful, big old building and the congregation is small and aging," said Rev. Louise Rutledge, the church's minister for the last 3 1 /2 years. "But we're not ready to lie down and die."

Click here for Link


9. Geogina Advocate: New designation questions swirl over Observatory
ADAM MC LEAN

Does Town of Richmond Hill have power to designate entire site?

As the discussion surrounding the future of the David Dunlap Observatory lands increases following a seven-day hearing before the Conservation Review Board (CRB) last month, a pointed question was posed at Richmond Hill town council on Monday night. Does the Town of Richmond Hill possess similar power to that of the Minister of Culture, to designate 100 per cent of the controversial David Dunlap Observatory site for heritage preservation?

This question was asked during the 'unscheduled business' portion of the town council meeting by Marianne Yake of the Richmond Hill Naturalists, who followed her question with an adamant insistence that 'yes,' the Town in fact does have such power. While the Ontario Heritage Act was restructured and strengthened in 2005 to give municipalities more power in dealing with heritage designation, it's questionable whether the town holds the same clout as the Minister of Culture or could expropriate all of the Observatory lands.

When questioned on this, a Ministry of Culture was non-committal. "The Minister cannot comment while the proposed designation is before the Conservation Review Board. The Minister looks forward to learning the outcome of the Conservation Review Board hearing," stated Anna-Maria Mountfort on Tuesday, handling media relations for the ministry. The decision from the CRB is slated to be released in approximately 60 days from the hearing's conclusion, still weeks away. The declaration to council from Ms Yake, who was accompanied by more than a dozen supporters, was met with some raised eyebrows and questioning looks from councillors and staff. "Is there merit to that statement? That we have the same power to designate property similar to the Minster of Culture?" Deputy Mayor Brenda Hogg asked town staff.
Town staff stated their understanding was that council must wait for the CRB's report and recommendations, consider those, make their own determinations and only then can they consult with the Ministry on the site's fate. "The CRB doesn't make rulings, it makes recommendations," Mayor Dave Barrow stated for clarification to the rest of council. According to the Ontario Heritage Act, once a municipal council has considered the CRB report, it decides whether to confirm or alter its original decision on designating the property. During the hearing, the town had sought to protect roughly half the 177 acres. The final decision rests with council, and there are no further venues of appeal to the designation.

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:the answer to the question is yes the Town has the power to designate the entire site, Conservation Review Board advice is advice to Council, which they can accept or reject. This Minister of Culture has been very shy to comment on any heritage matter, and has let some significant opportunities to use her powers go by since she took on the Culture portfolio. On questions of clout, both designations are important. Having recognition at both levels, then pressing on for National Historic Site protection seems in order for this very significant site. It is a pity that the protection wasn't in place before the land was placed on the market.


10. Toronto Star: Dunlap Observatory a site with astronomical potential
Noor Javed

Dunlap Observatory, Toronto Star photo

This is the story of an observatory that could.

After months of upheaval, the saga of the David Dunlap Observatory and surrounding lands now sits at a crucial juncture. The fate of the 77-hectare parcel in south Richmond Hill is in the hands of the provincial Conservation Review Board, which has two months to decide how much of the site is worthy of a heritage designation.

But such protection will mean little if the observatory building, once the site of numerous astronomical discoveries, remains in the state it is now – empty, inactive and essentially defunct.

Lack of funding, the issue at the moment, has inhibited people from dreaming about what this site could be and what could have been had the province, the town – someone – acted sooner.

What it could be is perhaps best imagined by looking at what others around the world have already done: Places that turned their own aging buildings and telescopes into educational opportunities, tourist attractions and a source of pride – dozens of observatories, abandoned by their home universities, that were allowed to reinvent themselves instead of being sold off to the highest bidder.

Here, the University of Toronto sold the Dunlap and the lands to the developer Metrus for $70 million. But that didn't stop people from dreaming.

Last year, 4,000 people toured the observatory, mostly though word-of-mouth advertising, said Dr. Ian Shelton, who worked at the observatory before it was sold.

Click here for Link


11. Georgina Advocate: Ratepayers' group against Kleinburg development
CAROLINE GRECH

The proposed units would wrap around Martin Smith House, which is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act as a heritage property.

A proposed development in the heart of Kleinburg may be headed for the Ontario Municipal Board if a last ditch meeting doesn't result in councillors and a developer seeing eye to eye.

Kleinburg resident and developer Frank Greco is proposing a multi-storey condominium building or a 90-unit retirement home to be built on the west side of Islington Road, south of Nashville Road.

An amendment to the city's official plan would need to be made in order for the development to get the go-ahead.

But councillors rejected Mr. Greco's application, in accordance with staff recommendations.

Click here for Link


12. Loyalist College Pioneer: New committee to preserve heritage in Brighton
Cameron Ginn

A significant amount of public concern over the conservation of heritage properties in Brighton has persuaded town council to establish a heritage advisory committee.

The committee, funded by tax dollars, was officially recognized by council on Jan. 1, after the demise of several historically important buildings left various members of the public lobbying for a more proactive approach to preserving heritage.

Over the past several years, a few buildings have been torn down and damaged by fire that a lot of people felt held heritage values, so I think that served as a catalyst, said Ken Hurford, director of planning and development services, and former chairperson of the heritage advisory committee.

Demolition of the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church was one such case. On Jan. 8, 2007, Nanci Anderson and Rick Cutler, leading a grassroots group of 50 citizens from around Brighton, approached town council to stop the churchs destruction and to appoint a municipal heritage advisory committee which would impose policies and bylaws to better protect certain heritage properties.

Unfortunately, we werent successful, and there were stronger powers in the church and the developer who purchased it, so we lost that beautiful building, says Nanci Anderson, president and co-founder of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, or ACO, Brighton chapter, a non-profit heritage conservation organization with 22 branches across Ontario.

After the Presbyterian Church was demolished in April 2007, Anderson and Cutler founded Brightons ACO branch.

Were quite pleased to see that the heritage committee is a result of the ACO being formed, which usually happens when you have ACO in the community  heritage issues are brought up in the forefront, says Anderson.

Click here for Link


13. Milton Canadian Champion: Fight on to save century home - Campbellville house slated for demolition
Tim Foran

application to demolish the house by Ontario's Ministry of Transportation

A local councillor is fighting to save a century home at the gateway to Campbellville from the Province's wrecking ball.

Ward 3 Councillor Jan Mowbray, who sits on Milton's Heritage Advisory Committee, said the light blue home, built circa 1880 by David Wheelihan, deserves protection from an application to demolish the house by Ontario's Ministry of Transportation (MTO). That (home) creates a part of the streetscape that lets you know you're in a village, Mowbray said. If that house is gone, it opens up (the street) so much wider. The MTO purchased the Main Street (Guelph Line) home at the southwest corner with Reid Sideroad in June of 2007 to use as a field office while making improvements to the nearby Hwy. 401 interchange. The work ended this past fall, and the MTO decided the vacant property should be demolished.


A spokesperson for the MTO said the location and elevation of the home impedes visibility within the intersection, causing a possible safety issue.

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:I wonder if Milton has written to the Minister of Culture for help on this.


14. Miramichi Leader: Historic homes not protected by laws
Ryan Ross

Although it was listed on the province's register of historical places, Miramichi doesn't have a bylaw in place to protect historic buildings

When John Hubbard's uncle died in June 2008, nobody wanted to move into his house. It was old, with high ceilings and no insulation to help keep the heat in during the cold winter months. The almost 150-years-old building on Ferry Road was on small patch of land between two much newer homes until Monday when heavy machinery knocked it down.

Click here for Link


15. Niagara Advance: Laura Secord School--"full of memories for generations"
Matt Day

Laura Secord School, Niagara Advance Photo

A school is a place to prepare children for the future, but what about the future of the school itself?

Once the final bell rings at Laura Secord Memorial School, members of the Queenston Resident's Association (QRA) are worried about what the fate of the 165-year-old building will be.

The District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) is planning to close the school, likely in 2010, and is expected to put the property up for sale. The board has asked the town to take the historic building off the heritage register for non-designated properties.

We are concerned that the stated reason is to increase the sales value of the property as this would seem to imply that the property is more valuable to a purchaser if there is no impediment to demolition of the structure, Jim Armstrong, president of the QRA, told council Monday.

The QRA does not have to worry about wrecking balls coming into play anytime sooncouncil denied the request from the board to change the buildings status.

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16. Peterborough Examiner: Lifetime of heritage efforts
BRENDAN WEDLEY

Peterborough residents Martha Ann Kidd, 91, and David Mitchell, 82, will be presented with Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement next week, The Examiner has learned.

The Ontario Heritage Trust will announce the list of recipients on Wednesday and the awards ceremony will be held at Queen's Park in Toronto Friday.

Kidd moved to Peterborough in 1964 and soon after became one of the early members of the newly formed old house committee of the Peterborough Historical Society.

Kidd and other committee members photographed and collected information on almost every historic house in the city.

Former mayor Sylvia Sutherland has described Kidd as "Peterborough's leading authority on the architectural history of the city."

Kidd has been involved in almost everything related to heritage movements in the city since 1966, local historian Elwood Jones said.

"She's just a dynamo," he said.

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17. St. Thomas Times-Journal: Heritage dollars won't flow from municipal coffers
Kyle Rea

Alma College, before and after the fire
David McGee's Building on Talbot Street

When it comes to designated heritage properties, the province needs to step up to the plate with some cash. The municipality just doesn't have it. So advised Mayor Cliff Barwick on Tuesday during a presentation on heritage building preservation before the Elgin St. Thomas Archives Association at St. Thomas Public Library.

But, his statements drew plenty of questions, and criticism, from heritage advocates in the audience. Using Alma College, which was destroyed by fire in May 2008, as an example, Barwick said it's critical to have property owners and the province involved in the process. "If we had proactive legislation in place to encourage the private owner through tax incentives, through low-cost loans and interest-free loans, maybe Alma College could have been saved." He told an audience of about 40 people that in April, 2007, it would have cost $1 million to fix up Alma if the city had stepped in to intervene. "Everyone is saddened by what happened, as they should be. But if you ask the ratepayers, do you want me to step onto private property which has questionable use and spend this money, or do you want me to fix Wellington Street. Because I can't do both."

After repeated questions were raised from the audience about a new heritage property standards bylaw, Barwick said he'd take the issue to council.
The original minimum standards bylaw was struck down by a judge in February, 2007, and a revised bylaw was defeated at council in December of that year.

The meeting turned volatile when David McGee, owner of the Sutherland Press building, took the floor. "You've mentioned difficulties having funds available to do things necessary with Alma College. But $154,000 became available to demolish the (Sutherland) building, despite the fact that I already advised you and advised everybody in council that I would do whatever repairs are necessary," McGee said. Barwick declined to answer the question. Your question has nothing to do with heritage," he said. "Your situation on Talbot Street, quite frankly, is absolutely disgraceful and you should be ashamed of yourself."

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18. Sun Times: Owen Sound Railway Station
Denis Langlois

Consultant tells city council station property is OK for commercial use as it is

CP land called clean enough

The property under the derelict Canadian Pacific Railway station on Owen Sound's harbourfront is clean enough for commercial use, the city's environmental consultant has concluded.

Mayor Ruth Lovell Stanners said it now appears the city's purchase will go ahead.

"The biggest hurdle was the environmental and it seems to be minor in nature," she said in an interview Tuesday.

Testing at the property, which has been conditionally sold to the city, revealed no groundwater pollutants and only "minor contamination" in a strip of old railway ballast three feet below the surface, Tony Crutcher, senior partner with Conestoga Rovers and Associates, told city council Monday.

"The site is in a very stable form," he said.

The land won't require any clean-up work if the property is used for either a commercial or industrial purpose, he said. The building may require a small amount of remediation.

The old CP Railway station, a national historic railroad site, was on the market for about a decade.

Offers from private investors have fallen through over the years. Two people who made offers told The Sun Times last month they had seriously considered purchasing the property, but changed their minds after being told it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to adequately clean the site and prevent the migration of contaminants from neighbouring properties.

The city will not reveal the final purchase price of the property until the deal closes March 13. Council approved $50,000 in its 2009 budget for the purchase, but city manager Jim Harrold said the final price will be higher.

The city's offer is conditional upon satisfactory environmental and structural assessments, a title search and information on the restraints of the heritage designation.

Ministry of the Environment area supervisor Shawn Carey said the city need only present its environmental studies, proving all standards have been met, to satisfy the MOE. The agency will only get involved if the property owner wishes to transform the property into a more sensitive use, such as from commercial to residential. A record of site condition, proving the property is clean enough, would then be required, he said.

As for the building, Crutcher told council it is structurally sound and the interior has passed all air quality tests. The building has some asbestos inside, along with mould and lead paint.

"They're relatively minor, but it's something you have to be aware of," he said.

Harrold estimated it would cost less than $10,000 to bring the property up to snuff.

The city plans to offer the building for lease as a commercial business, with the intention of breathing new life into the city's harbourfront.

"This is extremely good news," Coun. Bill Twaddle said of the relatively clean environmental report.

Coun. Deb Haswell said the building is "just begging for some kind of commercial development," which now stands a much better chance of proceeding.

"I see the opportunity for that building as being so incredible," she said.

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19. Victoria Times Colonist: Exemption sought for historic tobacco shop that's running afoul of B.C. sign law
Bill Cleverley

Historic downtown tobacconist runs afoul of B.C. signage laws

Restricting smoking is one thing. Revising history is something entirely different, Victoria councillors have decided. Rather than bowing to provincial regulations that would force Old Morris Tobacconist owner Rick Arora to remove 90-year-old painted window signs advertising "quality pipes and requisites" and "house blend tobaccos and Havana cigars," the city will apply to the province for a ministerial exception to the rules. Coun. Pam Madoff, an ardent non-smoker, said the building is unique and exempting the signs would not be setting a precedent. "I don't think there's going to be a deluge of correspondence from other purpose-built tobacconists dating from the early 1900s asking to retain their signage," said Madoff. The window signs, which date back to at least 1916, violate the Tobacco Control Act.

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Editor's Note:Good for Pam Madoff!


20. Victoria Times Colonist: Rogers' Chocolates heritage designation could cost taxpayers $1 million
BILL CLEVERLEY

Designating Rogers' Chocolates' interior as a heritage site could cost Victoria taxpayers $1 million or more in compensation, says the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

That's money that could be better spent elsewhere, Bruce Carter said.

Victoria council took the precedent-setting action Thursday without the owner's permission in order to block a renovation Rogers' had planned to expand the tiny historic storefront at 913 Government St.

After talking to city representatives, Rogers' representatives and other business representatives, Carter pegged the compensation figure at $500,000 to $1 million.

"I bet that the city would hope that it's $500,000 and I bet Rogers' would hope that it's more than $1 million. The skill of the lawyers will determine it."

While he said he appreciates the value of heritage designations, Carter called the Rogers' designation misplaced. "I can't imagine that Rogers' would do anything that isn't tasteful and that wouldn't actually improve the area down there."

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21. CNW Telbec: Public consultation on transformation project for 1420 Mont-Royal Blvd. in Outremont
Press Release

The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) announces today that it will hold a consultation on a project involving the redevelopment for residential purposes of the building formerly belonging to the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, located at 1420 Mont-Royal Boulevard in Outremont. The building is currently owned by the Université de Montréal, which has signed an agreement with Groupe Catania for the purchase of the building in order to convert it into a 123-unit co-ownership residential complex. The agreement is conditional on the adoption of by-laws required to carry out the project. The project would be developed in three phases, and completed in 2012. The building's chapel is to be preserved for private community purposes, and some of the site's architectural and landscaping elements would be reutilized. The area bordering on Mount Royal and the Saint-Jean-Baptiste woods would also be enhanced with new gardens, while preserving existing earthworks.

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22. Dumpsite: Deterioration of St. Boniface Church in Chicago

Saint Boniface has stood in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood since 1904, but in 1990 the Archdiocese of Chicago closed this and 27 other parishes. Since then the building has been left to deteriorate. Vandals and trespassers have been a problem (I only went in to take pictures, I swear!), but most of the damage inside has come from water and non-human squatters living in the bell tower. Richard Nickel said “Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men.” He should have added “mountains of pigeon shit” to that list.

In spite of the piles of bird crap and boarded up windows, the space still has a sense of grandeur about it. Various preservation and community groups have argued for saving the building, but to no avail. A group of Egyptian Coptic Christians have been trying to purchase the property for their own use, but they too have been unsuccessful. The archdiocese has sent a letter to area residents announcing that the teardown work will start on January 23, even though the demolition permit is not due to be released until March. Those wanting to save the building are scrambling to find a solution. I wish them luck, but I’m not optimistic.

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Editor's Note:Perhaps a visit to the circus school in Quebec City might get people thinking differently about the role for a church building as a community centre.


23. New York Times: New Deal Architecture Faces Bulldozer
Tracie Rozhon

officials tore down 52 apartments on the National Register of Historic Places

GREENHILLS, Ohio 

When people talk about green architecture as though it were a new movement, Greg Strupe laughs. Mr. Strupe lives with his family in one of the country's first green towns, built during the Great Depression by unemployed men and women and championed by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

This 1938 village, along with Greenbelt, Md., and Greendale, Wis., was created to move struggling families out of nearby cities and into a healthier, more verdant environment, with shopping, recreation and nearly 200 small modernist apartment buildings and houses surrounded by a forest. The houses may be kind of plain looking, not spectacular, but to me at least, they are a treasure, Mr. Strupe, 47, who repairs scales, said last week. Like my old metal kitchen cabinets-the landlord asked, but I don't ever want them changed. Yet, change has come. Over protests from residents, officials tore down 52 apartments on the National Register of Historic Places, saying they made the village look down at the heels.

Signs saying, Not for Sale and Keep Your Hands Off My House are taped to frosty windows. Hundreds of buildings commissioned by the Works Progress Administration and Roosevelt's other alphabet agencies are being demolished or threatened with destruction, mourned or fought over by small groups of citizens in a new national movement to save the architecture of the New Deal.

In July, at the Santa Fe Indian School in New Mexico, a dozen buildings built in the Spanish Revival style in the 1930s, including murals with Native American themes, were bulldozed. In Chicago, architectural historians have joined with residents of Lathrop Homes riverfront rows of historic brick public housing  to try to persuade the Chicago Housing Authority not to raze the complex.

In Cotton County, Okla., a ruined gymnasium has only holes where windows used to be. Across the country, schools, auditoriums and community centers of the era are headed for the wrecking ball. It's ironic to be tearing them down just when America is going through tough times again, said the biographer Robert A. Caro, who wrote about the W.P.A. in The Power Broker, his book about the builder Robert Moses. We should be preserving them and honoring them. They serve as monuments to the fact that it is possible to combine infrastructure with beauty.

 

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Editor's Note:This article contains several photos and is accompanied by a 4:43 minute video clip.


24. Treehugger: Buildings from the New Deal Being Lost
Lloyd Alter

Buildings from the Last New Deal Not Surviving This One

NYT photo

Eleanor Roosevelt opened Greenhills, Ohio in 1938- "a healthier, more verdant environment, with shopping, recreation and nearly 200 small modernist apartment buildings and houses surrounded by a forest." They were in the National Register of Historic Places. It is the usual silly reason: "they made the village look down at the heels."

In Ocala, Florida, they are tearing down the City Auditorium. An official cut off preservationists at a recent public hearing, saying he was not interested “in what prom somebody went to” but only in “how to make this city grow.”

Hugh Hardy, who renovated Radio City Music Hall, says:

“It’s a better use of energy, in a time of fiscal restraint, to see what we can reuse, remake and renew,” he added. “It’s monstrous to say you have to tear them down.”

Tracie Rozhon writes in the New York Times:

In Depression days, New Deal programs planted three billion trees, constructed 46,000 bridges, and restored 360 Civil War battlefields. Photographers like Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange recorded what suffering looked like; artists created idealistic murals and sculptures. More than 65,000 buildings — stone monuments in the South, green towns in the Midwest, white clapboard meeting houses in New England — rose from the hands of previously unemployed Americans.

“With small budgets, the architects did interesting things: they varied the pattern of the bricks, angled them, put them together to look like a fluted column — there’s a lot of ingenuity in New Deal architecture,” said Robert Leighninger, a sociologist and author of “Long Range Public Investment: The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal.”

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Editor's Note:I have included this article because of the commentary and the link at the bottom to several other articles at Treehugger on the importance of recycling our buildings.


25. Treehugger: French Stimulus Program Preserves Historic Buildings
Lloyd Alter

We have appropriated Steve Mouzon's line "The Greenest Brick is the One That's Already in the Wall" and have noted that the skills needed to restore our heritage buildings are the type of green jobs that will be needed for almost every building in the country. The French get this, and are spending 15% of their stimulus program funds on fixing their heritage.

Helen Fouquet in Bloomberg quotes Christophe Eschlimann, who says that the investment will "“help our craftsmen across all regions." and “Heritage conservation needs more than a one-year stimulus.”

President Sarkozy noted last year that “It’s useless to be proud of our French heritage and continue to skimp on maintaining it.”

At Notre Dame, the investment will provide jobs to roofers, scaffolding builders, engravers and other craftsmen.

“Sorry to say it, but Vive la Crise!” said Benjamin Mouton, 60, the architect in charge of restoring the top of the 664-year-old Gothic edifice. “I can only applaud the state’s decision to spend money right now on heritage and to get these craftsmen to work. It shows it has values, even in hard times.”

In America, funds that were proposed for preserving and upgrading federal buildings is being stripped out of the stimulus plan. Yet Donovan Rypkema points out that jobs in preservation are cheaper from a stimulus point of view than, say, highway building, because they are labor rather than equipment intensive. But buildings aren't important, just more surplus government property as far as the lower taxes/less government members of the government are concerned, whereas highways are.

More in Bloomberg and Donovan Rypkema in PlaceEconomics

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26. New York Times:Streetscapes | Madison Avenue, from 38th to 41st Street
Christopher Gray

When Office Casual Was Unthinkable

MADISON AVENUE from 38th to 41st Street is a gritty, traffic-choked stretch — people hurry along the narrow sidewalks, eager to get to lunch or to a train. But anyone nimble enough to dodge traffic or the waves of pedestrians will find four of the most unusual commercial buildings in Midtown, each now at a different stage of evolution.


Commercial development on this stretch of Madison began around 1912, when Johns Manville, the insulation company, put up a delicate 12-story building at the southwest corner of 41st and Madison. Retaining Augustus N. Allen, otherwise known for row houses, the company sought a distinctive building to play to its many architect clients. Mr. Allen developed a nice little Venetian-Gothic-style building with pointed arches and an elaborate cornice.

By 1923, the company was pressed for space, and gave a lunch for architects with whom it had worked. It decided on a design firm by drawing lots from the group, which included McKim, Mead & White and John Russell Pope. Ludlow & Peabody drew the winning straw.

By acquiring neighboring structures, Johns Manville was able to enlarge and raise its building to 26 stories from 12. Ludlow & Peabody repeated Mr. Allen’s delicate tapestry brick and some of the pointed arches but gave the building a top with more of a Lombard feel, and projecting battlements and a tile-roofed tank house reminiscent of an Italian hill town.

Diagonally across the avenue, the Murray Hill Building went up in 1926 at the northeast corner of 40th along similar lines. “Babylonian,” said H. I. Brock in The New York Times in 1927, of this new type of gradually receding tower.

What is unusual about 285 Madison, as it is also called, are the free-hand carvings of people that surround the ground-floor show windows. A seafarer, a tennis player, a jockey, a mermaid with a seaweed crown, a crossbowman, a World War I doughboy, a boy with a slingshot, a fisherman — there is no other individualized sidewalk carving on this scale in New York.

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