The first annual awards presentation by the ACO St. Thomas-Elgin Branch recognized examples of heritage preservation and those who worked to make them happen, and at the same time provided a virtual tour of the buildings which are located across Elgin County. The presentations took place on April 16th at the St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre.
The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has been around since 1933. The local branch started in 2009, in response to the loss of Alma College through a spiraling process of neglect. Their focus is education and advocacy related to preservation of built heritage.
Steve Peters was recognized with an award for Advocacy and Education. He noted that he has had many interesting experiences in the process of advocating for preservation and while some have been negative, several have had very positive outcomes. While on St. Thomas council, he supported the restoration of St. Thomas City Hall. He was involved in establishing the North America Railway Hall of Fame, and later as MPP, became the first tenant in the restored CASO Railway Station.
Award recipient buildings are pictured below on the left, along with the person or group on hand at the awards to receive their certificate of recognition, on the right.
It is interesting to note that, previous to restoration, most of the buildings being recognized would have been considered by many people as not “worth the bother”. In each case, comments of the presenters and recipients reflected a pride in buildings which have proven to be “gems revealed” and which contribute significantly to the lives of the individuals and communities involved.
The buildings recognized are a reminder that, while we can’t go “saving every picket fence” it is often worth the effort for citizens to work toward ensuring that there is thoughtful consideration given to determining what buildings are significant to us, for any one of a number of reasons (their relation to significant historical or community events; the part they play in a fine streetscape; possession of unique or rare architectural elements). We don’t all have to be heritage architecture experts – but we do need to insist that good practices of architectural preservation are in place. Those might include active and effective heritage committees, laws which deal with neglect of standards, financial reward rather than penalty for preservation, designation which balances respect for heritage with owner rights.
Hopefully, recognition of a small sampling of heritage gems will provide encouragement to broaden our appreciation for the possibilities of preservation.
Slides courtesy of the Elgin St. Thomas Branch; some of info taken from the awards evening program. All event photos by Mark Girdauskas.