||October 30, 2009
Creating our Heritage Legacy
My column is called Heritage Perspectives because it is
more than just our history, as important as that is, but is something more
-things inherited from the past, something physical – a living legacy –
something that helps us to understand the past, gives meaning to the present and
influences the future. That definition of heritage ,more or less, comes from the
Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT) which provides leadership on heritage matters in
a provincial government supported organization that does remarkable work some
which I will mention below.
I mention heritage because it is in the news a lot these days with
infrastructure programs supporting heritage projects, heritage designations and
heritage events. The 2 main heritage categories are built heritage – things that
have been constructed and natural heritage – things like rivers, roads,
properties. Let’s look at some of these items locally.
The La Vase Portage
The OHT states that Ontario trails are among the provinces
greatest treasures, and promotes heritage tourism and education, conservation,
stewardship and physical activity. The OHT lists countless trail systems,
programs and organizations. They recognize over 64,000 km of trails. The OHT
website profiles the Trails Open Ontario program which encourage the use of the
trails with special events.
|Canoeists on the La Vase Portages Heritage Canoe Day
A local example of the struggles at preservation is the
North Bay Council's support for rezoning land near the La Vase Portages. It is
expected that a request for aggregate extraction will be forthcoming. A petition
is currently requesting that the Portages – a part of the Canadian Heritage
River system and the Voyageur Trans Canada canoe route – be permanently
designated, to recognize , promote and protect these portages. The Friends of
the La Vase Portages sponsor this activity. The petition is online at (www.lavaseportages.com)
Credit should be given to the various groups that have fought for our heritage
on Lake Nipissing, Otter Lake, Sweetman’s Gardens, etc., as well as success on
the Mattawa & Ottawa Rivers and across Ontario.
Our old buildings are disappearing fast but remarkable
preservation successes have been made. In North Bay Discovery North Bay in the
old CPR station is a remarkable achievement. The money came from outside museum
funding and that’s why it’s not called the North Bay Museum.
Discovery North Bay (North Bay Museum) Submitted photos
Toronto has had some monumental success with some projects.
Currently the Union Station is rebuilding – or as a recent article says
restoration, revitalization and rehabilitation. That 4Rs so it should be a
winner. The Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum are other great
The OHT has an outstanding publication called Heritage Matters which is now
online – check the website mentioned above. There are hundreds of successes
listed in the publication. They also give heritage plaques – those blue plaques
you see everywhere. Their current edition (a Special Edition) outlines a major
project to inventory churches or places of worship and some of the issues in
There have been many churches lost to attrition and demographics. I wrote about
the one that was torn down in Chisholm where I live and one in Grand Dessert in
Bonfield Township. nearby. Many churches have been redeveloped for other
purposes. The book lists Bed & Breakfasts, lofts, homes, restaurants, other
faiths that have taken over declining churches. North Bay has a church that
became a condominium several years ago.
Some old buildings are too costly to restore and some are lost to fire. Roy
MacGregor who grew up in Huntsville wrote a touching article in his regular
column in the Globe & Mail about the Empire Hotel burning in Huntsville recently
putting many people out of a place to live. He worked there as a young man.
Powassan’s Windsor Hotel was slated for rehabilitation but rumour has it that it
is now going to be torn down along with some other buildings for a larger
project. The Windsor is a heritage loss like the Empire in Huntsville.
Sometimes action is too little – too late. Mattawa for
example was hurt when their old town hall was demolished and their old hospital
is under the gun. Many old log buildings have been restored such as the one at
the Nipissing Museum and one of the classics is the old log house in Mattawa
that goes back to 1864 when Mattawa was being formed. With Mattawa’s great
history these are unfortunate events. Fortunately there are some excellent
examples of heritage preservation in Mattawa and area.
Let’s get behind some of these projects and save our heritage for future
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