[Home page] [Who is Past Forward ] [Contact Us] [Publications]

Past Forward is now on Facebook "LIKE" us to keep in touch


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 Ontario (www.heritagefdn.on.ca) 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.

Built Heritage

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 projects. (www.toronto.ca/union_station)

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 their preservation.

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.

Leadership Needed

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 generations.

Heritage Perspective Home Page

Past Forward Heritage Limited: 

330 Sumach St. #41, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3K7   Tel. (416)-925-8412


Copyright © Past Forward Heritage Limited