“The ego is not master in its own house.”


Sigmund Freud's quote seemed to sum up Monday night's Heritage Advisory Committee meeting well.  The meeting offered a glimpse into both how the committee, capably chaired by Deputy-Mayor John Able, conducts itself, as well as the group of so called "friends" of the Petch House, represented by Katherine Belrose, conducts themselves.

The committee patiently entertained Ms Belrose long-winded delegation which included listing a number of what she believed to be"heritage" concerns with how the town is proceeding with Phase One of the Petch House project. 

Belrose informed the committee that she would be relieved to know exactly who the heritage professionals were that were assigned to the project.  Later when questioned if she was aware that Mr. VanNostrand, the premier authority on similar settler homes in the region was involved she sheepishly said yes that she had learned that just prior to the meeting.

Given this large misunderstanding she remained heavily critical of how town staff are handling it and seemed unapologetic in her assertion that shortcuts are being taken and that the proper materials were not being used including some contention with the intended concrete slab that is envisioned to house the house in its new location, and how it would damage the house and its historical significance. 

Ms. Belrose was also suggesting a full conservation plan be in place for the Petch House, not suggesting exactly how that would be achieved or who would foot the bill.

She also pushed for a heritage designation for the Petch House, even after acknowledging it doesn't meet the criteria for such a designation.  Designations are given based on the dwelling as a component of the land it resides on.  As the Pecth house doesn't have an address and is about to be disassembled for storage it seems counter-intuitive to be proposing an expedited designation only to have that designation be stripped at the moment it is moved, which could be as soon as tomorrow.

It springs to mind an excellent quandary by Henry David Thoreau, who once asked "What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"

Later, in an exhaustively long circular answer to a very specific question about the future usage of the Petch House,  Ms. Belrose outlined her "vision" for the Petch House as retaining its current 2 rooms and having one function as a Pioneer kitchen, the other as an open room for gatherings and what not.

Her whole delegation is very inconsistent with her previous proposals, and vision laid out in this March article in the Era Banner: http://www.yorkregion.com/news/article/961444–aurora-grants-petch-house-reprieve

It is also interesting to read in that article that Ms Belrose hails from Richmond Hill, so one has to wonder how she feels she is in any position to march into our town hall and tell our council how to spend our tax dollars is beyond me.

In her delegation she mentioned a mysterious "sponsor" that has some "vested interest" in the project, yet wasn't forthcoming in naming that sponsor, nor did she know how they would become involved just that they were a "business that does this".

Seems highly unusual that one would discuss a potential sponsor but withhold all of the details as to how they could become part of the project.  Makes one wonder exactly where and why the interest is peeked on this particular project, and who exactly donated an undisclosed but sub $10,000 figure to the town for this project.

At the end of it all I found the delegates comments to be overly insulting to the efforts engaged by the staff at the Town of Aurora and those sitting on the committee.

I am confused as to why the delegation was requested or granted given council's recent resolution on the matter, as I'm sure members of the committee were as well.

The chair did an excellent job of explaining this to the delegate and reinforcing the fact that the use of whatever the Petch House is to become has yet to be decided or discussed and that the Town is open to any and all suggestions, but cautioned that the decided upon use(s) need to conform to bylaws.

The "friends" of the Petch House seem to be unnecessarily creating a cart-before-the-horse scenario with all these requests and demands.

If you don't know what the end purpose is, how can you be advocating as to it's relevance?

These "friends" need to recognize that the Petch House will never be rebuilt as an example of its former construction.  There was reference in the meeting to the future implementation becoming a "snack-shack" which in my mind is not a large stretch from out-house, and both would conform with the idea that the future use be "recreational".

It seems to me that a great deal of the confusion and idealism about the Petch House stems from these so called "friends of the Petch House" themselves.

Featured on the landing page of their website and I'm sure on every marketing pamphlet the "friends" of the Petch House have emblazoned a novel sketch of the Petch House meant to depict the house in its original glory so many years ago:


The artist of this drawing took some artistic license in cleaning up the building, and the inconsistencies are made obvious when one does a quick comparison between this and an older photo of the house:


A quick game of "spot the differences" illustrates exactly how far off this sketch is, and one glaring omission is the absence of the adjoining house from the photo.  This begs the question, what was this other house?  Was it saved? Was it of historical relevance?  Did it have any friends?

Now fast forward another 50-60 years and you can see what a sad shack the Petch House has become:


You don't have to be an expert in clap-board homes to know that the majority of the structure is compromised.  There is no way in hell that the house will be put back together in any way resembling its original form.  At least not from the materials that exist, and if that is the intent then where is the authenticity, where is the relevant heritage?

Ms. Belrose in her delegation confirmed that the relevance was not architectural, but more to do with its pioneer heritage.  To understand this better the following is excerpted from the FOTPH website:

"Remembering our forefathers is all about understanding their isolation and bravery, learning lessons of self-sufficiency, and appreciating the busy life of toil early settlers endured to build the villages and towns we have today. It is all about not forgetting our rural roots and in so doing, we build better, safer and greener communities for future generations."

So, what exactly are you remembering of our forefathers by reconstructing some obviously run down and cast off clap-board shit-shack into something that has yet to be determined but will never resemble its original construction or usage?

Explain exactly how is this any different than bronzing some old settler's piece of poo?

And while you're at it perhaps you could also explain why are you getting your panties all in a knot when a house that was otherwise going to be demolished is, or at least a percentage of it, is being salvaged for re-use by heritage professionals?

Abraham Lincoln once decreed that "A house divided against itself cannot stand." yet here in Aurora there is a clear division on what should be done with the Petch House between those that are actually doing the job and the rest that doing it for their egos.

Someone needs to tell Ms. Melrose and her clique that The Petch House has a new friend; the town of Aurora.

In fact anyone can be a friend of the Petch House, and can do it without joining her some silly little club, or paying them a single dime.


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