Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple. Tear off the roof and see all the people, gasp

The recent removal of the roof from the Petch house failed to impress me as much as it has some.

Perhaps that’s because last year while vacationing down in Prince Edward county I witnessed the heart wrenching spectacle of what it looks like when you strip off the roof and a wall from a  135+ year old church:

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Located on Main Street, Picton, Ontario just steps away from the Picton war memorial was a building of real heritage significance that underwent several phases of demolition in spite of the thoughtful recommendations of the County’s own Heritage Advisory Committee, against the values publicly stated on the County’s own website and against what appears to be the well spring of public opinion.

Here are some additional pictures that I was able to snap:

Think something like this couldn’t happen in Heritage proud Aurora?

Think again.  It can and, already has.  To a building older than this church, and yes older than that Petch House.

But that’s a whole nother post, back to the Picton church, the Toronto Star reported on it with similar photographs here:
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/851560–picton-residents-try-to-save-one-quarter-demolished-church

The Star reports that multiple bids, one to turn the compromised structure into a Youth Recreation Center was declined.

In addition to the youth centre’s bid, Vaughan MPP Greg Sorbara, who owns a large piece of land in Picton, made “several” attempts to buy the church to save it. He said he was confident one of his six children would find a use for it. Within the last year, he’s offered up to $385,000 but has always been declined.

“I think it’s a terrible, terrible shame,” Sorbara said. “I think the city ought to have done everything it could to prevent the demolition rather than simply issuing a demolition permit.”

so WTF happened?

At a July 27 council meeting, concerned residents proposed a motion for council’s heritage advisory committee to give notice of its intention to designate the church a heritage property. If passed, the demolition would have been delayed for 30 days.

The motion didn’t pass, but residents were still shocked to find demolition had gone ahead.

Justin “knew that the tide was against (her) and that if people were given enough time they might be able to stop the demolition,” said Mike Harper, a self-described Picton “weekender” who has taken up the church’s cause. He believes the owner therefore rushed through with the demolition.

This blog has a documented the story and includes a wealth of comments demonstrating the community outrage:
http://countylive.ca/blog/?p=4573

One comment was from Marc Seguin the chair of Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee:

“Should Council have the authority to declare private property as “Heritage” with all its protections, without approval from the property owners?”

Please be aware that the Ontario Heritage Act already provides municipalities with the authority to designate properties without the approval of property owners as long as property owners are duly notified. This is being done in other municipalities when the building is considered to be sufficiently important to the cultural heritage of their community.

The PEC Heritage Advisory Committee always seeks the agreement of the owners before recommending designaton of their property to Council. However, in the recent case of Picton’s “Red Brick Church”, this building was considered by the Heritage Advisory Committee as being of such significance to the history and cultural heritage of Picton and the County that we recommended to Council that it be designated as a heritage building to ensure its preservation, without the owners approval, and in accordance with the Ontario Heritage Act.

I hope this helps to clarify any misunderstandings that there may be regarding this issue.

An article in a local paper speaks to this issue and the precedent this demolition has set in the region:
http://www.myvirtualpaper.com/doc/Picton-County-News/pictonmay26/2011052501/20.html#20

The manner in which the demolition was carried out caught the attention of national news outlets when the inept morons (apparently led by someone who was recently released from jail)  responsible began demolition with a worker still inside the structure:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2010/09/02/ottawa-picton-church.html

The Picton church was compared to Aurora’s Church Street school in a separate post on the country live blog here: http://countylive.ca/blog/?p=4696

Although the building in Aurora was saved, the question is for what purpose?  Not the one that was secured with a Trillium grant, or with the funds raised by the Historical Society, or from grants by developers to house a “Heritage Center”, read : a museum. 

The building may have been restored but the real heritage aspect of the Church Street school, to be operated as a museum, was usurped.

Buildings of importance to the town’s heritage are stripped of their designation and demolished while ones of questionable significance like the Petch House are put on a pedestal.

Over the past 7 years or so Heritage has certainly not been Aurora’s strong suit, regardless of how many cheesy plaques are erected to try and convince citizens otherwise.

If there’s one thing that needs the lid torn off, it is how the stewards of our heritage could have failed us to this degree.

The town needs to intervene while there is still something of it left to save.

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