Heritage plaques : saving places or saving faces?


The following will outline the trials and tribulations in trying to locate the plaque meant to designate the now demolished Hartman House mentioned in a previous post here:

I knew there was supposed to be a plaque for the house because the Timbers family’s association with the property (which was less than 30 years) is commemorated through the name TimbersPark which is adjacent to the Hartman House property.  A large engraved stone at the park honours this family.  Surely the original family of the heritage property would be commemorated.

In fact erecting a plaque for this purpose was actualy a condition of the approval to demolish given by the Heritage Advisory Comittee of the day.

Way back in  2004, on page 7 of the November 30th edition of the Auroran it reads:

The potential owner of the property was asked to erect a plaque which would give a brief history and heritage of the property and that the design of the plaque be submitted to the committee for approval prior to installation.

You can read that blurb here:

Download this file

I started my search on a couple drive bys of the dealership when out running errands.

Having no luck seeing anything on the exterior of the dealership or the surrounding grounds I decided to speak with someone at reception in late July.  The receptionist was unaware of any plaque but gave me the contact information of a Kevin Harris, Head Controller for the Aurora dealership and others.

On August 10th I had a short phone call with Mr. Harris and he informed me that as someone responsible for the company’s finances he remembered seeing the plaque as line item, and paying the bronze maker for it, however he wasn’t able to provide me with a location and had his suspicions of it being hung.  He assured me he would call me back when he knew more, and has
not of yet.

On August 22nd I took my Toyota in for service to do with a recall.  I walked dealership inside and out and could not find the plaque.

Satisfied that the plaque was nowhere in plain site, or more likely not hung I decided to contact the town of Aurora’s Manager of Heritage Planning in search of answers.

I sent an email on August 25th inquiring as to the location of the plaque.

On August 31st this was the response I recieved:

Hello Christopher,

The plaque was manufactured but not yet installed, you are right it is to be installed on the building. Will follow up with Toyota to see into that.

Kind regards,

Mai Al Nabhan
Manager of Heritage Planning

Shortly after receiving this communication I replied hoping said manager could explain to me how such a simple process of erecting this plaque has been overlooked by both the dealership and the town.

Failing to have any response for over a week after this email I sought delegation status and brought the issue before the Heritage Advisory Committe on September 13th.

It’s pretty sad that a member of the public has to push and seek out information from staff by approaching committee through a delegation.

One has to question as to why a response to my request was not returned in a timely fashion, or even at all.

In my delegation to the comittee I expressed my concerns regarding the missing plaque.  I asked specificaly what the practices and policies were of the plaquing program, how and if they were adhered to in this case, and given that the plaque had yet to be errected after 7 years if the Hertiage Advisory Comitte believed this to be acceptable.

Mai Al Nabhan responded to my questions to say that the plaque was a component of the site plan.  That it had ben produced and that staff actualy visited the site over a year ago to speak with the owner John Chapman regarding the location of the plaque.  That there was a difference of opionon as to where the plaque should be located and it had still not been erected.

The town was content to let the plaque sit in a box because, well hey, it wasn’t their problem.  The problem was presented as the owner wasn’t being a good corporate citizen, not because there was no agreement, no policy and obviously no means of enforcment.

Discussion ensued as to the necessity to draft “conditions” in the “future” to ensure against similar outcomes.

How a Heritage Advisory Committee could operate what they consider an “extensive plaquing program” without creating a framework to deal with these issues in a timely and effective manner points at a huge failing of the recent past Heritage Avisory comittees that I can only hope are resolved by this one.

All I could garner from this was that if I didn’t bring this to the comitee’s attention that town staff weren’t going to do anything about it.

This sentiment seemed to be predicted by Aurora resident Mark Warburton in a letter he wrote to the Auroran which ran on page 7 of the December 7th edition back in 2004!


“Why would Mr. Chapman want to trouble himself about a plaque to denote where a wonderful example of an historic property once stood?

For the same reason the Historic Society would be in favour. So they can sleep at night.”

You can read Mr. Warburton’s letter here;

Download this file

If that’s the case, and it certainly appears so, perhaps someone should go check in on those at the Historical Society and the Heritage Advisory Committee, as they will have no doubt accrued several sleepless nights over the last 7 years.

How could one sleep knowing that Pat Hartmen, the Great, great, great granddaughter of John Hartman (1779-1834), has been let down by the lack of true Heritage leadership provided by the town of Aurora.

Ms. Hartman, now living in Niagra, wrote a letter that was printed in the August 2006 edition of the Auroran.

“It is to be hoped that the Town will follow through with their promise to erect a permanent plaque on the Homestead property giving a brief history of the Hartmans in Aurora.  And perhaps some significant artifacts from the house could eventually be displayed in the Aurora Museum accompanied by photographs and a history of the house and family who lived there.”

You can read Pat Hartman’s entire heart breaking letter here:


Download this file

What is even more pathetic is that the Heritage Advisory Comittee of the day decided to patronize Ms. Hartman with an award for her “efforts to save the Hartman House” :

There is no plaque on the Hartman House.

There is no Aurora Museum.

But there is a Prince of Wales Prize awarded for Aurora’s comitment to it’s heritage.

I know from first hand experience that the Hartman’s are not the only one’s asking why.



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