Following photo and text is from the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario:
Ontario – January 20, 2013: Ontario’s preeminent built heritage organization has formally requested that the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport exercise his authority under the Ontario Heritage Act to block the demolition of streetwall along Hamilton’s central Gore Park.
Gore Park has been the heart of civic and commercial life in Hamilton for over 150 years. This triangular public space is defined by an essentially-intact streetwall which is made up of buildings of varied ages and architectural styles, with several dating back to the 1840s.
The south side of the Gore includes a stretch of pre-Confederation and Victorian buildings nestled between modern banks. This group includes two limestone-façade buildings from the 1840s designed by William Thomas, the leading architect of the early and mid-19thcentury who designed St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto and the Brock Monument in Queenston.
Heritage Committee’s recommendations ignored
In December, the owner of this block of buildings applied for demolition permits for the entire stretch. In response, Hamilton’s Municipal Heritage Committee recommended that the buildings be protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. However, representatives of the City have reached an agreement with the owner that the buildings will not be considered for heritage designation in exchange for the withdrawal of one (of two) of the applications for demolition permits. From local media accounts, it is understood that the owner now intends to proceed with the full demolition of the Victorian buildings (on the right in photo) and the partial demolition (and façade retention) of the William Thomas buildings.
The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario opposes the demolition of this Gore Park streetwall on several grounds. The buildings are of Provincial significance due to both the association with William Thomas and the quality of design, and are representative of commercial architecture of the pre-Confederation and Victorian periods. These buildings define the character of Gore Park through not only their individual qualities but their collective contribution to a pedestrian-scale streetwall. The buildings have been in continuous use and appear to be structurally fit and suitable for renovation and adaptive reuse. Finally, it is understood that there is no immediate plan for redeveloping the site where the buildings will be demolished.
This is not just a local matter: A call for the Minister to intercede
Under the 2005 changes to the Ontario Heritage Act, Minister Michael Chan is empowered to designate buildings to further the government’s mandate to conserve our built heritage. Protecting built heritage is no longer a strictly local matter: the Act is now clear that the Province shares responsibility for ensuring the protection of our heritage buildings and landscapes. When these new powers were introduced, the Ministry of Culture quoted Jane Jacobs’ reaction in its press release:
“These changes to the Ontario Heritage Act are long overdue and I believe that they will have a significant positive impact on the Province’s heritage resources,” said Jane Jacobs, world-renowned urban thinker and writer. “This new act represents real protection.”
It is now the Province that is empowered to protect built heritage on behalf of all Ontarians, even when a local authority has failed to act. It is for this reason that the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has requested Minister Chan’s involvement to protect Gore Park.
The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario
The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has been involved in preserving Ontario’s architectural and environmental heritage since 1933, through advocacy and direct action. It is a charitable organization which operates through a network of local branches in communities across Ontario, linked by a co-ordinating office in Toronto.
For more information contact Manager Rollo Myers at 416.367.8075 or ACO President Susan Ratcliffe by email at susarat[at]gmail.com