BROCKTON – A building full of history in Walkerton could be preserved for future generations as council has approved a request to designate the Walkerton Armoury as a Heritage Building.
Earlier this year, Brockton’s Heritage Committee asked council to consider designating the Armoury’s interior staircase and the exterior of the building as a Heritage Building under the Ontario Heritage Act.
In a report to council on Oct. 15, clerk Fiona Hamilton stated that at the time, the provincial government was proposing changes to the Act that would impact the process of designating a heritage property. Now that the changes have been legislated, Hamilton wrote, staff are able to bring the request back to council for consideration.
Hamilton’s report stated that in order for a property to be designated as a heritage property, it must meet at least one of the following criteria set out in the Act:
- The property has cultural heritage value due to its design or physical values because they are rare, have a high degree of craftmanship or artistic merit, or are an early example of a style, type, expression or construction method;
- The property has direct associations with a theme, event, belief, activity or organization that is significant to the community;
- The property yields information that contributes to an understanding of a community or culture;
- The property reflects the work or ideas of an architect, builder or designer who is significant to the community; and/or
- The property has contextual value because it defines the character of the area, or is physically, functionally, visually or historically linked to its surroundings, or is a landmark.
In a letter from April 1, the Heritage Committee gave five reasons why the building should receive a heritage designation:
- It is the only remaining building in the former Walker Block being built circa 1907/1908 by the Department of National Defence.
- It was the home of the 32nd Bruce Battalion (1866-1913), the 160th Bruce Battalion for the First World War and the 97th Field Battery in the Second World War.
- It was the headquarters for many Bruce County families who were recruited to join the 160th in December 1915.
- The building was designed by David Ewart, Canada’s Chief Dominion Architect at the time. Ewart also designed Rideau Cottage and the Royal Canadian Mint.
- The recommendation to give the building historical designation has been made by the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario.
If the Armoury Building was designated as a heritage building, any changes made to the exterior of the building would need to be approved by the Heritage Committee first to ensure the overall architecture of the building was preserved.
Two councillors expressed concerns about giving the building a heritage designation.
“I don’t support this motion,” said Councillor Kym Hutcheon. “I don’t think we need to have the difficulties associated with this status… I would really limit what we’re able to do with the building down the road.”
Hutcheon added that she understands the importance of the building to the community, but believes that since the municipality owns the building, there is no need for the designation.
“I just don’t think it’s necessary,” she said. “We own it, but I don’t think it needs to be protected.”
Coun. Chris Oberle commented that he understands the intent of the designation, but like Hutcheon, believes the designation is not needed given the ownership of the building.
“The lease agreement we have right now, they can’t make any changes without approval from Brockton,” he said. “If we wanted to sell it and they wanted to protect it at that point, I could see that… but right now we have full control over (the building).”
Coun. Dean Leifso expressed his support for designating the building.
“The designation is to preserve the cultural heritage of the community,” he said. “I would say we’re better off (designating the building) now if that’s what we want to do.”
Council approved the motion to designate the building as a Heritage Building.
However, just because council has approved the motion doesn’t mean it’s a done deal just yet.
In an email to the Herald-Times following the meeting, Hamilton stated that there is an extensive process that needs to occur before a building can be designated.
The process includes having to place ads in the local papers notifying of the intent to designate the building (at least 30 days’ notice) and compiling any objections that may be received from the public.
“At the Oct. 15 meeting, council simply authorized starting (the designation) process,” wrote Hamilton. “If there are no objection, the actual designation could occur sometime in December.”