Comment 83518

By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted December 05, 2012 at 21:27:48

Councillor Brian McHattie says that heritage advocates need to be more proactive about designating historically significant buildings before they’re in danger of demolition and that he would have thought they would have been out in the streets in protest months ago.

In an ideal world, yes. The facts, however, are against those who care and advocate for our built heritage. The city’s heritage advocates are volunteers. The protection of buildings is what they do after putting in a day of work and, most likely, other volunteer activities. They are passionate but they are restricted by time, bureaucracy and the enormity of the task.

They are also realists, having been hardened and disheartened by the history of nonsupport for their efforts in this city. Bellevue House comes to mind: a protected property that was demolished in 2000. The Dynes Tavern — torn down in 2007 without a permit. The Education Centre: a shameful loss. Other buildings are still with us, although barely. Some very passionate people and groups are working to preserve and restore, with very limited success, Century Manor, the Gate House, Auchmar and others.McHattie notes that there is a long list of “historically significant” buildings in this city. He should have noted that designation does not save a building. Nor do letters, phone calls, petitions or protests.

Heritage activists in the city of Hamilton lack any power or authority: Even the Municipal Heritage Committee is only an advisory body. Other jurisdictions seem to have bodies with more authority to influence political decisions related to heritage matters.

If the city, including councillors and staff, worked with the heritage advocates, we could save some of those buildings and preserve our built heritage for future generations.

Lee Gowers, President, Hamilton Mountain Heritage Society

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