Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More "What to do with an old church"

Further to my post of August 23rd, 2010, we now have yet another example of what to do with an empty church besides tear it down. We can turn it into apartments! Yes, the former Church of the Redeemer at Grosvenor and Adelaide streets has been turned into 12 units for adults with developmental disabilities. A project of the Alice Saddy Association, the City of London (imagine them preserving heritage) and Riverstone Developments, the renovation provides tenants with rents they can afford with the occasional support they need. It also means an older building has been preserved and, heck, those solar panels don't even look all that bad!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An archive at last?

Next week there'll be an event of special interest to those of us hoping for a county archive. Middlesex County Council will meet at the Middlesex County Building on Tuesday, January 11 at 1:00 pm to discuss a proposal to build an archive facility at Fanshawe Pioneer Village. So all those of you who'd like to see an archive established should try to attend this meeting. It's a great way to let County Council know how many people support this endeavour to preserve our past. (For those of you who don't venture into downtown London too often, the County Building = the "Old Courthouse" = that building that looks like a medieval castle at 399 Ridout Street opposite the JLC.)

Now for some of the more obvious reasons why the county needs an archive:
- to preserve historical records from the county's past, especially those from annexed or amalgamated townships
- to apply proper conservation procedures to documents disintegrating in damp or otherwise unsuitable storage facilities elsewhere
- to facilitate scholarly local research by students, historians and journalists
- to provide another cultural tourism destination for the London-Middlesex area
- to repair Middlesex County's reputation as the "black hole" of Ontario county archives
- to shame the City of London into creating an archive of its own

Researchers of all kinds really do travel for hours, if not days, just to visit archives. After visiting the Middlesex County Archive, they'd stay in a hotel, eat in local restaurants, visit our museums, possibly go to a Knights game - the list goes on. An archive is actually an investment in our community and one that's long overdue.

Update, January 25: First they delayed the vote for two weeks. Then the whole event turned out to be a farce. Despite a Council chamber crowded with archive supporters and several pro-archive speeches, Council members had already made up their minds. So no archive. No reasons were given but we can be certain they include a) money, b)the fact that no one in government sees any need for historical preservation and c) the County is probably hoping London will eventually build an archive and the County can piggyback (which also boils down to money).

Another black eye for the heritage community. Fortunately, we're used to them and our vision remains unaffected.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Aid for the Aeolian

The Aeolian Hall needs a new roof. Director Clark Bryan is asking City Council's Finance and Administration Committee for $80,000 to augment the $10,000 in donations he's received directly from the public.

This building has a long and diverse history. It was built in 1884 on the southwest corner of Dundas and Rectory as London East Town Hall. It didn't remain a town hall for very long though; London East was annexed by the city the following year. Strangely for London, the fact that the building could no longer be used for its original purpose didn't result in it being torn down. A crowning example of adaptive reuse, over the years the hall has been used as a fire station and a Public Library branch among other things. For many years now it's been a performance hall, providing an excellent venue for classical music events. An especially memorable concert was Scott St. John's appearance in December 1997, headlining a group of London chamber musicians paying a tribute to Franz Schubert.

Some might say supplying a new roof for a heritage builing shouldn't be part of City Hall's mandate. But when it's not just heritage at stake, but also the performing arts, London really needs to cough up the cash. The "east end" has been looking after its "town hall" for a good long time and the city needs to continue the trend.