Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

God bless the researchers

I couldn't count the number of times in a week that I consult these two little publications ...for names of original owners, history, address, date of construction, opinions on style, observations on detail. Each time I do, I thank the tireless researchers, and the local initiative that brought the books into being. The little books are Belleville's Heritage, volumes I and II, published by the Hastings County Historical Society in 1978 and 1983. The subtitle of each is A Partial Inventory of Old Buildings - from my perspective they do a fine job. The research is thorough and the writing is informative, the photos are very helpful. Sometimes, alas, the entries serve as obituary for worthy buildings that have been lost to demolition in the years since.

From the introduction to the books, I learn that the work was completed by the Historic Structures Committee of the HCHS. The first volume was published for the city's centennial, the second built on the interest generated from the first. In the introduction to volume II, long-time HCHS president Gerry Boyce (prolific local historian and author and still heritage advisor to the HCHS) acknowledges the ongoing work of the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC) in identifying and plaquing significant buildings. As a new member of that committee (now called Heritage Belleville, after several injuries were sustained in trying to fit the former unwieldy name into conversations), I benefit from all this work done decades ago, when I open a file drawer at our City Hall office, and find a complete file on a heritage building.

Gerry Boyce also mentions another near-to-my heart organization, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, whose Quinte Region branch had just formed at the time he wrote the introduction to the second volume. They were then, as they do now, conducting an informative walking tour of the Foster Ward. Sadly, I missed David's tour last year, while I was away checking out Lunenburg Nova Scotia.

So to all of Belleville's heritage pioneers, the researchers and champions of old buildings, a sincere thanks and my great admiration. I am very fortunate to know and work occasionally with one of these folks, who is still the 'go-to girl' when it comes to Belleville's historic buildings. And perhaps the best news is that at last look, Volume II is still available at the HCHS, for a mere $2.50! Check out their new improved website at for details.

On the cover of Volume I is a photograph of the Lewis-Wallbridge House, an eclectic delight built in 1865. The photo above is my tribute to its wonderful tower.


  1. OMG you DO make me want to get involved in this!

  2. Hey, thanks for dropping by. Got me away from studying for my architecture exam. After I saw you in the library, I went to speak to Mary Thomas, the researcher/author. I told her I was trying to develop the patience to do primary research and she encouraged me by saying "that way you know it's true." Isn't that nice? See you in the archives :-)