Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Neighbourly news..

Wasn't there once a friendly homespun segment on CBC radio's 'old look' Fresh Air called Neighbourly News? Back in the days of the Over 90 Birthday Club, and Bill McNeil and Cy Strange? I like the title anyway; it comes from somewhere back in my past, and has a warm folksy feel. It fits how I feel about an event we attended yesterday in Warkworth.

We made a neighbourly visit to good folks of the East Northumberland County ACO yesterday - to a super talk by Rob Mikel, writer of the beautiful and informative Ontario House Styles, and soon to be published book about the grand old summer homes of Cobourg, back when it was the Newport of the North, welcoming huge numbers of wealthy and well-connected society folk from the US. Stories of buildings, people, parties - great slides of archival photos, encyclopedic knowledge of the area and the times, and a wry wit. A wonderful time.

The social side of the meeting was most pleasant. My husband accompanied me, stepping outside his usual role as driver of the getaway car while I run along the boundaries of great properties with my camera, trying to do justice to yet another heart-breakingly beautiful old building. A fellow member of our Municipal Heritage committee came along - a lovely cultured gentleman and great conversationalist who made the drive through the lovely Northumberland hills a most pleasant one. Got some free stuff - a poster of Northumberland County barns which is living on my fridge door this morning, some Acorn back issues, a walking tour guide of Warkworth house details photographed by Gary Mulcahey, whom my husband knows through the vintage motorcycle fraternity. Great idea for a future ACO activity.

We had a most pleasant day, but one made poignant by the concerns of the group about the almost inevitable demolition of the 1915 Brighton Public School, a lovely classically detailed building made 'redundant' by the construction of a new school nearby. The building is reported to be in fine shape in and out, and sits on a very large property (surely there's enough space for the developers to make their millions and still spare our heritage). Informed pleas for preservation and adaptive reuse have failed to date.

ACO is a wonderful organization. The members are heroes of preservation battles everywhere. They have learned to live with great highs and gut-wrenching lows - have survived frantic campaigns for fine buildings saved and repurposed, and the loss of intact architectural treasures demolished for shabby reasons.

I neglected to bring a camera on a day which turned out to be wonderfully sunny, with ample time to capture this building. So for now, I am posting a photo found on-line; I thank the Architectural Conservancy for the loan of this place-holder photo. I'll change it when next I have the combination of wheels, sun and time to take my own photos - I understand that I had best move quickly.

PS Thanks to Nanci for the photo above right, taken in 1915, the year the school was built.

1 comment:

  1. This post got me thinking about my old public school in Ridgeway, which I remembered as terribly turn-of-the-century with separate entrances and playgrounds for the boys and girls, not to mention the dreadfully Victorian principal/grade 8 teacher. So I had a look at it on Google Earth, and, not only is it still there, but it also appears that it's been smartened up (no pun intended) in recent years. Always a bit sad to see the old bulldozed to make way for the new and supposedly improved.