Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, May 3, 2014

It takes a hamlet...

Community history is alive and well in the hamlet of Hilton, Brighton Township, Northumberland County. On April 6th I had the great privilege of sitting in on the inaugural meeting of The Friends of Hilton Hall. This group of community history-minded folks, a sub-committee of the Brighton Heritage Advisory Committee, have set a goal of transforming the former community hall, a beautifully crafted rubble ashlar structure into the Hilton Hall Heritage Centre. Rubble ashlar, I have learned, is granite fieldstones, carefully selected, cut and dressed to a uniform size with flat surfaces to achieve thin uniform mortar joints (thanks Dave).
historian Dan Buchanan (photo courtesy C.Stutt)

photo courtesy Catherine Stutt

Positions on the board have been filled by the usual suspects: The group's chair is Dan Buchanan, known for his genealogy and history website, and countless presentations. Dan is a prime mover in the popular Brighton History Open Houses, along with Dot Connolly and Susan Brose, author of the fine book The History of Brighton Businesses. My friend Florence Chatten, writer of several local history books, most recently the engaging Brighton Township has found the role of Community Advisor to be a good fit. I shared some of this delightful historian's history in the winter  issue of County and Quinte Living. And there are two positions still open for community-minded volunteers.
Dave Cutler, Heritage Advisory Committee (C.Stutt photo)

So it would seem that Hilton Hall (1861) is in good hands. I've uncovered coverage by the worthy local paper Northumberland News dating back to 2009 when a grant was applied for to do some restoration. Looks from the crisp shingles and neat soffits that the work was done.

There is much in the future for stories of the past. Dan is safeguarding the 1859 indenture document for the purchase of the property from Robert Rogers in 1859, against the day when a community archives can receive it. A digital archives project is planned; local folks with documents and photographs pertaining to the township's past will be invited to bring them in for scanning and sharing.

at one time the Brighton-Seymour gravel road
passed by right outside the hall
new windows
This is just one of the projects taking shape in the fledgling Hilton Hall Heritage Centre. A brainstorming session yielded an exciting list, from commemorating the events of 1914, to Christmas and children's programming, music events, participation in Doors Open on June 7 and 8 (with perhaps a mock council meeting to remind the little stone hall of its roots.) There will be fund-raising for repairs, and a growing network of supporters (I am charter member #5) and willing workers.

I forget if it was David or Dan ( it could easily have been either of these men devoted to local history and community) who said that people move into an area for a sense of community. And community doesn't come from folksy neo-Gothic farmhouse styled subdivisions with front porches. It comes from knowing our shared history - and it lives not just with folks who have several generations in a place, but with newer people also, who replace curiosity with knowledge with dedication and affiliation and love.

Hilton Hall was built in 1861 by local stonemason Joseph Adams. The hall was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1990, and restored in 2010, after several years of neglect.

And in April 2014, it looks like Hilton, and Hilton Hall, and their shared history, are in good hands.

1 comment:

  1. "Hilton Hall was built in 1961 by local stonemason Joseph Adams."

    Could you mean 1861?