Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Hall For All, is it too much to ask?

Town Halls have been top of mind lately, as I read the passionate postings of many Picton residents, over the fate of the Picton Town Hall. The fine website Save Picton Town Hall contains several handsome photos of the 1867 red-brick structure. Sadly, I have only this one, but it's illustrative of an important fact. Picton Town Hall has always been here - this 1975 image records a time when it was just across Ross Street from home, when Mom and Dad owned the fine old house at 62 King Street.

On another visit from the west, I recall attending with mom, one of the first Art in the County shows in a bright room with shiny wood floors, upstairs from the former fire hall.

And now Picton folks face the prospect of losing their town hall, seeing it become one more holiday rental, instead of a place by and for the people of the town. Council is flirting with development plans for a pod-type hotel (give me a break.) Truly, though, for elected officials, this is a judgement of Solomon.

photo courtesy Gilles Miramontes
The SPTH website identifies the original occupants of the building - a fire engine hall with hose tower, council chambers, a clerk's residence and an upstairs public hall, which has served in many capacities during its 150+  year history. As a fan of old opera houses, I'm very taken with its rebirth as the New Bijou Opera House in 1898. Now isn't that grand?

Here's a Streetview link so you can amble around the building for yourself. You'll notice the pedimented north facade front was altered for larger modern fire engines at some point, with three assertively plain doors cut into the facade, and the resultant building scars still evident. Although it lacks columns, the front is dignified by four brick pilasters, a dentilled band course under the cornice, round-headed windows centre-front and in the pediment, brick voussoirs and lintels supported on corbels.

poster available on the the SPTH website 
I'm looking for a pre-alteration photo of the facade. I understand from SPTH campaigner, Gilles Miramontes, who provided the photo above, that there's a dearth of views of the hall. There's a fascinating early 1900s image of the adjacent market building surrounded by stalls,  similar to the ones in Trenton and Napanee. Wish the photographer had wandered a bit further!

 The website has loads of historical information; I won't go into detail on the SPTH campaign as their site makes the case full well, and follows the ups and downs of the campaign, and the hall's fortunes. Here's a link to their Facebook page. The 'History' section is also available in a YouTube video.

Tomorrow night's council meeting will be high drama. Here's local press coverage, thanks to County Live. Of course, despite all the arguments on both sides, my allegiance lies with the heritage folks who are fighting so hard to retain a community space. By now, everyone realizes that the work will be just beginning, should the decision go in favour of community use. But it's a start.

And now perhaps, as we all like company during the vigil night before a big event,  here are some contemporaries of the worthy Picton Town Hall, to keep it company.

Notice the same classical revival form of the Napanee town hall, a larger hall, with a bit more historic detailing applied.

And then there's one of my favourites, the Trenton Town Hall. There are so many similarities - its location on a side street comfortably close to downtown, and its classical revival inspiration - although Trenton's hall has more Greek Revival touches - the eared window trims, the fluted corner pilasters, the heavier detail all round, in stone and white painted trims.

I wrote about Trenton in this (appropriately titled) post You Can Fight City Hall. It hasn't been easy for the friends of this hall, either.

Good luck, SPTH folks. We're in your corner.

1 comment:

  1. The wisdom of Solomon indeed! Hope wisdom wins over short-term financial considerations. What was PECounty council thinking when it assumed they could simply sell the site without any pushback from citizens who saw it as a public trust?