Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Tett Intensive

Recently, while dear one was enjoying day surgery at KGH, I had an opportunity to explore a location along King Street that had been calling to me for ages. The J.K. Tett Centre and Isobel Bader theatre complex was created, not without difficulty, over a number of recent years out of a former brewery complex, on a beautifully treed sloping property right on the lake. As I began to take in my surroundings, a delightful staffer invited me to one of their Friday tours of the centre and theatre, but alas there wasn't time.

The buildings' connection with the arts is a long one. This undated, but pre-2014 Kingston Life article gives the background, and (happily) correctly anticipates today's beautiful complex. Here's the story again, in the Tett's own words.

 What intrigued me most, of course, was the built heritage - the history of the site, and the harmonious way that modernist aluminum structures were married with two hundred year old limestone.

The creators of this environment honoured the history in another way - a delightful book, the mother of all board books, stood at the entrance to the centre, inviting a browse. Historical photos, copies of paintings and plans...all my questions answered.  Here's a link to more history in case my ramblings here don't answer all of yours.

 The cultural complex was created out of a moribund collection of Federal heritage places, consigned like so many of them to limbo, with neither the will or money for maintenance or restoration, nor the imagination for adaptive reuse. Does Inverarden leap to mind? I mused about the inertia around that significant property last December - haven't heard any reports of progress from my Cornwall contact.
The limestone buildings on which this vision is built were the Kingston Brewery and Distillery, owned and operated by James Morton in the brewery boom years of the 1840s to 60s. Morton built a huge establishment, with a malt house, housing for workers, a stable. He purchased St. Helen's, the stately home next door to his operations, a rural property built by a mayor of Kingston, who found out to his chagrin that living out of town disqualified him for office.

Morton renamed the house Mortonwood; it's still standing. Just imagine when King Street West was out of town, home of other country villas like Bellevue House.

After the boom days for Morton's business (and for the city), the buildings stood empty until the First World War made it feasible to fully use the complex again - this time as a military hospital.
Perhaps, as a small tribute to the great suffering of the war's casualties, this peaceful and creative spot serves.

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