Who cares about heritage?

It’s funny how things happen. A heritage warehouse burns to the ground and the same day a poignant appeal by our local Lois Lane appears in the Advertiser decrying the loss of heritage buildings in Grand Pre to all kinds of forces, not just fire.

The two-storey building, located across from the Grand Pre National Historic Site, was one of the original railway siding buildings where apples were loaded in the early 1900s.

It dates back to about 1908 and was expanded in 1924.

“It was a grand old building,” Wolfville Deputy Fire Chief Kevin White said Tuesday. “It had a lot of life left in it until today.” [source CH May 21]

Wendy can add that to the her list of heritage losses in Grand Pre.

Last year, three heritage homes in Grand-Pre were torn down or packed off to foreign lands. This year, three old barns in the village have toppled and this week another heritage home will disappear into dumpsters.

I’m hardly the only one who is saddened watching the demolitions. Grand-Pre might have been Canada’s first rural historic district, but no designation will preserve its built heritage. [source Advertiser May 20 ]

Does anybody care? Only a few individuals it seems. As Wendy points out:

There is no legislation in this province to prohibit the demolition of any structure, nor is there any significant monetary encouragement to preserve heritage buildings. [source Advertiser May 20]

That’s right. In fact there are disincentives. If you designate your home a heritage home restrictions are placed on what you can do with it. Many eventually find these restrictions overly demanding so they deregister their homes and there are no tax incentives for those registering or for work done. It is to be appreciated that some individuals still take this on. Consider this letter to the editor which was in reply to a similar complaint about lost heritage last year.

Regarding the April 12, 2007 story in The Kings County Register headlined ‘Disappointed with Grand Pre Heritage Inventory Losses,’ we believe that the community cannot be tarred and feathered entirely. We are very proud of the N.S. Heritage Trust Built Heritage Award tendered us in 1991.

There is a difference between restoring and refurbishing a house constructed circa. 1768. The Jerimiah Calkin/Biggs house was not only lovingly restored, but literally saved from destruction. We believed then and still believe that preserving an old house is a worthwhile task.

These days one can only wish for a wider appreciation of the Planter-built heritage of this historic conservation area.

Edward and Elizabeth Goodstein

Grand Pre [source Advertiser April 20, 2007}

Public policy is at odds with itself and appears mostly show, with little regard for what really works to preserve heritage and offering little reward for those who do care..

What is highly ironic is the current move to apply for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Last November councilor John Fuller, who represents the village, stated there was interest and support in the community. Whom did he poll? [Advertiser May 20]

Good question. In the end it is individual decisions that determine what happens to these buildings and unless public policy takes that into account efforts will not be successful.

Wendy cuts close to the bone when she says:

It struck me that a divide-and-conquer mentality was operating in March when the province dished out $10,000 grants to 67 small museums “to help preserve and promote Nova Scotia’s heritage.”

I figure the grants were designed to button up further protest.

Close to the truth. Showy but ineffective. We figure these little grants just make groups dependent. Ironically the miniscule support these heritage groups get from government probably works against them. People assume that the province or the town takes care of such things so there is no need to ante up themselves. Perhaps all grants could be matching – raise any amount and it will be matched. Resources would then be concentrated and go to those who put in effort themselves such as this group which is working to preserve the Scout camp at Sunken Lake.

Note: Anyone interested in donating time, materials or money toward the Sunken Lake Scout camp renewal project should phone Hugh Chipman at 542-7424. For more info on the camp, visit

wolfville.scouts.googlepages.com

If governments really wanted to do something about heritage buildings they should talk to owners (whether registered or not) to get some feedback about what would work for them- and for others like them. We suspect they would say that the province and municipalities should drop onerous restrictions and instead give meaningful tax incentives for any authentic restorative work.

As an aside- we watched for the reports of the Grand Pre fire to see if mention was made of a non-functioning hydrant in front of the building as was rumoured. [later- apparently there are just no fire hydrants there] The closest it came was this:

Fire departments were involved up and down the Valley as stand-in crews or at the scene, with the biggest role filled by tankers. White says a hydrant system at the new Grand Pre Park interpretive centre was used, along with a couple of nearby ponds, and water only had to be hauled a couple of kilometres.[source Register -online May 20]

Would it have made a difference? Perhaps not but if we were homeowners in the area, whether we owned heritage buildings or not, we would be concerned if this rumour were true..

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One response to “Who cares about heritage?

  1. When we were in Ottawa last September, a family’s farm was completely burned to the ground by arsonists.
    The Gothic home, the barn, the garage across their lane, even their historic Cooper building…..everything lost.
    This is NOT the only unsolved fire of this nature in Ontario …