We need to stop the wrecking balls and save our community’s heritage. This Saturday, April 20, 2013, Councillor for Ward One, Brian McHattie, is holding a citizens’ forum on cultural heritage protection. If you are someone who values history, the arts, or the urban village, I encourage you to come out and get involved.
I understand that heritage buildings can be tough to love for some, given the disrepair we often find them in, but let me give you three reasons why you should get past the dirt.
1. They Tell Our Stories
Some buildings are architecturally significant but many others are important because they tell stories about our community. For example, many of the buildings along Gore Park were part of the wartime history of Hamilton.
Others have rich personal histories like the Kerr building. In the late 1840s Thomas Kerr (the brother of Archibald Kerr) created a library in the back of their dry-goods store so that workers could read and improve themselves during their lunch breaks.
To lose these buildings is like ripping the heart out of the community.
2. They’re Vital to the Growth of the Arts Community
In addition to telling great stories, many heritage buildings provide great spaces for studios, galleries and related activities.
Artists need buildings that can function both as live and work spaces. Proximity to other community resources is critical. Cities can benefit as artists are great at re-adapting buildings that others may not find interesting.
Transforming older buildings into an artist community can help the neighbourhood feel safer and more welcoming to other residences and businesses. However, the buildings have to be there in the first place.
3. They’re Crucial to the Development of Hamilton as a Global Village
Heritage buildings also play a vital role in the development of an urban village. In a world where business has gone global and people can work from any location; having a sense of community where everything is within walking distance is important.
People want streets that are filled with social and aesthetic diversity. In such a setting, heritage buildings become prized for their character and authenticity.
So: for the historian, the artist, or the urban resident, our heritage buildings are extremely valuable and we need to take ownership for their protection. Without becoming more organized, we will continue to lose our heritage to the wrecking ball.
Letter to the Editor was originally published in Raise the Hammer.