The following was originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the Stratford Beacon Herald on August 7th, 2020.
Despite rich histories, the Grand Trunk Shops and Avon Crest – Stratford’s first hospital – sit derelict, their futures in jeopardy. The cost to restore these buildings only grows over time. Now the fate of the historic pump house, the home of Gallery Stratford, is in danger as time and wear take their toll. In July, the Beacon Herald published a story about the city’s rejection of a Gallery Stratford proposal to match a federal grant. The city’s funds would have helped secure an architectural feasibility study for this 137-year-old city-owned building. The cost to the city would have amounted to a modest $22,000. As many will recall, the city is spending $48,000 this year – an increase from $32,000 in 2019 – to remove Canada geese from the Avon river, a costly venture with questionable results.
Built in 1883 by architect George F. Durand, who also designed the Perth County Court House and the first Stratford Hospital, the pump house is a unique piece of architecture that helped provide the city’s water for many years. The proponents of the pump house hoped it would attract industry while lowering insurance rates and preventing disease, such as typhoid. It was repurposed in 1967 and has since showcased Stratford’s artistic talent.
Countless times in Stratford’s history its significant architecture has been threatened – and in some cases demolished. The demolition of the old post office and the Perth Mutual Insurance Company buildings, which both once sat on Ontario Street, are tragic examples of foolhardy decision making. While we marvel at our existing heritage architecture, we mustn’t be complacent. We must realize that these spaces show us our past. We must realize their fragility.
Nearsighted politics prevents proactivity. If the city is unwilling to provide the funds, then Stratfordites ought to band together to raise the $22,000 through donations and address a problem before it becomes too late and too costly. We must invest today to save tomorrow.