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Governor's House & Gaol in Kitchener
November 3, 2011

North Waterloo Region

In July 2011 journalist Greg Mercer wrote an article of interest in the Waterloo Region Record titled Where to Find some Peace and Quiet in which he outlined some of the best places in the Region to find a retreat from the busy bustle of our urban landscapes and our hectic lives. Here is a description that Greg provides for the Waterloo County Gaol Garden, a millennium project coinciding with the restoration of the Governor’s House and Gaol on Queen Street in Kitchener beside the main Branch of the Kitchener Public Library and across from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Many NWRB-ACO Members are Friends of the Governor’s house and Gaol and/or are volunteers here during Doors Open Waterloo Region. “If this was what jail was like, then most people wouldn’t mind being locked up. This public garden was built in 2000 in the restored jail courtyard off Kitchener’s Queen Street. It’s a tiny place, but often empty, surrounded by thick stone walls that lock out the city, and is entered through an arched doorway. Pick one of three benches and admire the central fountain, shrubs, vines, roses and other flowers that make an old jail yard seem surprisingly pleasant. Once slated for demolition, the garden’s granite, iron work and stone make the courtyard seem indestructible now.” Joyce Arndt writes that “the Friends of the Governor’s House and Gaol selected the theme of a Victorian garden in a vernacular style for the County Town of Berlin. Wendy Shearer of the Wendy Shearer Landscape Architect Limited won the contract for her innovative design. Six unique garden areas have numerous trees, shrubs and perennials and showcase decorative ironwork, granite and stone – all typical reminders of the Victorian era. Colours, scents and textures of blooms and foliage create an ambiance of peace and relaxation. As well, the Gaol Garden demonstrates a mindfulness of low maintenance and water conservation. Although ten years have passed since the installation of the garden, the original vision of Wendy Shearer and the Friends is still evident in the garden’s beauty.”

Reflections on the Grad House at the University of Waterloo,r, November-December 2011)
November 3, 2011

North Waterloo Region

Sometimes concerns over the retention and reuse of existing buildings grow into tragedies that are completely avoidable. So it is with the old farm house on the campus of the University of Waterloo known as “The Grad House.” Originally the residence of the Schweitzer family, the last people to till the soil here, the house now stands as the only reminder of what preceded the grand new University that sprouted first in the 1950s and has now blossomed into a leading educational institution. For almost 40 of the University’s 60 years, however, the Grad House had a different function. It was here that students gathered with their professors to pour over lab results, debate the great issues of the day and socialise. It was here that having successfully defended their theses grad students repaired with their friends and families to celebrate. It has become one of the few truly indigenous institutions of the University of Waterloo. UW now rightfully aspires to become not only a national but an internationally recognized seat of learning. However, no university ever reached greatness while forgetting its past and its humble beginnings. No university ever destroyed its way to prominence. If current rumours are correct the University of Waterloo intends to neglect the maintenance of the Grad House, allow it to deteriorate, destroy it and use the space to build yet another somewhat characterless structure. The notion is that some new concrete space in modern block will house a student club. But you can’t replace atmosphere, tradition and warmth and once lost you can’t replace memories. It might be that the sort of disregard for tradition and destruction of meaning that the demolition of the Grad House would signal will stand in the way of UW noble aspiration. You can’t have a future without a past. You can’t have a past without respect for its symbols and its home.

Barra Castle, 393 Queen Street South, Kitchener - R.I.P.
October 3, 2010

North Waterloo Region

Barra Castle was built by Molly Marquette built 1930, and, it is claimed by some that she modeled it after her childhood home in Russia. The structure is a rare local example of neo-Gothic architecture with crenelated parapets and a gothic arched entrance way. To the 1980s, it was prestigious place to live. Former residents described the castle’s interior in glowing terms. Some apartments had up to 2000 square feet of living area. There were Moorish archways, tiled bathroom floors, old sinks and tubs, sunrooms, hardwood floors, high ceilings, original trim and detailed wooden banisters in the stairways. [To view exterior and interior photos google “barra castle kitchener.” ]

Highgate United Church
May 13, 2010


Lost Buildings
April 15, 2010

Provincial Office

Buildings lost in Ontario.

Pioneer Tower, 300 Lookout Lane, Kitchener, Waterloo Region
October 24, 2009

North Waterloo Region

The Doon Pioneer Tower is a National Historic Site, administered by Parks Canada. It is located at 300 Lookout Lane in Kitchener (Region of Waterloo), and can be reached from the Pioneer Tower Road, west from Highway 8 about one kilometre north of Highway 401. The Tower was erected on one acre of land located on the old Betzner homestead, chosen in part because of the existence of the old pioneer graveyard. It was built by the Waterloo County Pioneers' Association, formed in 1923, as a memorial to the early Mennonite-German pioneers, who migrated to the area in 1800. The monument is constructed of field stones in a Swiss style. Constructed in 1925-26, the Tower was designed by Toronto based architect William Langton.

ACO Second Annual Awards Dinner November 21, 2008
January 13, 2009

Provincial Office

Our Second Annual Awards Dinner, held at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto. A huge success both as a fundraiser and a chance to celebrate achievements past and present.

Ontario Demolitions
February 8, 2008

Provincial Office

Recent Cultural Destruction in Ontario

Demolition 225 James Street Hamilton
December 1, 2007

Provincial Office

Bata International Building Demolition
December 1, 2007

Provincial Office

Demolition of Bata Building started today, November 30th. A signature early modern building designed by John Parkin, and well maintained by the Bata family, it is being torn down to be replaced by a new temple sponsored by the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan is generally one of the world's great architectural patrons, but in this case he has chosen to ignore the pleas of Toronto's architects to preserve this landmark. Toronto Council failed to designate. The concrete's brilliance is from embedded white marble.

Restoration of Cemetary Chapel
July 25, 2007

Port Hope

The ACO Port Hope has now begun preservation work on the historic chapel located in Union Cemetery, Port Hope. Long unused, the vacant chapel is much in need of repairs to preserve the integrity of the structure. The building is in need of paint as it has not been attended to for several years. The ACO has hired a contractor to re-caulk, prime and paint the exterior clapboard and trim and to replace damaged and rotted areas. Also planned is the restoration of deteriorating window sash and strengthening of the floor. Years ago, a trap door was cut in the centre of the floor and the floor joists were severely weakened, resulting in an unsafe condition. This will be rectified with the addition of new structural members as prescribed by a consulting engineer hired by the ACO. The chapel, which dates from the 1880s, was traditionally used for funeral services at the cemetery but was deconsecrated years ago. It is hoped that with these improvements, new uses can be found for the building, which is an excellent example of a wooden vernacular church building.