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Heritage awards honour dedication of community members

Honored with Heritage awards, standing, from left, are: Chris Rogers, Norah Rogers, Ken Dewar, Anne Greaves, Marc Seguin, Peter Lockyer (Heritage Advisory committee member), Brendan O’Connor, Corrine Spiegel, and Jonathan Kearns. Seated, from left, are: Terry Sprague, Ernie Margetson, and Liz Driver (Heritage Advisory committee member).

Community members dedicated to Prince Edward County’s history and heritage were recently honoured for their efforts.

Prince Edward County Heritage Awards were presented last week during a dinner to close the County’s week-long Flashback February events.

“The honourees’ passion is commendable,” said Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson . “I am continually impressed by the dedication County residents have for preserving and promoting our heritage.”

The award categories and this year’s recipients include:
Heritage Awareness and Advocacy – Terry Sprague, author and long-time advocate for the County’s natural heritage.

Conservation of Built Heritage – Jonathan Kearns and Corrine Spiegel, who are restoring the historic Ross/McMullen House at 347 Picton Main.

Preservation of Cultural Heritage Landscapes – Marc Seguin, author, historian, and long-time advocate for the preservation of lighthouses.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Norah and Chris Rogers, long-time preservationists and promotors of cultural and built heritage. They have restored many heritage properties over the past 25 years, including the Waring House and the Claramount Inn.

The Heritage Awards dinner marked the end of Flashback February, a week-long event featuring many activities including hands-on learning opportunities, live demonstrations, talks, film screenings, stories and experiences exploring the unique cultural heritage of Prince Edward County.

“The unique and interesting activities offered during Flashback February really made our history come alive,” said Ferguson. “Thanks to the participation of many groups and organizations, Flashback February has quickly become another premier event on the County calendar.”

Terry Sprague, recipient of the award for Heritage Awareness and Advocacy, credits an elementary school teacher with encouraging his early curiosity, and in shaping his career path as an author, speaker, tour guide, newspaper columnist, and conservationist.

Sprague was employed as a resource technician with the Glenora Fisheries Research Station, as a park interpreter at Sandbanks Provincial Park, and as a naturalist and outdoor event co-ordinator with Quinte Conservation. He also operated an extensive outdoor program of nature hikes, kayaking and photography experiences for nearly 20 years through his company Nature Stuff Tours and Things. He has been an active member of many local organizations including The Friends of Sandbanks Park, The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, The Prince Edward Field Naturalists, and other community organizations.

Jonathan Kearns and Corrine Spiegel received the Conservation of Built Heritage award for their ongoing work at 347 Picton Main Street East – better known as the Ross McMullen House.

The 154-year-old building was home to the Picton Legion for 70 years – purchased by Prince Edward County Council and presented as a gift to Branch 78. It was officially opened by Govenor General Lord Alexander of Tunis, on Nov. 20, 1948.

The Ross/McMullen house was built as a private residence in 1864-65 by Lt. Col. Walter Ross, the commander of the County’s first Regiment of Volunteers from 1863 – 1883. Ross served eight years as councillor and four as Mayor of Picton.
In 1884, the property was bought by Ruth McMullen whose husband George worked in the United States and Canada, then took over the Prince Edward Railway. It was purchased by Dr. Roblin in the mid-1930s, who had married George’s daughter, Ethel.

By 2016, the Legion – which once had 2,000 members – was no longer able to maintain the 13,000 square foot building and a fire in July of that year pushed membership out.

The building was purchased by Toronto architect and County resident, Jonathan Kearns and his wife, Corrine Spiegel. Jonathan is a founding principal of Kearns Mancini Architects Inc. of Toronto with many projects on his resume including design of the George Brown College Centre of Hospitality and Culinary Arts and its renowned Chefs’ House.

The couple began restorations originally intending to open a culinary arts school. But as the project evolved, the new future of the building is as a culinary-themed space for events, conferences and weddings of up to 500 guests.

Marc Sequin was honoured for Preservation of Cultural Heritage Landscapes. Seguin is an author, historian, and County resident who has tirelessly promoted the case for preserving the country’s heritage lighthouses including six County lighthouses – Scotch Bonnet, Point Traverse, False Ducks Island, Point Petre, Salmon Point, and Main Duck Island.

He is a founding member of Save Our Lighthouses, a County heritage advocacy group, author of two books on the maritime history of the area, and a former Chair of the Prince Edward County Heritage Advisory Committee.

As a result of his group’s efforts, two lighthouses at Scotch Bonnet and Point Traverse (also known as Prince Edward Point) were granted heritage designation in 2015 by the federal government, ensuring their maintenance and preservation.

His most recent books, on topics related to his historical research under the banner of Ontario History Press, include For Want of a Lighthouse: Building the Lighthouses of Eastern Lake Ontario 1828 – 1914 and The Cruise of the Breeze, The Journal, Art and Life of a Victorian Soldier in Canada based on the 1863 journal of Henry Edward Baines.

Norah and Chris Rogers were honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Norah Rogers, a Picton physician, and her husband Chris, a local veterinarian, have conserved several historic properties in the County re-purposing them as inns, restaurants, spas and destinations while pioneering the concept that heritage properties are all part of the ambiance and charm attracting visitors to visit, stay, retire and live here.

Their efforts began in 1995 when they bought the Waring House, an historic farmhouse (built by Irish immigrants circa 1860) converted to a restaurant they often frequented. They missed the places so much when it closed, they decided to buy it and re-open it.

That was the beginning of a 25-year journey as they gradually expanded the facilities and transformed the site into a restaurant, pub, inn, and cookery school – and took on new restoration challenges.

They purchased several other properties over the years that followed, including the Picton Harbour Inn in 1997, the former brick home of the Hepburn Family, coal and shipping merchants. During the same period, they purchased and renovated 100 Picton Main Street, an historic home (circa 1835) re-opened as Loyalist Antiques.

In 2001, they bought the Claramount, a colonial revival mansion built in 1903. This spectacular property on Picton’s harbour front was built by lawyer Edward Young and named after his wife Clara Boulter. At the time of purchase, the Claramount was in a sad state of repair along with its surrounding buildings like the former coach house. It took three years of restorations to carefully restore the property using some 200 artisans to re-create original architectural details. The building re-opened as a high-end inn with 10 luxury suites, a spa, and restaurant showcasing local produce and food products.

Norah and Chris have also painstakingly restored their own home near Bloomfield (circa 1835). They have received past awards from the Loyalist Parkway Association and The Prince Edward Builders’ Association for their efforts. The couple have used their heritage properties to host numerous fundraising events for many local charities and have been instrumental in developing successful tourism initiatives such as The Taste Trail, Countylicious, etc.

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