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New ACO group focuses on the future of the County’s past

Prince Edward County historian Peter Lockyer documents the demolition of the Hyatt House, one of two heritage homes at Sandbanks Provincial Park demolished Sept. 9, 2021 despite public efforts to save them. – Sue Capon photo

As a direct result of the demolition of two heritage homes at Sandbanks Provincial Park in September 2021,
local citizens have banded to form a Prince Edward County branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO).

The ACO PEC will advocate for PEC heritage to all levels of government while seeing ways to support the municipality in its heritage efforts through resources, education and future projects. The ACO is a provincial organization founded in 1933 with local branches in many Ontario communities.

Though the County is rich in its built and cultural heritage, the future of its historical buildings and landscapes is uncertain due to unprecedented development, and other challenges, including increasing costs of maintaining older properties to the limited capacities of many disparate heritage groups.

The ACO PEC branch was approved by the provincial organization in January. The new group seeks a cohesive and proactive community response to protect the County’s heritage.

In recent years there have been several local heritage restoration successes driven by the private sector – including The Royal Hotel, Picton Armoury, The Falconer House, Drake Devonshire and The Cape – all restored and re-purposed. On the County’s South Shore, volunteers with the South Shore Joint Initiative are restoring the heritage-designated Hudgin Log House as a social enterprise and gathering place to explore the natural environment.

Plans under way to secure and protect more of County’s south shore

But there have also been some setbacks – most recently the provincial government demolition of two heritage homes at the Sandbanks Provincial Park in September 2021 and notably, the private demolition of the 1875 Methodist Church in 2010 which brought a renewed focus to built heritage.

Demolition has begun for two Sandbanks heritage homes

Demolition of Picton church makes Heritage Canada’s list of worst losses

While 2022 will be a building year for the new PEC AGO group, their web page photographs show an eye on several local designations, including Grimmon’s Woods, an iconic landscape at Black River, and makes note of the 19th century PEC lighthouse at Salmon Point as being at-risk.

“Through education and advocacy, the ACO’s mission is to encourage the conservation and reuse of structures, districts and landscapes of architectural, historic and cultural significance, to inspire and benefit Ontarians,” says Liz Driver, the interim president of the new branch. “Membership ensures County heritage groups can speak with one strong voice when needed, and provides us with access to a treasury of experience, resources, political advocacy, and other benefits.”

As part of this year’s Flashback February Heritage Week celebrations, the public is invited to a virtual presentation on the ACO’s work to learn how the community can benefit from its advocacy and educational expertise.

Set for Thursday, Feb. 24 at 1 p.m., the keynote speaker is Diane Chin of Cobourg, president of the provincial organization.

Chin, a retired school principal, joined ACO Cobourg & East Northumberland in 2014 serving as chair of the branch since 2016. Under her leadership, the Certo building, fronted by a heavy Greek-style colonnade, and situated on an early 20th-century industrial site, was designated and saved from demolition. More recently, she was involved in establishing an agreement with the Ontario Heritage Trust to open Barnum House, which is the founding property for ACO. Barnum House is now being used by ACO and the community. Chin is also chair of the Victoria Hall Volunteers in Cobourg, and a member of the Board of the Cobourg Historical Society.

Click here to learn more about ACO Prince Edward County

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  1. Dee says:

    I am pleased to see something came out of the efforts of the Sandbanks Heritage homes group that tried to save the two homes. I familiarized myself with Architecural COnservancy of Ontario, and am comforted that they not only work to protect built heritage but also cultural and natural heritage including cultural heritage landscapes. Having the resources of the provincial organization assisting the local branch brings hope to saving some our unique attributes before they are bulldozed and paved. The aCO’s stand on reuse of building materials is more than commendable. Looking forward to the Flashback February presentation on ZOOM

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