Special Report: Heritage

Built Heritage: Our Priorities Reflect Our Values

We must step up our game if we are to make any progress in saving our built heritage.

By Chris Erskine
Published September 13, 2013

Welcome to Hamilton mural at MacNab underpass
Welcome to Hamilton mural at MacNab underpass

The Globe and Mail recently reported that a committee of Toronto City Council had approved Ryerson's request to not install the "Sam the Record Man" neon sign.

In the original agreement between the City and the School, Ryerson was required to restore the sign to its former location. Now they are being allowed to back out of this agreement.

The neon sign now sits in storage waiting to be displayed once again.

So, we keep fighting the same battles over and over again.

It is my belief that heritage can only be protected if developers and city councils appreciate not only its aesthetic worth but its economic value as well.

Clearly we are not there yet!

In Hamilton, you just have to look at the following points (as reported by Raise the Hammer and other media sources):

There must develop a consensus that heritage means jobs and economic growth. As heritage advocates, we must make a strong and clear case to the community that heritage matters.

We can do this through organization and education. Here are some simple actions we can take as first steps towards this goal:

  1. Use those chain emails that are circulating among some of us to alert people to positive and negative reports in the media.

  2. Take a few moments and a few words to comment on those articles in the media.  How many articles in the press have not received a single comment?  The larger community needs to know your views - it really does matter! Otherwise, you allow the anti-heritage to dominate the public discussion.

  3. If you belong to a heritage group then you should be at the forefront of the fight by writing to the media editors and politicians at the local and provincial levels. We are all in this fight together.

  4. If you love history, attend lectures, and read books about the past, then use that knowledge to save the history that still stands today. Why imagine how those early settlers steamed into Port Hamilton and pass the lighthouse (our version of the stature of liberty) to start a new life when you can actually visit it.  Why imagine the store where they purchased all the things need for a new life when you see it today - The Kerr Buildings.

  5. Finally, use social media to spread the word about the value of heritage.  By using our networks of friends, we can reach out to others and start to build a case.  People who know you will value your opinion much more than anyone else.

We can save our heritage but we have to step up our game.

First published on Chris Erskine's website.

Chris Erskine is a labour and community activist. He is also a print artist, exploring historic landscapes and building themes using lino-cut and woodblock printing methods. You can visit his website.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 13, 2013 at 12:23:52

"We can't save everying" We aren't saving anything.

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By kathy (registered) | Posted September 13, 2013 at 13:42:17

We should save what new can. I was in Belfast a few years ago and was very impressed at the way they have preserved many of their historic shops and buildings in the town centre. The shells were intact and interiors totally razed . The result that while much of the interiors could not be preserved {in some cases } the result was buildings that had stood there for a few hundred years remained at least to the eye. A very pleasing downtown old section is still standing. I believe the laws are very strict regarding demolition and we need some teeth in our laws here.

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