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
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 has not been a single historical designation in the past five years.
The City's Heritage Planning Department lacks the staff to quickly process the required paperwork for designation.
The media keeps promoting the view that we "can't save everything."
There continues to be a lost of heritage worthy buildings to intentional demolition or neglect. Yes, more heritage designations are part of the solution, but the real answer is a change in attitude by developers and city hall.
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:
Use those chain emails that are circulating among some of us to alert people to positive and negative reports in the media.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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