His­toric land­mark re­ceives fund­ing

For­mer BMO build­ing to be ren­o­vated into mu­seum

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JEREMY FRASER

Betty Weeks still re­mem­bers the day she first walked into the Bank of Mon­treal build­ing on Char­lotte Street in Syd­ney.

“I wasn’t work­ing for a very long time and I de­cided I wanted to buy a car,” said Weeks of her first ex­pe­ri­ence at the bank in the 1950s.

Weeks asked the bank man­ager, at the time Pat Ellis, if he would lend her the $2,000 she needed to buy the used car.

“I went and bought the car and I wrote them a cheque and they cashed it and I still (hadn’t made) the ar­range­ments for the loan,” laughed the 93-yearold Syd­ney res­i­dent. “It goes to show you how trust­ful they were in those days.”

Weeks was on hand at the for­mer bank on Fri­day for a fund­ing an­nounce­ment, where the fed­eral gov­ern­ment an­nounced fund­ing of $175,000 through the At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency’s (ACOA) In­no­va­tive Com­mu­ni­ties Fund.

Syd­ney- Vic­to­ria MP Mark Eyk­ing made the fund­ing an- nounce­ment of be­half of Navdeep Bains, Min­is­ter of In­no­va­tion, Science and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Min­ster of ACOA.

The fund­ing will help the Old Syd­ney So­ci­ety, which cur­rently owns the build­ing, ren­o­vate the for­mer BMO fa­cil­ity and turn into a com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity and mu­seum.

Vince MacLean, pres­i­dent of the Old Syd­ney So­ci­ety, said the fund­ing an­nounced will cover half the cost of the over­all ren­o­va­tion to the build­ing.

“We are very up­beat about the fact that this is one of the most mag­nif­i­cent build­ings in Nova Sco­tia and in or­der to see it pre­served and pro­tected and brought back to some of its orig­i­nal form is just a great chal­lenge and op­por­tu­nity for us.”

The build­ing was con­structed in 1899 dur­ing the steel in­dus­try’s eco­nomic boom. The unique ar­chi­tec­tural ap­peal and his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance se­cured its recog­ni­tion as a reg­is­tered mu­nic­i­pal her­itage prop­erty.

The Bank of Mon­treal do­nated the build­ing to the so­ci­ety after it moved to a new fa­cil­ity on Prince Street in Syd­ney last year. The so­ci­ety of­fi­cially re­ceived the keys to the build­ing last fall.

“We started mov­ing as quickly as we could,” said MacLean of the ren­o­va­tions. “We have quite a bit of work done so far, a lot of vol­un­teer labour and a lot of do­nated ma­te­rial, so it’s mov­ing along nicely.”

The to­tal of cost of ren­o­va­tions, in­clud­ing the dis­plays, will be around $350,000.

The mu­seum will fea­ture Cape Bre­ton and Syd­ney his­tory, ar­ti­facts as well as elec­tronic and new de­signs that are in mu­se­ums in other parts of the coun­try. MacLean said the so­ci­ety wanted to have the down­town lo­ca­tion for tourists.

“The cruise ship pas­sen­gers are our bread and but­ter,” he said. “Our walk­ing tours pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant source of rev­enue and we will start the tours at St. Pa­trick’s Church and they will fin­ish at the mu­seum.”

Char­lotte MacLean- Cox was also on hand for the an­nounce­ment. She used to work at the bank as a file clerk, fil­ing cheques by hand in the late 1960s.

“It’s very ex­cit­ing to be back in this build­ing where I worked many years ago,” said MacLeanCox. “I’m re­liv­ing a lot of mem- ories here to­day — I re­mem­ber the ar­chi­tec­tura al­ways blew me away.”

MacLean-Cox be­lieves the new mu­seum down­town is a won­der­ful idea.

“I’ve trav­elled a lit­tle and no mat­ter where I was, I al­ways wanted to know about the his­tory,” said the Syd­ney res­i­dent, who worked in the bank in­dus­try for six years be­fore be­com­ing a stay-at-home mother.

Weeks was also pleased to hear the plans for build­ing, which is lo­cated in the north end of the city, and at­tracts 26,000 vis­i­tors an­nu­ally.

“I think it’s go­ing to be great for the com­mu­nity,” said Weeks. “I think it’s so great that we’re not los­ing the build­ing and (we’re) putting it to good use.”

The Old Syd­ney So­ci­ety re­cently com­pleted in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments and added a new per­ma­nent ex­hibit to the St. Pa­trick’s Church Mu­seum in Syd­ney.

MacLean said the so­ci­ety is hop­ing to start fundrais­ing for the re­main­der of the money needed for ren­o­va­tions and dis­plays soon.

“I think when peo­ple see what we are do­ing, it might be eas­ier to en­cour­age some to make a do­na­tion, and that’s been our aim,” said MacLean, who is hop­ing they can raise be­tween $75,000 and $100,000. “The more we raise the bet­ter dis­plays we are go­ing to have to put in the build­ing.”

MacLean said the so­ci­ety’s goal is to have the mu­seum open on April 1, adding that once other funds are se­cured a cel­e­bra­tion will be held at the build­ing.

JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Betty Weeks stands in front of the for­mer Bank of Mon­treal build­ing on Char­lotte Street in Syd­ney. Weeks, a for­mer cus­tomer at the bank, was on hand for the an­nounc­ing of $175,000 by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment through the At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency’s In­no­va­tive Com­mu­ni­ties Fund to help the Old Syd­ney So­ci­ety ren­o­vate the his­toric build­ing and turn it into a mu­seum.

MacLean

MacLean-Cox

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