Cupola set to shine again

Crews are hard at work at 170-year-old Vic­to­rian Re­tire­ment Liv­ing build­ing

Northumberland Today - - NEWS - PETE FISHER pfisher@post­

COBOURG - Peo­ple look­ing up in along Col­lege Street may see an un­usual site as the cupola at Vic­to­ria Re­tire­ment Liv­ing is shrouded in green wrap.

Work­ers from Sky-High His­tor­i­cal Restora­tion and Con­sult­ing will be metic­u­lously work­ing on the cupola for the next three months.

Tom Plue has owned Sky-High since 1990 and has been work­ing on the restora­tion be­hind the scenes of the cupola for the past three years along with the own­ers who want it re­stored as much to its orig­i­nal grandeur.

Sky-High is rec­og­nized as Northum­ber­land County’s largest his­tor­i­cal Vic­to­rian restora­tion con­trac­tor.

The his­tory of the build­ing which now houses Vic­to­ria Re­tire­ment Liv­ing dates back to 1832.

Its web­site states that the build­ing once housed the Up­per Canada Academy, even­tu­ally be­com­ing the Univer­sity of Toronto.

Eger­ton Ry­er­son was ap­pointed prin­ci­pal of Up­per Canada Academy in 1839.

On Oct. 6, 1836 the academy was granted a royal char­ter. The academy pro­vided co-ed­u­ca­tional, non­de­nom­i­na­tional prepara­tory ed­u­ca­tion sim­i­lar to the gram­mar schools of the time. In 1841 a pro­vin­cial statute el­e­vated the sta­tus of the academy to a col­lege. Thus on Oct. 21, 1842 Vic­to­ria Col­lege started its first se­mes­ter as a de­gree-grant­ing in­sti­tu­tion. The col­lege granted de­grees in Arts, Sci­ence, Law, Medicine and Divin­ity.

From 1876 to 1878 a new build­ing, called Fara­day Hall, was built on cam­pus to house the sci­ence de­part­ment. Ry­er­son Com­mons is be­ing de­vel­oped on the land left va­cant by the fire, which de­stroyed Fara­day Hall in mid 1900s.

On Novem­ber 20, 1892 an act was passed by the province that fed­er­ated Vic­to­ria Col­lege with the Univer­sity of Toronto. At this point the col­lege pro­fes­sors and stu­dents moved to Toronto and the build­ing which used to house the col­lege be­came in turn a pro­vin­cial asy­lum, a mil­i­tary hospi­tal, an On­tario hospi­tal and a train­ing cen­tre for the On­tario Min­istry of Com­mu­nity and So­cial Ser­vices. To­day Vic­to­ria Col­lege is home to more than 40 re­tirees who en­joy daily so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties, fel­low­ship and meals in the din­ing room and the nu­mer­ous other com­mon ar­eas within the 170-year-old build­ing.

Own­ers wrote the town who stated the cupola must meet cer­tain cri­te­ria if they planned to re­pair the struc­ture.

Plue said a pro­fes­sional was paid $1,100 to come from New York city to match the paint.

“The woman came and lifted an orig­i­nal piece of paint and took it back to her lab and they will send us a re­port on what the colours were.”

“It couldn’t have been white be­cause in 1832 there was no such thing as white paint. The only white that was avail­able was white­wash. That’s what is ac­tu­ally on the cap­i­tal build­ings in the United States - it wasn’t paint.”

With the amount of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion over the years, work­ers are re­mov­ing al­most ev­ery piece of lum­ber.

“It had got into such dis­re­pair mainly be­cause of the in­fes­ta­tion of bats, pi­geons, squir­rels, you name it. We were putting up with all of their fe­ces and it’s ab­sorbed into the old lum­ber. It’s to dan­ger­ous for us to be scrap­ing the paint off and deal­ing with it. Just in to­tal dis­re­pair be­cause of that more than any­thing.”

Part of the his­tory on the wood is the carv­ings of names of peo­ple and dates as far back as 1881.

As the build­ing sits on a hill in Cobourg, Plue said the build­ing has a ma­jor sig­nif­i­cance.

“The har­bour is right in front. The very wealthy got off their boats. There wasn’t a tree here (Col­lege Street). They built this huge power of ( of what would be) Canada. So peo­ple out on the water­front looked straight through at this. So they would get off their boats in the har­bour and see this.”

With the pre-prepa­ra­tion be­fore on­site work started, the es­ti­mate for com­ple­tion is three months. “The ACO group wanted a par­tic­u­lar type of lum­ber which I had to qual­ify where we are get­ting. “It is clear pine, no knots, as good as the prod­uct that was here.”

The goal of the project is the repli­cate the cupola as much to its orig­i­nal state.

“There are changes. It only has a tin top on it, but’s not get­ting a tin top, it’s get­ting a lead-cop­per top which is much more durable and lasts a lot longer.”

“This time it will have proper screen­ing be­hind the lou­vres.”

Plue said the lou­vres are unique be­cause they are rounded to fit the cupola.

The cupola is 38 feet in height and has a roof on the scaf­fold­ing that costs ap­prox­i­mately $60,000, but they are work­ing ap­prox­i­mately 100 feet off the ground.

“We never have to worry about the weather with the roof. We need to be work­ing ev­ery­day (un­less light­ning).


Owner of Sky-High His­tor­i­cal Restora­tion and Con­sult­ing Tom Plue look over the cupola Tues­day, Sept. 5 in Cobourg. Work­ers from Sky-High His­tor­i­cal Restora­tion and Con­sult­ing are work­ing on re­pair­ing the cupola at the Vic­to­ria Re­tire­ment Liv­ing on Univer­sity Ave. E. at Col­lege St.

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