Ridley Hall decision will ‘haunt’ council
I would like to comment on an article headlined “Council approves Ridley Hall demolition,” which was published in the May 22, 2012 edition of The Compass.
Mayor Don Coombs states” “It’s dilapidated, it’s unfortunate, and, obviously, if someone isn’t going to step up to the plate to throw money into it. If it can be sold, refurbished and another nice place put in the town then that is something we have to look as council.”
Another nice place put in town? First of all, what town? Harbour Grace is a town in need of an emergency revitalization plan. Harbour Grace and its historical structures are governed insufficiently by a town council that has shown little respect for the cultural and historical value of the town.
With no focus in the area, little has been done to preserve, or protect the old town core, a primary reason for the town’s demise. A growing number of residents have moved due to the lack of amenities in the town and there are no economic development opportunities, which has further lead to the town’s crumbling and decay.
On the Harbour Grace website, it welcomes Internet visitors to visit the community, and makes note that it is an historic town. Yet council is prepared to condemn one of the most unique and historic buildings in the town — Ridley Hall.
This is the action of a council that has no vision for the future, or value of its historical past. Complementary to the owners of heritage properties on Water Street, who have restored and maintained them. These are people who care about and want to conserve those elements of the historic environment, and realize once they are lost, they cannot be replaced.
That would have nothing to do with you, or your council, Mayor Coombs. However, as long as someone else is footing the bill, it would be another nice place in town.
The mayor states: “It’s a beautiful building lot, with an ocean view. I’ll be sad to see it go.”
How does this town and what historical structures are left weather the myriad of risks they currently face? A council that is not dynamic, nor grounded in local partnerships, who do not consider heritage in their town planning, and are consistently not focused on long-term sustainability.
No wonder the town is threatened on numerous fronts. Much of Ridley Hall’s haunting beauty remains, and it will remain long after it is demolished.
Mayor Coombs, you and your council may have left the decision for the future owners of Ridley Hall to be the ones to tear it down. But you and your council are solely responsible for the turning of the axe on the most storied, and fabled building in Harbour Grace. I would think it is a decision that will haunt you.
Rhonda Parsons writes from Toronto. She is a seasonal resident of Harbour Grace, and spent many summers during her youth in the town.