Les­son in his­tory and her­itage

The Compass - - OPINION -

If there is any­thing as painfully slow as those prover­bial wheels of gov­ern­ment, it must be the process of rid­ding a town of its eye­sores. Just ask the Town of Car­bon­ear. It ap­pears to be tak­ing just as long if not longer for coun­cil to rid it­self of one of its most con­spic­u­ous eye­sores as it did to have the old orange crane re­moved from its prom­i­nent perch at the town’s south en­trance. The process takes not days, weeks or months, but years.

Fi­nally there ap­pears to be a glim­mer of light at the end of the tun­nel in the town’s on­go­ing quest to have a derelict build­ing at the west end of Wa­ter Street de­mol­ished.

The Supreme Court has dis­missed an ap­peal by the Sur­prise Bag Com­pany (ap­par­ent owner of the build­ing) of an ap­peal board de­ci­sion, which up­held coun­cil’s ini­tial or­der to the com­pany to de­mol­ish its build­ing at 234 Wa­ter Street.

The owner of the Sur­prise Bag Com­pany has ad­mit­ted his ap­peal to the Supreme Court was the only av­enue left open to him af­ter the ap­peal board ruled in fa­vor of the town. So the ball is now back in coun­cil’s court. We un­der­stand the town, which is de­ter­mined to have the struc­ture re­moved, is look­ing at all its op­tions. It’s keep­ing its cards close to its chest un­til they have all been ex­plored and a de­ci­sion is reached on what their next move will be.

One of the peo­ple anx­ious to see some ac­tion on this file is a busi­ness­man, who is in­vest­ing some big bucks on a com­plete restora­tion of the stone build­ing from which the newer build­ing sticks out like a sore thumb.

If coun­cil has any spare plaques or medals float­ing around, per­haps they should re­serve a spe­cial one for this gen­tle­man for hav­ing enough re­spect and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for our built her­itage to be will­ing to in­vest so heav­ily in a project from which he may never re­cover his full in­vest­ment.

That’s an anom­aly in an en­tre­pre­neur, es­pe­cially one who has no other ap­par­ent con­nec­tion to this his­toric place. It’s also quite a con­trast from the at­ti­tude of the mer­chants of old who ruled Wa­ter Street for cen­turies. Time for a lit­tle his­tory les­son. One fine day some­time in the early 1970s one of the own­ers of the orig­i­nal stone­house build­ing men­tioned to this writer that when they were plan­ning their ex­pan­sion in the 1950s, they should have knocked down the stone build­ing and re­placed it with a mod­ern struc­ture.

That ob­ser­va­tion typ­i­fied the at­ti­tude of the mer­chant classes to­wards their own his­tory and her­itage.

At least up to the mid­dle of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury, com­mer­cial build­ings ex­isted for one pur­pose — to carry out busi­ness and make a buck. That’s how the free en­ter­prise sys­tem works and there is noth­ing wrong with it. But times and at­ti­tudes change. And in the 33 years since the Car­bon­ear Her­itage So­ci­ety was founded in 1979, it has done much to in­crease pub­lic aware­ness of our her­itage. But they can tell you that rais­ing pub­lic lev­els of con­scious­ness of the need to pre­serve what we have is still an on­go­ing, never end­ing strug­gle in 2012.

And such lack of un­der­stand­ing is not con­fined to the pub­lic, but is also ev­i­dent among town coun­cils and other lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

The town coun­cil is to be com­mended for the fine work that’s been done in lever­ag­ing fed­eral and pro­vin­cial dol­lars for the Car­bon­ear Is­land Project and restor­ing and pre­serv­ing the Rail­way Sta­tion, Rorke Store and old post of­fice.

It’s also en­cour­ag­ing to see the fine ex­am­ples of restora­tion projects the pri­vate sec­tor has in­vested in along one of North Amer­ica’s old­est streets.

Her­itage dis­trict

Some years ago coun­cil de­clared the street to be a her­itage dis­trict, with at­ten­dant rules and her­itage by­laws pre­sum­ably de­signed to gov­ern what can and can­not be done to pro­tect the in­tegrity of her­itage struc­tures.

But no reg­u­la­tions or by­laws are worth the pa­per they are writ­ten on un­less they are fol­lowed and en­forced.

In re­cent times we’ve seen too many dis­turb­ing ex­am­ples of such by­laws be­ing con­tra­vened or ig­nored.

For ex­am­ple, coun­cil needs re­mind­ing that they should never al­low own­ers to in­stall vinyl sid­ing, mod­ern win­dows and mold­ings on build­ings that were con­structed long be­fore alu­minum and vinyl sid­ing were in­vented. It just doesn’t fit. It’s a no no in a her­itage dis­trict.

Surely such reg­u­la­tions can’t be that hard to en­force. When­ever a de­vel­oper ap­plies for a coun­cil per­mit to ren­o­vate/re­store a her­itage build­ing, shouldn’t it be a sim­ple mat­ter of hand­ing them a copy of the reg­u­la­tions to be com­plied with be­fore the dam­age is done, and the in­tegrity of a her­itage struc­ture has been dam­aged or de­stroyed.

It was also our un­der­stand­ing that the in­tent of the her­itage by­laws were to al­low other floors to be uti­lized as apart­ment spa­ces, with street-lev­els to be main­tained as store­fronts. That would en­cour­age a di­verse mix of busi­nesses, in­clud­ing stores, cof­fee shops, restau­rants of­fices, bou­tiques, pubs, gyms etc…

Let’s get back on track with this plan to im­ple­ment the true spirit and in­tent of a her­itage dis­trict be­fore the pro­lif­er­a­tion of apart­ments turns this once thriv­ing com­mer­cial street into some­thing it was never in­tended to be. Bill Bow­man The Com­pass Dear Ed­i­tor:

As a physi­cian work­ing at the Car­bon­ear Gen­eral Hospi­tal, it is dis­tress­ing to have to pass in­creas­ing amounts of garbage ly­ing around the base of the build­ing and at the emer­gency en­trance in par­tic­u­lar when go­ing into work.

It would ap­pear that the cul­ture of “don’t care” strongly ex­ists here. Out­side ap­pear­ances strongly re­flect what goes on inside, so pa­tients must be wor­ried when they visit.

I have in­cluded two pho­to­graphs taken to­day ( July 13). The pile of metal has been out­side the emer­gency en­trance for ages. Cig­a­rette butts are a fea­ture of much of the base of the build­ing. We will never stop peo­ple smok­ing, but there are sim­ple vac­uum ma­chines avail­able, to clear up such a mess and make the area look pre­sentable and cared for.

Do we not have, at Car­bon­ear Gen­eral Hospi­tal, very highly paid, and many sug­gest over­paid, ad­min­is­tra­tors? Are they not sup­posed to su­per­vise and cor­rect this sort of prob­lem?

Dr. David C. Prior is a spe­cial­ist in­ob­stet­rics/ gy­ne­col­ogy at Car­bon­ear Gen­eral Hospi­tal. He is

semi-re­tired, and re­sides in White­way. Dear Ed­i­tor:

I am won­der­ing if any of your read­ers can help me. I am look­ing for any­one who might be con­nected to the Snow fam­ily from St. John’s.

My grand­fa­ther was Joseph Snow, born in Clarke’s Beach or Port de Grave in 1834, died May 4, 1915. He mar­ried (sec­ond mar­riage) Caro­line Rose Bel­bin from New Chelsea. She was born June 5, 1854, died Dec. 5, 1940. They had 10 chil­dren.

My fa­ther is Wil­liam Joseph, born in St. John’s Oct. 22, 1889, died June 5, 1958.

I have ex­hausted all other sources of in­for­ma­tion. There may be fam­ily con­nec­tions liv­ing in your area who can help.

I can be reached by email at ed­naway@nl.rogers.com, or by phone at 709-256-4616

Edna Way

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