Lesson in history and heritage
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 709-256-4616