Restor­ing Auch­mar

Do­na­tions right now are cru­cial to suc­cess

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - ROBIN MCKEE

The race to round up votes and dol­lars for a sig­nif­i­cant cause will cross the fin­ish line this Thurs­day at noon. It’s time for cel­e­bra­tion, thanks and a fi­nal drive for ad­di­tional do­na­tions.

For the past month, the Friends of Auch­mar char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion has been im­mersed in This Place Mat­ters, a crowd­fund­ing ini­tia­tive or­ga­nized by the Na­tional Trust for Canada.

All in, 26 se­lect project teams from across Canada are part of a friendly on­line com­pe­ti­tion to pre­serve and re­store her­itage prop­er­ties.

Pro­jects range from his­toric manor houses and mon­u­ments to a tech hub in Mon­treal and vin­tage road­side tav­ern near Strat­ford. To­gether, th­ese prop­er­ties form a trea­sury of one-of-a-kind as­sets that de­fine our coun­try on its 150th an­niver­sary.

Our lo­cal project is the restora­tion of the dove­cote at the Auch­mar Es­tate near West 5th and Fen­nell Av­enue West.

When the com­pe­ti­tion wraps up on Thurs­day, we ex­pect to have raised ap­prox­i­mately $5,000 cou­pled with votes that could put us in the run­ning for ad­di­tional monies from event or­ga­niz­ers.

Put in per­spec­tive, we ran a solid race and will fin­ish among the top teams in our class. We’re proud of our ef­forts as new­com­ers to on­line crowd­fund­ing and have learned many lessons for fu­ture cam­paigns. And we’re thrilled to think how monies given by donors will be held in trust and ap­plied to our project.

Peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions across Canada are keen to re­an­i­mate Hamil­ton’s Auch­mar Es­tate — a 10-acre, city-owned prop­erty built by the Hon­ourable Isaac Buchanan in the 1850s. It fea­tures a host of spe­cial el­e­ments, in­clud­ing a Vic­to­rian dove­cote once used to house pi­geons and doves.

Over­all, this is a large, multi-year restora­tion ini­tia­tive that has been di­vided into small, man­age­able pro­jects. Friends of Auch­mar vol­un­teers — in part­ner­ship with the City of Hamil­ton, Her­itage Hamil­ton Foun­da­tion, En­vi­ron­ment Hamil­ton and many oth­ers — are cur­rently fo­cused on the makeover of the Auch­mar dove­cote.

The dove­cote, one of two known to re­main in On­tario, is a unique 19th cen­tury jewel that must be saved for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Pic­ture a small stone struc­ture topped with pointed gables and a dis­tinc­tive finial. Our vi­sion is to re­store the dove­cote and put it to new use as a fo­cal point for gath­er­ings, cer­e­monies and pho­tog­ra­phy.

Com­bined with a com­mu­nity gar­den, the dove­cote will be a sig­na­ture in­gre­di­ent of a fully re­stored Auch­mar Es­tate that is open to the pub­lic and em­blem­atic of Hamil­ton’s re­spect for its ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage.

The dove­cote project is im­por­tant on its own. Yet it has a far more pow­er­ful mean­ing in the con­text of a larger story: the her­itage restora­tion of the Auch­mar Es­tate. When re­newal work is com­plete in the com­ing years, the es­tate will be a ma­jor as­set of lo­cal, re­gional and na­tional sig­nif­i­cance. It is en­vis­aged as the fu­ture home to sev­eral lead­ing not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions com­mit­ted to pub­lic ser­vice — in­clud­ing com­po­nents of the sto­ried Royal Hamil­ton Light In­fantry (RHLI) — and a place for learn­ing, recre­ation, din­ing and spe­cial events.

Lo­cally, the es­tate will be known as one of a few re­main­ing her­itage land­marks on Hamil­ton Moun­tain, a part of the city that has ab­sorbed a large share of new growth over the years. In time, plans call for the Auch­mar Es­tate to be con­nected to the neigh­bour­ing Cen­tury Manor Es­tate and Che­doke House to cre­ate a her­itage precinct.

For us, the Auch­mar Es­tate is a puz­zle that needs to be painstak­ingly as­sem­bled, piece by piece. Our ven­ture into crowd­fund­ing has gen­er­ated a tar­geted fund to help the dove­cote find its place in the sun.

Time is run­ning out to do­nate. Visit ThisPlaceMat­ters.ca and click on “fund” to do­nate and vote. Please act be­fore noon on Thurs­day to make a dif­fer­ence.

Spe­cial thanks to Dr. Diane Dent, chair of Friends of Auch­mar, for em­brac­ing This Place Mat­ters, a na­tional plat­form that has en­abled Hamil­ton to show­case two home­grown pro­jects: the dove­cote and the façade restora­tion of the for­mer Capi­tol The­atre in the Gore Park dis­trict.

We also ac­knowl­edge the sup­port of the City of Hamil­ton, our so­cial mar­ket­ing team led by Leanne Pluthero, and each donor. Thank you.

Robin McKee is vice-chair of Friends of Auch­mar. Visit Friend­sofAuch­mar.ca to learn more and get in­volved.

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