Good process and open consultation important; Heritage Foundation
The church in Princeton was only one of four Anglican churches deconsecrated this summer.
St. James in King’s Cove, St. Phillips in Keels, and All Saints in Petley were all deconsecrated Friday, June 20.
Of those four, only Princeton’s St. Peter’s was torn down; the other three were purchased by buyers who had submitted proposals to the Diocese.
St. James in King’s Cove and All Saints in Petley will become private properties, while St. Phillips in Keels has been bought by another church.
Jerry Dick, executive director of Heritage Foundation, Newfoundland and Labrador, says good process and open consultation are often the key to preserving any historic structure.
“What we’re interested in seeing is a good process whereby the community can consider what other options there are for a church or historic building… good community consultation and discussion as to what the options are, and then a process, ideally, where there is an open call for expressions of interest in adeptly reusing a church building, with maybe the community being given the first opportunity,” he told The Packet in a recent interview.
Dick admits not every building will be saved, but if good process, public discussion, and a request for expressions of interest are used to help preserve a building, the community is typically more accepting of even a negative outcome.
Dick noted an example of where this process has been successful; the recent purchase of the Immaculate Conception Church in Harbor Grace.
“We worked closely with the Roman Catholic Grand Falls Diocese on Immaculate Conception Church in Harbour Grace,” he said, noting consultations were held and an expression of interest released by the church.
That building was purchased by Craig Flynn and Brenda O’Riley, owners of Yellowbelly Brewery in St. John’s, in midOctober to be refit as a restaurant, hotel and spa, conference space, brewery and beer garden.
Dick, who acknowledges that while everybody may not like the idea of the old church being used as a brewery, says at the end of the day “the important thing is that the community was consulted and the church is going to be preserved.”
Losing such buildings, says Dick, strikes a blow to communities that touches more than just pocket books.
“It can have a very profound effect, particularly when we look at church buildings and other kinds of institutional buildings, like schools or community halls. I think people’s personal stories are all wrapped up in these places,” he noted. “They’re also landmarks… important, physical landmarks in a community”
“When there is even a simple closure of a church, there is a feeling of grief and frustration in a community.”
But there are ways that communities can protect their heritage buildings.
Dick explains that one of the best ways to do so is to have municipalities designate structures of historic value.
“That’s probably one of the best levels of protection, because they control permitting— any building permits, any demolition permits, are controlled by municipalities. So they actually have one of the strongest tools.”
Under the Municipalities Act, any municipality can designate important buildings, structures, and even land, as a heritage site.
Buildings can also be protected under the Provincial Historic Resources Act, which allows the Heritage Foundation to designate a site as a provincially-recognized historical site.
However, designation by the Heritage Foundation is commemorative only; there is no legal obligation of the property owner to keep the building up to heritage standards; until funding becomes involved.
“Once the owner of a designated property receives funding they enter into a legal contract with Heritage NL which requires them to: a) consult with the foundation on any changes; b) abide by the national standards and guidelines for heritage conservation. They would not be allowed to tear down or alter the heritage character without the consent of the foundation,” Dick explains.