Sav­ing com­mu­nity and his­tory

Breath­ing new life into one of Twillingate’s old­est build­ings

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY KYLE GREENHAM

Restora­tion ef­forts are un­der­way to pre­serve one of the old­est com­mer­cial build­ings of Twillingate Is­land.

Deb­o­rah Bour­den and Wilma Hart­mann pur­chased the his­toric Vic­to­ria Hall, some­times re­ferred to as the So­ci­ety of United Fish­er­men (SUF) Hall, around three years ago. They bought the prop­erty with hopes of re­pair­ing the then-di­lap­i­dated struc­ture and pro­tect­ing the iconic site of lo­cal her­itage.

“Re­ally it’s a labour of love for us,” Bour­den said. “This build­ing was an im­por­tant part of this com­mu­nity for many gen­er­a­tions and our her­itage is im­por­tant with what we do here as a tourism in­dus­try.

“Now with a bit of ten­der love and care, and a bit of money of course, these build­ings can live an­other life.”

The Vic­to­ria Hall was orig­i­nally used as a store­house when Twillingate was a ma­jor

busi­ness cen­tre of Notre Dame Bay. By the 1860s, it was used by the mer­chant firm Messrs. Wat­ter­man and Co., and by 1875, the area’s So­ci­ety of United Fish­er­men es­tab­lished the build­ing as their head­quar­ters.

Since they’ve be­gun the restora­tion, Hart­mann and Bour­den now believe the build­ing’s con­struc­tion may date back to the 1820s or ‘30s be­cause of some of the ma­te­ri­als used. If this is true, it would make the struc­ture the old­est com­mer­cial build­ing in Twillingate.

Bour­den re­calls her days grow­ing up in Twillingate when the hall was the com­mon spot for school dances and wed­dings. With their plans to have it con­verted back into a mul­tiuse fa­cil­ity, the pair hope these kinds of mem­o­ries can be re­born for an­other gen­er­a­tion.

“We believe that if we’re not con­tin­u­ing to sal­vage these as­sets, we lose them and we lose a piece of her­itage,” said Hart­mann.

Some shin­gling and paint­ing work had been done when the build­ing was named a mu­nic­i­pal her­itage des­ig­na­tion back in 2007, but lit­tle had been done on the prop­erty since. When Bour­den and Hart­mann first took over own­er­ship from On­tario artist Ann Clarke, who used it for sev­eral summers as a stu­dio, they said ma­jor work was needed in both pre­serv­ing the foun­da­tion and pro­tect­ing the roof from col­lapse.

“It was re­ally threat­ened with be­ing lost,” Bour­den said.

Af­ter as­sess­ments from a struc­tural en­gi­neer last year, con­crete blocks were added at the hall’s foun­da­tion and pieces of rot­ted board were re­placed at its roof.

But there are chal­lenges to ren­o­vat­ing an his­toric build­ing. The over­all look and make of the build­ing has to meet the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the her­itage des­ig­na­tion guide­lines, en­sur­ing the Vic­to­ria Hall will main­tain its his­toric ap­pear­ance.

To pre­serve the build­ing’s his­toric aes­thetic hasn’t been easy.

“It looks as sim­ple as re­plac­ing a door, but it’s re­ally not,” Hart­mann said. “It’s a very great task to bring in a door that main­tains the in­tegrity and the char­ac­ter of this build­ing. Right now, we’re still re­search­ing what kind of rail will be put in to come up the steps out­side.

“It will prob­a­bly be a cus­tom piece, and that’s when restora­tion is not cheap.”

Through­out this sum­mer, the out­side of the build­ing has been re­paired, re­placed and re­painted. Bour­den says they plan to be­gin re­pair­ing and de­sign­ing the in­side of the build­ing next spring, and they are still brain­storm­ing ideas of how the hall can be best uti­lized by both the lo­cal com­mu­nity and as a tourism hotspot.

Any lo­cals who have his­toric pho­to­graphs, doc­u­ments or other in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to the hall are en­cour­aged to reach out to Bour­den and Hart­mann as they con­tinue to breathe new life into this lo­cal mon­u­ment of his­tory.

“Through cul­ture and her­itage, al­beit tourism is where the money comes from, we’re now sav­ing the com­mu­nity’s his­tory and those sto­ries,” said Bour­den. “This in­dus­try is now a driv­ing force in the sur­vival of ru­ral New­found­land.”

PHOTOS BY KYLE GREENHAM – THE CEN­TRAL VOICE

Deb­o­rah Bour­den, left, and Wilma Hart­mann pur­chased the his­toric Vic­to­ria Hall in Twillingate around three years ago, and con­sid­er­able work has been done so far to main­tain the build­ing’s struc­ture They have plans to uti­lize the build­ing as an all-pur­pose venue but are open to other ideas on how the her­itage site could be used

This sum­mer con­sid­er­able work has been done re­pair­ing, re­plac­ing and re­paint­ing the out­side struc­ture of the Vic­to­ria Hall. Next spring, work is ex­pected to be­gin on the in­side of the build­ing.

A his­toric piece of doc­u­men­ta­tion lo­cated in­side the Vic­to­ria Hall. The area’s So­ci­ety of United Fish­er­men es­tab­lished the build­ing as their head­quar­ters in 1875.

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