MHC Heritage Diary - Episode 1 - Introduction to the Muncipal Heritage Committee and its Beginnings

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In this episode, Municipal Heritage Committee Chair, Peter Handley, talks about how the Committee came to be and how it has evolved over time. Handley shares that in 1988, a group of courageous citizens fought to protect a piece of North Bay's heritage from demolition and that, although it has been more than thirty years since these citizens took their stand, a similar group of passionate individuals strives to keep their mission of local heritage preservation alive through the Municipal Heritage Committee. We hope that this introductory episode has provided you with a bit of insight into the Municipal Heritage Committee, who we are and what we do. Thank you for spending time with us today, join us next time as we explore another page in the diary of our collective past.

Hi there and good day! Welcome to Heritage Diary. Listen up and we shall weave for you tales of days and times gone by which can inform today and show the way to tomorrow. This Municipal Heritage Committee podcast looks at our town, our people and our stories.
This time we open the diary of our shared past and look at the history of the MHC itself – what we do and how we do it. Basically, we owe our existence to a group of folk in the Jane Street area who were protesting and protecting the loss of homes to Ecole Algonquin’s making up of parking lots and athletic fields. It all started back in 1988, Ms. Isabel Mauro who lived at 690 Jane protested to the City and got absolutely nowhere. So, in 1994, a group of citizens in the Jane Street area who were worried about homes being purchased and demolished by the school board got together a petition and letters. Letters came from Bill Church, the aforementioned Ms. Mauro and Reverend Jim and Donna Sinclair. Don Vincent prepared the petition and it all went to the City. Staff Reports went up to Council and there was no real way to save 630 Jane – the property in question. There was a lot of discussion as a result and Staff Reports came to Council. A ‘Heritage Zone’ was mentioned but then the LACAC (Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee) came up. Jack Smiley, Chair of the Planning and Development Committee of Council, said that Council would never go for something like that because the LACAC would put serious restrictions on what homeowners could do to their own property. After much discussion, we came up with a basterdized LACAC. We don’t designate which is the official term that places restrictions on properties, instead, we recognize properties and the only strength to that is moral suasion. On the 15th of April, 1996, LACAC was formed and has been going ever since all because of the group in the Jane Street area who got up on their hind legs and said: “we won’t take it anymore.”
The ironic thing about this whole story is that the only property left on that block of Jane Street is the former residence of Ms. Mauro – 690 Jane Street. The school has picked up all the rest. Only one home left, but the LACAC, now the Municipal Heritage Committee, is going and going strong.
To give you an idea of what we do, the first thing that comes to mind is evaluating building structures. We go through and evaluate structures as to architecture, history, environment, usability and integrity. For a structure or home to be given a Glass Plaque, which is emblematic of a Level One, they need 90 out of 100 points after the evaluation by the Committee. The Committee is made up of citizens, a Council Representative, a Ministry Representative, North Bay Area Museum Curator, a member of the North Bay Architectural Society – currently it is Andrew Bruce Payne who basically is the key to these evaluations as he knows what it is all about. As mentioned, we recognize, not designate, but we would be key to the process if anyone did wish to have their province designated by Council. The evaluation leads to a comprehensive report on the structure to determine whether it is a level one, two or three. For the last decade, Jennifer Buell has been making up these reports and she has turned them into sort of an art form in putting it all together with structures, information and pictures.
Once we had been going for a few years, the province changed the name from LACAC to Municipal Heritage Committee. To us, that meant our mandate was expanded, so we created the Heritage Site Plaque Program. We had long thought about the buildings we had lost through fire and destruction like the original City Hall, Carnegie Library and the Court House. So part one of the HSP program celebrates what we have lost and what is no longer there. The second part celebrates what is still there, but has a changed purpose such as the Royal Theatre and some of the buildings on Main Street. The third part developed over time to share our stories like the Bomarc, Shipping on Lake Nipissing and the Barry Building Explosion. We have over 20 Heritage Site Plaques, many in the downtown area, but they are also moving out as we have one at the site of the old hospitals, Bomarc on Lakeshore Drive, Nipissing University at Cassellhome, the old jail which is coming up. The added benefit of these plaques, which has been utilized by the City, is the creation of walking tours. These Heritage Site Plaques, located at various places in the city, are designed by TWG Communications, two feet by three feet in size with twin supports.
Other projects include Heritage Week, Family Day with an unveiling or presentation, Historica Fair where we present our annual award or prize to a project that focuses on local heritage. We also put out a Newsletter once a year, we were involved in Doors Open in 2007, we provide public service announcements for Cogeco, we have an Illustrative Guide to Heritage Sites in the City of North Bay that is now in its fifth edition, we have created a Century of Service Award for the businesses in the community that have been serving the public for one hundred years, we have Youth Photography Contest that recently had its first iteration, we hope to work with another group to liven up the City Hall Lobby and the latest initiative is this podcast.
The Municipal Heritage Committee serves a four year term and a new council, means a new committee. There are forms at City Hall if you would like to apply for any committee including the Municipal Heritage Committee. We are a working committee, we do some interesting things and the purpose of course is to bring our local history alive and to the forefront.
That is what the Municipal Heritage Committee is all about. We thank you for spending some time with us today. Our productions are put together not only to retell old tales but hopefully to kindle interest in area history. Local lore is important to any community and we shouldn’t let it go unremarked or unremembered.
Views expressed in this podcast are not necessarily those of the Corporation of the City of North Bay or its employees.
Join us next time when we flip another page of the diary of our shared past.
You can reach us at peter.carello@cityofnorthbay.ca
Pete Handley speaking.