Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In praise of preservation

I tuned in to council last night to catch the lively debate (and, oh, was it lively!) on the WUC rate increase and was given a special little gem that wasn't reported in the Star, and likely won't be until the shovel is in the ground or, in this case, not in the ground.

The province gave the Greater Essex-County District School Board a big bag of money to spend on rehabilitating (read: rebuilding) three schools in the city. One of those schools was to be John Campbell Public School on Tecumseh Road on the edge of South Walkerville. For those of you have have never been inside, or even by that outstanding piece of 1920's architecture, you are missing out. Suffice it to say, they just don't build them like that anymore. Trust me, 80 years from now nobody is going to be saying "Wow, that old Talbot Trail school is such an architectual masterpiece, we're sure lucky to have that in our neighbourhood."

The school board had originally proposed razing the school and rebuilding it completely -- a process that has been employed countless times throughout the city and province. With this old beauty, citizens of Windsor, along with the Heritage Preservation Board, swayed the board to work out a masterpiece of a plan where the exterior of the school, along with all the detail, grandeur and history, would be preserved and the interior would be mostly renovated. I say mostly because they have also committed to preserving architectually and historically significant portions of the interior including the current administrative offices, the gym (it'll be completely redone, but will be redone to fit the style and period of the building) and, my favourite, they will be restoring a single classroom to the same way it was in 1927. sure, all of the latest gadgets and luxuries will be added to the classrooms. Wireless internet, facility upgrades, etc etc., but the school will be a fully functional heritage site. Yep, that's right -- the city, schoolboard and heritage committee intend to pursue a heritage designation for this property. That means that once they sink this $10 million into the old girl that they will be on the hook to maintain this living artifact.

I've never been a really big fan of the schoolboard, having a gaggle or so of kids who attend their schools. Last night, for just a moment, I thought that maybe, just maybe, Mary Jean and the gang got it. Hopefully we will see some more inspiration from other municipal and provincial bodies in preserving and accentuating our heritage properties. Most people would say that heritage preservation in Windsor is dead, or at least dying. I would suggest that there are glimmers of hope in an otherwise desolate landscape. If we keep at it, and keep encouraging those who keep at it, we will see the fruits of our labours, and labours of our progenitors, for decades to come.

1 comment:

Topher Holt said...

And it's not just the fact that they are preserving a historical structure, but also the fact that they are not building some mega-school out in the boonies that further reinforce the outward draw of the suburbs. This investment will keep people in the city, and possibly, make people move inwards instead of out.

This is great news, and further evidence that we don't scrutinize the goins-on of the school board as much as we really need to. They mold the physical environs of Windsor almost as much as our City Council, and further illustrates the need to tie municipal taxes to the school boards. If that were the case, then the impact on the city would need to be considered when the boards make infrastructure decisions.

Thanks DTH.