A bottle of wine and block of cheese for culture minister Aileen Carroll

The chapel at Alma College

The chapel at Alma College

For exactly 14 months,the supporters of 96 Moore Street in St.Thomas have been trying in vain to obtain provincial heritage designation for this historic property,but have yet to get a response from the culture ministry since the horrific fire that completely destroyed Alma College in May of 2008.The property has 130 years of rich history behind it,and 2 of the original buildings (the chapel & music building) still remain standing,and are in need of protection from the Ontario government.

Over the past 14 months,it has been reported on countless occasions that you have attended many grand openings of art galleries and other regal events,that serve up wine & cheese,but what is missing in all the reporting is your lack of concern or caring for our built heritage.I have yet to see one headline promoting or protecting built heritage,I have also not seen one photograph of you in front of an historic building,announcing that the ministry of culture has used its power under the heritage act to save it.It’s very alarming that nearly every endangered building that has relied on your ministry for protection,has been brought down by the wrecking ball.I would be very interested to know how many historic buildings have been brought down by the wrecking ball on your watch,and even more interested in how many of those buildings could have been saved,had you used your powers as culture minister to keep them standing.I would now like to formally invite you to the gates of 96 Moore Street,at a date of your choosing,the Alma supporters will of course supply a block of cheese and a bottle of wine,because from all the recent headlines it seems the only events you will attend,are serving up wine & cheese.We can’t promise you a regal event,but what we can promise you,is that you will walk on an historic piece of property,that has given 130 years of outstanding service to our province.It’s high time the culture ministry recognized the contribution 96 Moore Street had made for over a century.We ask once again,will you give provincial heritage designation to 96 Moore Street?

Bob Foster

2 thoughts on “A bottle of wine and block of cheese for culture minister Aileen Carroll

  1. Bob,

    I too question Aileen Carroll’s understanding and commitment to the preservation of our architectural heritage.

    Having said that, I did receive a response from her on June 25th, 2008 to my request of May 18th, 2008 which stated; “With all due respect to the judicial processes at work, I respectfully request your immediate intervention in this quandary and to employ the power and authority of your Ministry, on behalf of all Ontarians, to preserve Alma College.”

    Here is a portion of her response to me;

    “Sadly, on May 28, a fire destroyed the main Alma College building, leaving only a portion of the exterior walls. I recognize the loss to the residents of St. Thomas and the alumnae of Alma College, and share the community’s disappointment in the loss of such a significant heritage landmark.

    The City of St. Thomas had recognized the heritage value of this property by designating it under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1994. However, the City of St. Thomas subsequently determined that no viable adaptive re-use strategies had been proposed and that Alma College was in an advanced state of deterioration due to neglect over a period of many years. In order to restore the buildings, tens of millions would have been required in restoration costs.

    The City therefore came to an agreement with the owner that the buildings could be demolished. The Ontario Municipal Board was charged with reviewing this agreement and had released its final decision which supported the demolition. The demolition approved by the
    OMB applied to all buildings and structures on the property except for the north-centre entranceway of the main building. The Ministry was not a party to the hearing, and therefore could not appeal the decision.”

    1. She states that Alma College received designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1994, 14 years prior to the fire. If that is correct, why did it not receive “provincial heritage designation”? Do you know Bob?

    2. She lays the demise of Alma College squarely at the doorstep of the City of St. Thomas, and I agree.

    This city council VOTED in favour of demolishing Alma College (prior to the fire), failed to enforce municipal property by-law 12-99 and tried to pass the buck here, there and everywhere. That hardly sounds like a recipe for preserving our architectural heritage.

    If a city fails to champion the cause to preserve its heritage, and you have to rely on other levels of government to intervene; well we have seen first-hand the outcome, and it’s an absolute travesty.

    This mayor and this council save and except Alderman Lori Baldwin-Sands and Alderman Heather Jackson, VOTED to demolish Alma College.

    Let’s hope the residents of St. Thomas remember that when they VOTE November 8th, 2010.

    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas

  2. Hi, I lived in St. Thomas between 1969-1978. Now that I am a 55 year old woman, and learning of the tragic fire and seeing the lovely photos of this historic landmark over 130 years, I can only say shame on the powers that be that never allocated funds to preserve this wonderful college into a heritage site. What a terrible loss. I truly hope that the 2 remaining structures will prompt the Minister of Culture to act and preserve them, but I won’t hold my breath. St. Thomas is famous (or is that infamous) for 2 poignant incidences in it’s history. Both are tragic. The first is the careless death of Jumbo, the beloved elephant from the Barnum and Bailey circus when he was hit by a train in 1885 and this fire that destroyed Alma College. Both of these have definitely put St. Thomas on the map (or the web) so to speak, but it leaves one with a bittersweet taste…

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