A Slice of the Public History Real World… at the Ontario Heritage Trust

Hard to believe but today marks the fourth week of my internship with the Ontario Heritage Trust, in Toronto. It has been an awesome few weeks, I have been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to blog about it yet! The initial couple days were overwhelming with people and information, and I was thrown right into heritage easements and how properties are protected by the Trust.  The Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT), is the lead heritage agency for the province, that works to protect heritage properties for the people of Ontario today and for generations to come. They have some buildings in their collection that they maintain, this includes Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre, Fulford Place, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Niagara Apothecary.

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Fulford Place, OHT property Brockville. Edwardian Mansion built in 1899-1900.

They are also the ones that put up all those blue provincial heritage plaques you see in random places around Ontario.

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And they put on a little something called Doors Open Ontario…which I will go into more later.

My role for the summer is as the Heritage Assistant helping conduct research on properties and put together the Statement of Significances (SOS). These SOS’s provide information on the historic background of a property, its architectural value and its contextual (where is it situated? landscape?) value. These statements are put up online and used internally by staff of the Trust when putting together an easement or monitoring a particular property.  I am currently working on one for Victoria Hall, in Brockville, which the stone exterior of the building and the interior ballroom are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. This means that they cannot be altered without consultation with the OHT. While at the same time the OHT continues to monitor the property and provide the owner with maintenance suggestions that they should follow to preserve the building.

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                          Victoria Hall was built in 1862, originally has a community market hall, in the 1880s it was altered into town offices. This included a two storey addition on the rectangular rear building. The bell and clock were added to the tower in 1904 and have been maintained in working order for over a hundred years.

The best part about putting together the SOS’s is that I actually get to visit a lot of the properties, to gain a better understanding of their architecture. In my first week I was back in my old stomping grounds of Guelph, visited the Town Hall in Acton and went to a Trust owned Natural Heritage property called the Cheltenham Badlands, which is just outside of Caledon.

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The Badlands- created after years of erosion from farming.

I am learning a ton so far, as I am currently trying to gain an understanding of all the architectural terminology. My research usually leads me into looking up different window types (double hung, sash, fanlight), stair components (newel, baluster) or exterior moulding (voussoired arches, keystones, label stops). This is along with the variety of architectural styles that emerged in Ontario (Regency, Georgian, Italianate). I find myself now examining houses and buildings more closely on walks around the city and trying to determine their style and features. Very exciting happenings in the world of heritage preservation!

Next Blog: Doors Open Toronto 2014

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