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Southampton rectory named among 'top 10' endangered places in Canada

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Southampton’s former St. Paul’s Anglican Church rectory is on the National Trust for Canada’s Top 10 Endangered Places list.

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The heritage group announced on Tuesday its 15th annual top-10 list, created to increase public scrutiny of the fate of endangered buildings and other places.

Another site listed is Birtle Indian Residential School, one of the last remaining residential schools, which operated between 1889 and 1972 in Manitoba. Ontario’s New Homes, More Choice Act, which “guts municipal ability to protect local heritage,” also made the list.

The National Trust noted Southampton’s former rectory, at 254 High St., was recommended for inclusion in the town’s heritage register by the municipal heritage committee in 2018 but town council decided not to include it.

There was “strong community outcry” when Bruce County decided to buy the rectory site and demolish the rectory to expand the adjacent Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre and add a new Ontario Nuclear Innovation Institute.

The Trust cited a poll of 1,600 respondents which found 86 per cent favoured retaining the house and noted the county’s plans prompted the formation of the Southampton Cultural Heritage Conservancy.

“Community members continue to call on county council to halt demolition plans and integrate the rectory into any new development plans for the site,” the Trust said.

The Southampton Cultural Heritage Conservancy issued a news release saying inclusion of the rectory “confirms the judgement shared by many that it deserves recognition as an essential part of Southampton’s story that should be preserved.”

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It notes the two-storey former rectory is designed in “fine Queen Anne and Gothic Revival style” and is at a historic intersection which includes the former rectory and three Victorian churches, at the entrance to Fairy Lake.

The non-profit organization continues to work to save the former rectory.

It just launched a website and will hold a “peaceful protest march” concerning the planned demolition of the rectory around Fairy Lake on June 30 from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

And SCHC and Southampton resident Laura Robinson have applied to the Superior Court of Justice for an injunction stopping demolition and for a ruling, including on whether Bruce County’s purchase of the rectory with a $500,000 archives bequest was legal.

That application, and one brought in response by Bruce County seeking court direction on its past and ongoing use of the Krug bequest, will be heard Aug. 8 in Walkerton. The county’s application had been scheduled to be heard Thursday.

The appeal to the court is a last-ditch effort by local heritage proponents to stop Bruce County from demolishing the rectory.

As recently as April the county said by news release that demolition was needed “to expand the archival services of the museum while investigating co-location options to advance this cultural hub.” What those may be remains unclear.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau, who chairs the county museum committee, said in March that he still favours the site for the nuclear innovation centre.

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The Ontario Nuclear Innovation Institute design was considered by critics to be an outsized, glassy box, out of place in among heritage buildings, but which would have been fine in a more appropriate setting.

That and parking and traffic, among other concerns, led local nuclear operator Bruce Power to withdraw its support for that location.

Chris Wiebe, National Trust’s heritage policy and government relations manager, said results have been “mixed” on whether inclusion on Canada’s Top 10 Endangered Places list has resulted in those places being saved.

But inclusion of the St. Stephen, N.B. post office on the list in 2016 “brought renewed attention and resolve to town council to save that building,” he said.

And downtown Guelph’s distinctive four-storey Petrie Building was at risk of demolition from neglect but listing it in 2014 was “instrumental” in finding new partners and getting funding to help restore it, he said.

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