Council moves towards long-term plan for preserving Victoria Hall

By Robert Washburn

A small step towards a long-term plan to preserve Victoria Hall as a national landmark was unanimously approved Monday night at Cobourg council.

An application for up to $10,000 in funding would provide half the funding for a major strategic plan to outline future restoration and preservation.

Victoria Hall Volunteers President Claire Lloyd said her organization, which raises money to assist with maintaining the building, said this is delightful news.

“We think it is imperative,” she said. “Working as volunteers with a mandate to preserve the historical aspects of Victoria Hall, this strategic plan will ensure the hall remains a beautiful landmark that it is.”

The conservation plan is part of Cobourg council’s strategic plan in dealing with all the buildings operated by the town, including the Cobourg Police Station, the C. Gordon King Centre/Cobourg Public Library, among others.

The town has already undertaken a review of Victoria Hall, outlining the current state of the building called an Integrity Statement, which was prepared by the planning department and approved by Parks Canada, the federal agency responsible for national landmarks.

The grants will mean there will be a plan in place to continually be able to restore the building, rather than doing it on ad hoc basis, said Ashley Purdy, the town’s spokesperson.

“(The building) is a big part of who we are. It is an important part of Cobourg,” she said.

Restoration and preservation are significant as with the case of the $167,000 repair of the clock tower that began Monday, she added.

Lloyd said it is hard to believe the town once thought to tear down the building at one point because it was in such a poor state.

In 1970-71, Victoria Hall was declared unsafe and was emptied because it was in such bad shape. The roof leaked. The foundation was unstable. And, it was crumbling to a point where it would be torn down to create a parking lot.

Led by former Cobourg municipal politician Lenah Fisher, a group of citizen decided to save the building constructed in the 1850s. With the money raised, it was restored to its former glory as architect Kiva Tully has designed it. Once the job was complete, it was out of the original group of citizens the Victoria Hall Volunteers was formed.

Lloyd said the volunteers have raised more than $300,000 since 1975 donating money towards the current clock town restoration, a grand piano, chairs for the concert hall, restoration of seats in the council chambers, among a host of other projects.

“Creating a Conservation Plan for Victoria Hall will ensure its commemorative integrity,” she said.

Written for Northumberland Today for July 4, 2013. Not pubished