The fate of historic buildings in Toronto all too often acts as a pointer to the state of built heritage preservation elsewhere in our present ‘Places To Grow‘ Ontario. The destruction of the century old beaux arts-style Bank of Montreal building at 2444 Yonge Street earlier this year proved a particularly egregious example of the flaws in current planning rules that allow key landmarks to our past to disappear without a trace. At 150 years of Canadian confederation one might have hoped that the major visible public symbols of time past could be the subject for improved legislation to protect them.
Here in the Headwaters one consequence of a mischievous campaign by a small clique of commercial property owners to delay Town Council-approved designation of the historic village core of Bolton, by referring the declaration of a Heritage Conservation District to the OMB, had as an outcome the overnight destruction of the historic Prosser house on King Street, once the home of the local surveyor who produced the earliest known map of the village.
Recently announced Ontario Government plans to change the rules governing referrals to the Ontario Municipal Board so that greater weight is given to local council decisions, if enacted may offer potential for limiting the damage selfish developers and property owners with no care for our past have inflicted on formerly historic street-scapes like North Toronto’s section of Yonge Street.
The alternative fate for retail districts is a glitter-scape of glass and chrome. Heritage districts preserved retain a charm and human scale that no amount of modernity can reproduce. Nicely aged buildings speak to those who inhabit and use them about continuity and respect. They are the most visible sign of a proud past. Without them we become a people without roots – an ever more diverse society moving to a future without the points of reference that landmark buildings from former times provide.