Recently, I attended a meeting regarding the future of the old fire hall/town hall in Lewisporte. The meeting, called by the town council, took place inside the old building that has stood at the bottom of Exploit’s Street for most of our lives. The purpose of the gathering was to gauge locals on whether to try and save the post-World War II structure or tear it down.
From the conversations I overheard, most of those in attendance were in support of trying to salvage the building and find a viable way to utilize it. Some of the ideas put forth included a Newfoundland and Labrador Art Gallery, a Performance/Theatre building and a Tea Room. With Lewisporte’s downtown revitalization program at hand, the preservation of this hall seems not only logical, but necessary, in my eyes.
Not everyone at the meeting, however, agreed with my so-called logic. A good friend asked me irritably, “Why do they want to save it? It’s only 50 or 60 years old anyway, it’s not a heritage building.” It’s precisely that ‘out with the old, in with the new’ attitude and lack of foresight that has left Lewisporte without a single business or structure that qualifies as a heritage building.
Having said that, it is important to note that just because a building doesn’t meet the requirements to be declared a Heritage Site doesn’t make it worthless. A structure’s value is in the eyes of its residents and I for one don’t need the Heritage Society or anyone else to qualify what’s important and what’s not. If it feels valuable, it is. It should also be said as well that if the building is indeed preserved, in 20 or 30 years, it will become a heritage site.
Why is it that some towns cherish and preserve its old structures while others see fit to tear down aging buildings and cut down 100 year old trees at the drop of a dime?