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Heritage protection sought for township halls

Woolwich’s former township halls – one in Elmira, the other in Conestogo – are on their way to be deemed heritage structures. The township this week gave official ‘notice of intention to designate’ under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Both buildings were declared as surplus properties in September, the first step in Woolwich’s plan to sell them, but neither will go on the market until the heritage process is complete, likely by the end of the year.

Official designation will place restrictions on any future alterations to structures.

In the case of the Elmira facility, located at 69 Arthur St. S., exterior facades facing Arthur and Wyatt streets, as well as the interior of the clock tower dating back to 1914, will be protected, director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley told councillors meeting Tuesday night.

Showing influences of classical and Italianate styles, the structure is a replica of similar public buildings, mainly post offices, located in small Ontario towns. With its clock tower – still in use today – it’s the only building in the entire township built in the “Ontario Post Office Style.”

Although altered with additions over the years, much of the exterior facing Wyatt and Arthur streets retains the original design and character, he explained.

The building has been in public use since its construction, as a post office, police station and township hall.

The old township hall in Conestogo, located at 1924 Sawmill Rd., was built in 1888 as a church for the Mennonite Brethren in Christ. The entire exterior, which represents a good example of the style of construction used by Mennonite builders at the time, will be protected under the heritage designation.

It was used as a church until it was sold to the township in 1939.

The building’s interior has been greatly modified over the years, and won’t be covered by the designation.

Coun. Murray Martin, citing the example of the structure’s stone foundation, asked how much flexibility the owner of the building would have to do repairs.

“It wouldn’t have to be identical, but something similar – something sympathetic to the heritage designation,” Kennaley explained.

Designation would see the buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the same process assigned to the West Montrose Covered Bridge in 2007.

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