Two iconic downtown Elmira locations – the old township hall and the Gore Park bandstand – are now marked with heritage plaques following a ceremony organized September 15 by Woolwich’s heritage committee.

Last week’s ceremony is part of the revamped committee’s attempt to raise awareness of cultural heritage through the mounting of metal plaques on 12 structures in the township that have been designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Now home to the Elmira Wellness Centre, the former township hall at 69 Arthur St. S. was  designated as a heritage structure in 2010. The building is noted for its distinguishable exterior and interior clock tower, among other features. The offset square clock tower has a clock mechanism that was manufactured in Whitchurch, England in 1914 and is still in operation.

Having been built in 1912, the structure at one time housed the post office and the police station in Elmira.

The second of the locations, the Gore Park bandstand was constructed in 1912 and was designated under the Heritage Act in 1986 as an example of the centre of entertainment of small town life in the early 1900s.

Playing a large role in the history of the community, its construction was to house Elmira’s brass band, formed in 1873, and the cornet band of St John’s Lutheran Church.

Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz (center) presents a heritage plaque to Julianne Shantz of the Elmira Wellness Centre. The Arthur Street structure was previously the township hall, originally built as a post office. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]

Although originally constructed downtown near Arthur and Church streets, the bandstand was move to its location at Gore Park in 1898. The current bandstand used today was finished in 1912, after a group petitioned to have council build a new structure. It has been restored a number of times in the intervening years.

Mayor Sandy Shantz addressed attendees to the plaque dedication ceremony in a speech touching on the significance the two structures have had in the town of Elmira.

“I believe it is important to remember where we came from because it speaks to who we are today and where we will go in the future,” she said. “Most of you will remember this as the old township hall, but it was originally built as a post office. It was styled on similar public buildings, mostly post offices in small towns, and eventually became known as Ontario post office style. This block and this building  have been a recognizable landmark for over a century in Elmira.

“The Gore Park bandstand was originally built in 1912 after a petition with 276 names was presented to council.  The tender award was $33. So Woolwich residents were bossy even back then, and aren’t we glad they were,” the mayor laughed. “It is a pleasure to present this plaque and to accept the plaque on behalf of the township as a tangible reminder of the past and a reflection of the structures’ role in the current and future economic and cultural growth of the township.”

Heritage committee chair Bonnie Bryant joined Shantz at the Elmira bandstand last Friday for the ceremony. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]

Working on promoting heritage through the Heritage Day event, by participating in the regional Doors Open event and now through the plaque presentations, the relatively new heritage committee isn’t looking at slowing down anytime soon.

“We want to get plaques on all of our designated properties. We are hoping to designate buildings and list buildings of significance within the whole township. It needs to be done because if we don’t protect these buildings, we are going to lose them,” said committee chair Bonnie Bryant. “Heritage can be a driver towards your economic development and towards your tourism dollars, so it is a great advantage towards an area to have these in place.”

Meeting monthly from September to June, the Woolwich Heritage Committee is designed to advise council on cultural heritage matters, designation matters under the Ontario Heritage Act and listing new properties on the township’s register of heritage properties, promote cultural heritage awareness, education and conservation and recognize excellence in cultural heritage in the township.

The committee is currently seeking additional members to help in preserving heritage, Bryant says new members are welcome to apply at the township office.

“We are always looking for new members,” she said.