To The Editor,
In the late 1980s, the province encouraged interest in the preservation of heritage buildings. The structure provided by the Ministry of Culture to rally awareness in towns across Ontario was the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC). In Vankleek Hill, Denis Seguin Architect formed a LACAC and hired student David LeRoy for two summers.
The VKH LACAC had several goals. The first was to create an inventory of heritage buildings in the oldest sections of Vankleek Hill. It was determined from the outset that the heritage descriptions were based on exteriors, not interiors.
LeRoy knocked on doors, evaluated the status of the exterior construction for loss, and conducted research at the Land Registry Office to find the earliest transactions.
The project was able to evaluate some 90 buildings on Main, High, Mill, Union, Bertha, Jay, Elizabeth, Derby, Higginson, Grout and Home streets. These encompassed the years 1820s to 1920s – a potential built heritage district to encourage preservation, and to promote tourism.
A goal was to inspire public appreciation for the heritage look and feel of Vankleek Hill. Representatives from the Ministry of Culture, with built heritage experience and knowledge, came for an official walking
tour organized by Seguin.
They were impressed by the tourism value that Vankleek Hill had to offer with its architecture that featured local red brick and gingerbread. They encouraged the promotion of Vankleek Hill as a built heritage district designation.
Another LACAC goal was to provide education on built heritage preservation. Seguin organized Q&A public meetings that were well attended. One homeowner, Ron & Dody Dines, offered their Union Street home as a public example for professional pressurized testing for heat loss. At the time, the Ministry of Culture had grants for heritage home improvements.
The Vankleek Hill & District Historical Society is the repository of the LACAC heritage building inventory files. Over the years, the research was used to assist homeowners, and to support events such as the Christmas Home Tour and the Christmas Porch Tour.
A key and lasting outcome of the VKH LACAC was the designation of the Higginson Tower as an official Municipal Heritage Site. Not only was a heritage building with roots back to the 1830s preserved, it has generated tourism year after year. The community has benefited from this heritage recognition and designation.