To the Editor:
Every time I have had a chat with Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel, he promotes Champlain – not Longueuil, L’Orignal, West Hawkesbury, or Vankleek Hill. I have to hand it to him; his message is on point.
But what is Champlain without history? The very fact the mayor invokes the name of such an important historical figure in our Township’s name is proof that we have roots.
Heritage buildings are the backdrop of our communities. The labour of many hands pulling clay from the earth to make our rich red brick is just one testament to what attracts many visitors and people to our township.
I cannot imagine King Street, or Main Street without our Victorian, Regency, Italianate styles of architectural gems which line them. In fact, take the 1850-1920 buildings away from our downtowns, and you are left with what? The erosion of these era buildings is a loss to all of us who live here, who come to visit, and who move here to get away from the hustle and bustle of larger cities.
In my humble architectural dreams, I can still see the three-storey Hochelaga Bank on Main Street in Vankleek Hill, which was an irreplaceable loss.
Farmlands, with homes and barns peeking over the tall corn, remain a key picturesque getaway from the big city; again, a call back to history and keeping our Township a destination point. People drive here to breathe, to release stress, and bring money from their wallets.
Preserving our cultural heritage keeps our integrity as a people of this place.
Surely our councillors have the foresight to take stock of what we do have left, to see the richness of our area through the lens of history, the built environment which is a typical planning department endeavor and a goal in most communities.
Keeping an inventory of our heritage buildings and key points of interest is a simple task. I did it many years ago when I was a three-term councillor using a summer student over a few years. The value of that work is immeasurable and has served many since, attracting new home and business users time and time again. It has inspired some with pride of place, and a will to preserve and make our communities attractive and quaint.
If anything, this simple task with some local guidance can be expanded at a low cost and at no risk to council.
Council can be facilitators in this community building event using local students and engaging the public at large in what they all know is precious – our history manifested in the land and in the buildings that sit upon it.
It’s just an inventory, and it’s getting shorter every day.
J. Denis Seguin, Champlain resident