Stop the demolition of Niagara Falls' historic Town Hall (1866)
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Dear Mayor and Councillors,
We, the undersigned, are opposed to the demolition of the City’s old Town Hall on Queen Street, which you approved on March 19, 2019. Demolition would be a tragic mistake and a desecration of Niagara Falls’ civic and cultural history. We hope you will reconsider.
Over its lifespan, the Town Hall, originally built in 1866 for the Town of Clifton, has acted as, or housed our city hall, the city library, butcher shops, and a courthouse. The Town Hall is older than the City of Niagara Falls itself. It’s older than Canada. According to lore, during the Fenian Invasion of 1866, the labourers working on the building dropped their tools mid-construction so they could assist in defending Niagara. While the building may now look different than it once did, its original stone walls still stand behind the modernist brick façade.
Around the world, cities are breathing new life into their downtowns by adapting old buildings to new uses. Old factories become hip restaurants, train stations become modern art galleries, and offices become residential lofts. These historic buildings are typically some of the most sought after by businesses and residents, as their character and architectural details are impossible to replicate in modern builds. Just look at the Lincoln Fabrics building in Port Dalhousie, a 1900-era building being turned into condos, or the Keg restaurant near the Pen Centre, housed in an old rubberworks factory. The list goes on. To lose our original Town Hall would be an admission that we do not take our history seriously. It would further be an admission that we do not take seriously the opportunity to rejuvenate our once lively downtown.
The old Town Hall stands at the epicentre of our downtown and represents a major part of Niagara Falls’ civic history. For almost a century, it was the centre of our local democracy. For years, it hosted the debates that led to the birth and development of our city. Important decisions were made here and the people working within its walls laboured to plan, build and improve our city. Renovated for the Royal Visit of 1939 and further modernized in the 1950s, it’s unfortunately been left to languish for the last few decades.
Having lost historic buildings like the Clifton Hotel is bad enough. But, to now lose our Town Hall, the building to which highway signs around the province referred when they announced the distance to Niagara Falls, would be an abdication of our duty to preserve our civic and cultural history for future generations. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to tear it down, let’s renovate the Town Hall and lease it to a cultural institution like the Niagara Falls Art Gallery. Let’s incorporate a restaurant or coffee shop so citizens have a place to linger and contemplate the stories the building could tell. Let’s remember what our city was, and what it could be. And, if the funds are not available to renovate the building, the City should invite an open bid process and grant a private sector partner a long-term lease in exchange for funding the renovations.
The old Town Hall has stood proudly for over 150 years. Let’s allow it to stand for many more.
If you would like to contact the Mayor or Councillors directly, their contact info can be found here: https://niagarafalls.ca/city-hall/council/members.aspx Their email addresses are as follows:
Mayor Jim Diodati: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Wayne Campbell: email@example.com
Councillor Chris Dabrowski: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Carolynn Ioannoni: email@example.com
Councillor Vince A. Kerrio: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Lori Lococo: email@example.com
Councillor Victor Pietrangelo: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Mike Strange: email@example.com
Councillor Wayne Thomson: firstname.lastname@example.org
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