A wall is one of the simplest structures known to man, and yet the meaning associated with them tends to rouse the staunchest supporters when it comes to raising them or tearing them down.
As is human nature, we tend to not question the need for walls as we rarely are able to elevate ourselves over the height of the obstruction to see the real issues with any kind of perspective.
In some cases, walls hold history.
In South Dundas the fates of the Carman House and Forward House have created much debate.
Carman House is a municipal property that had a purpose, but through mismanagement by the landlord, the repair costs and building code infractions have become too numerous to allow it continue as it once was.
The historic building raises many questions beyond whether or not it should be renovated at the cost of losing the historical value.
The timing of reports, spending of money by building and planning director Donald Lewis on an additional mandated report and an inflated new repair bill, his authority and in what context it was used has muddied the picture.
At the end of the day, the reality is simple.
The tenant cannot continue to live there without adhering to the Ontario building code and the ensuing repairs could destroy the historical value of the property. The choice would appear to be clear for both the people of South Dundas and council – do you want a museum or do you want to have a tenant?
Now there may be a way to compromise by getting many of the repairs done in a less destructive fashion, but make no mistake, once this issue is dealt with, it will return again. The building code is constantly changing and eventually the municipality will have to decide whether or not they want to be in the landlord business long term.
Forward House has much more severe questions associated with it. The list of repairs necessary is lengthy and the costs are grotesque.
Most importantly though, what is the purpose of Forward House?
It cannot simply exist as a monument. There must be a plan in place to make it part of something bigger and something that serves to better the community or a service it offers. A larger conversation about combining heritage and tourism has been brought forward but many more question marks remain about that possibility.
We are fortunate to have many municipal buildings at our disposal in Dundas County. The question seems to be, do we still use these buildings as we once did?
Ask yourself, do we still gather as a community like we once did? Does every small village need a community centre in today’s day and age?
Walls, such as these, can divide us but can also bring us together. Walls are physical, psychological, social, symbolic, and can be a great catalyst for change.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan made one of the most iconic speeches in modern history in West Berlin.
“If you seek peace – if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe–if you seek liberalization: come here, to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
We have many walls that exist between us, but perhaps, unlike some orange tinted men, it’s time we considered tearing some of them down to bring us closer together.