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Petrolia proceedswith designation

By David Pattenaude, Petrolia Topic

Martin Dillon, chairman of the Petrolia heritage advisory committee, stands at the 1896 water tower on Centre Street, on June 4. The committee recommended heritage designation for the tower.
DAVID PATTENAUDE / THE PETROLIA TOPIC

Martin Dillon, chairman of the Petrolia heritage advisory committee, stands at the 1896 water tower on Centre Street, on June 4. The committee recommended heritage designation for the tower. DAVID PATTENAUDE / THE PETROLIA TOPIC

Petrolia's 116-year-old, “standpipe” water tower will be designated under the Ontario Heritage Act and preserved.

The decision to designate was made by town council on June 18 and Mayor John McCharles said little maintenance is required to preserve the historic landmark on Centre Street.

He said the property needs to be cleaned up and added “...putting a top on the tank one of these days might help preserve it a bit.”

The top of the tank has always been open. When it was built in 1896, the council at the time couldn't afford a roof but installed an ornamental iron balcony at the top. An engineer's report said enclosing the top would cost about $250,000.

Preserving the tower will save the town an estimated $75,000 in demolition and removal costs.

Believed to be the oldest water tower in Lambton County and one of the oldest in Canada, the property around the tank is overgrown with trees, shrubs and weeds and will be cleaned up by volunteers from the Petrolia heritage advisory committee, and the Petrolia's in bloom committee – with help from the town's public works department.

“We should try and make it look good,” said Coun. Liz Welsh, a member of the heritage advisory committee.

Coun. Mary-Pat Gleeson agreed, saying the property needs to be tidied up.

The heritage committee recommended designation under the Ontario Heritage Act because of the tank's cultural heritage value. The tower is an important piece of Petrolia's industrial heritage and one of the last remaining standpipe tanks. The tank is 85 feet tall, 25 feet in diameter and made of riveted steel plates. The tank's capacity is 257,700 gallons.

An engineer's report said the tower “...could be considered a heritage feature based on its age, prominence as a landmark, and its importance for the early growth and stability of the town.”

The tower is in good condition and not a safety concern.

A designation bylaw will be prepared for council's adoption, to begin the heritage designation process. Provincial approval of designation is expected later this year and there will be a heritage designation plaque placed on the tank or property.

The tower was replaced more than 25 years ago by a new and larger, elevated water storage tank.

Bert Duclos, a heritage consultant with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, said it's not necessary to make improvements to the water tower for designation.

He said “There is no requirement under the Ontario Heritage Act to restore, repair, rehabilitate, improve or alter any aspect of a property, or the structures on them, in consideration of designating them.

“Any proposed improvements to the existing standpipe are more a matter … to retain it. Improvements proposed after designation, that are likely to alter the heritage attributes identified in the designation bylaw, then become subject to council's consent. This provides for the cultural heritage conservation process to guide proposed alterations.”

Duclos said designation evaluation of the property will help identify its cultural heritage value and the heritage attributes that support that value.

 

 


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