Jun 11, 2017 by Tori Stafford Frontenac Gazette
It may not have been with his usual ballpoint pen, but MPP Randy Hillier put his signature on the official launch of the Grace Centre restoration project another way: with a chisel and hammer.
Hillier, MPP for Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, joined those from Southern Frontenac Community Services, as well as a handful of local politicians and township staff, to kick off the restoration project. The Grace Centre, originally built in 1861, originally served as a Methodist church before becoming Grace United Church in 1925. Now serving as a hub of activity for local seniors and community groups, the 156-year-old limestone building is undergoing a restoration project to repoint the masonry, thanks to a grant through the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Southern Frontenac Community Services was awarded an Ontario150 Community Capital grant for $38,200 over nine months. Speaking on behalf of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, volunteer John Blake explained why he feels the project is a good example of those the Foundation aims to support.
“The Trillium Foundation is a government agency… So it’s a taxpayers-funded agency, and what better way can we spend taxpayers’ money than on projects like this,” Blake said.
“Although the project is for the renovations, to me it’s more about the people that use and are going to use this building, hopefully for generations to come. Community centres such as this… are a vital part of our communities.”
Hillier then spoke about the importance of agencies like the Ontario Trillium Foundation who offer direct support for communities across the province.
“The Trillium Foundation supports our communities, but it also illustrates the best and good parts of democratic government: when we have a non-partisan assistance and support for our communities,” he said.
“Forget the drama and the theatre of Queen’s Park and provincial politics. This is the stuff that really makes a difference, this is the stuff that matters… I know our communities will continue to endure and prosper and be successful when we work in the same fashion that the Trillium Foundation demonstrates through its non-partisan support of our communities.”
Additionally, South Frontenac Community Services’ Andy Mills, fund development and administration manager, read comments sent from Sophie Kiwala, MPP for Kingston and the Islands, who was unable to attend. David Townsend, executive director of South Frontenac Community Services, then expressed gratitude for the support the organization has received from both MPPs, and through the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
“They’ve helped us tremendously [to] acquire this building, and get things going,” he said, noting that Southern Frontenac Community Services likely would not exist without that support.
“We’re thrilled to be turning this whole thing over… to Craig Beattie and Edgewater Stonemasons… it’s not just the stone that they’re working with, but it’s a community they’re working with, and we’re thrilled to have them do that, too.”
Edgewater Stonemasons have worked on many restoration projects in the past, including those at the Parliament Buildings, the Governor General’s residence and number of heritage buildings on Queen’s University campus.
Beattie explained that the Grace Centre repointing project will see the removal of Portland cement mortar, which will be replaced with a lime mortar. Most buildings the age of the Grace Centre were originally built with lime mortar, allowing the buildings to retain moisture, which is then evaporated back out in drier, warmer conditions. Over time, that ideology was replaced by the idea that these buildings should be waterproofed, which was done by using the Portland cement; over time, however, that practice proved problematic as moisture could still get into the walls, but had no way out. Beattie described this kind of repointing as “the conservation philosophy of using like with like, and trying to use the materials that were originally used in the construction.” But for Beattie and his crew, there is more to the project than simply repointing the building.
“Outside of the technical side of it, we’ve noticed right away how vibrant a place this is, and how well used it is,” Beattie said.
“It’s really nice to know that you’re helping to preserve the building, and this building is really being enjoyed by people as well, so it definitely adds another element to it for us.”
The repointing project will not affect use of the Grace Centre, and is scheduled for completion by the end of the summer.