by Lloyd Alter, Toronto
Goderich, Ontario was billed as "Canada's Prettiest Town" and it truly was. It had one of the country's most beautiful town squares, (actually, a town octagon) filled with trees, and surrounded by a great collection of Victorian commercial buildings. The entire area was designated as historically significant under the Heritage Act.
On August 21, a force 3 tornado ripped through the town, and in twelve seconds almost destroyed it. Now, the debate is on: speedy construction or careful planning?
On Saturday I joined heritage professionals and activists from all over Ontario at a council meeting of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario in Goderich, organized to gather support and help, be it fundraising, professional services, ideas, competitions, whatever.
I thought it might be like a heritage version of Greensburg, where people from all over America have helped rebuild a better, greener town.
While there was a lot of damage from the tornado itself, there are some questions about how the authorities responded to the damage.
Certainly heritage was not the first thing on their minds; health and safety people kept everyone away until they checked for dead and injured, (miraculously, only one person was killed), then for health and safety reasons like asbestos, (one person of authority had heard there was asbestos in the bricks and mortar and kept heritage architects out unless they were fitted for respirators; however, there is no asbestos in Ontario bricks.)
Building owners were not allowed in to tarp their buildings and the subsequent rain did as much damage as the tornado.
But in other cases, it is still not certain what is going to happen.
The store owners and businesses want to get back in business as soon as possible, and nobody is much interested in standing around doing visioning studies and careful historic reconstructions, they have to put food on the table. The Deputy Mayor told us that he wants the town rebuilt within two years.
The business of Goderich was heritage. One might try and point out that the reason people came there was because it was so pretty, and that it won't be quite the same thing if they put up a lot of crap in a hurry.
This video was taken the day after the tornado. Almost every tree is gone, as are most of the roofs and quite a few buildings.
Image Credit: Anews London
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