Tag Archives: Aurora

Remembering Dorothy Clark McClure

On September 11, I found out about the passing of a great artist; Dorothy Clark McClure. February 14, 1934-August 19, 2012 She was one of York Region’s most respected artists. She was honoured locally and provincially as an inspirational teacher, talented artist and diligent conservationist. Dorothy painted and worked throughout North America as a designer, illustrator and calligrapher.

In the 1960’s she began her preservation on paper of Canada’s architecture. In Aurora; Doane Hall, Castle Doan, Fleury House and Hilary House have become prints used as gifts for special centennial celebrations.

Last year I had the opportunity to visit Dorothy’s retrospective art exhibit, ‘Then and Now’ at the Aurora Cultural Centre. Dorothy held me by the hand and led me through the rooms. It wasn’t the technical drawings that created the excitement in her that day. She wanted to talk about her spiritual intuitional drawings. Her explanations how she found animals and figures in melding watercolours was inspirational.

There is more to creating art than money. Creating art helps you find your spiritual instincts.

Dorothy’s sixth sense and wisdom will be missed.

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When Old Buildings Have Friends…

Much has happened since my last blog, comparing the sorry state of the Petch log house in Aurora with its near neighbour, the Richardson House, a bit farther south on Leslie Street. The Petch house, seemingly abandoned after it had been moved from its original location, was in striking contrast with the Richardson House which was then under restoration and which had found an appropriate new use.

Over the last few months, a group calling itself Friends of Petch House launched a website and carried out a successful campaign to save the house. The Town of Aurora has taken this project on under the guidance of log construction specialist Peter van Nostrand. It will be re-erected at the entrance to the Aurora Arboretum, although its use there has yet to be determined.

Like any other preservation project, this one has caused controversy. There are currently several blogs out there which contain personal attacks against the Friends. It’s unfortunate that public debate has descended to these levels, but the anonymity of cyberspace seems to have made it so.

Having said that, however, the current debate raises very important questions. What about other buildings which may be equally significant? Why don’t they have Friends? In Aurora’s case, what about all the others buildings which have been lost or are under threat as the Town expands relentlessly eastward?

The Wells House is a perfect example—a structure as early as the Petch house and all the more remarkable because of its fine interior woodwork. Its loss is a case of demolition by neglect. Several years ago, the Heritage Advisory Committee studied this building carefully and gained Town Council’s support to encourage its owners to restore at least part of it and integrate it into whatever new development was planned on the site. This has worked well for the Richardson House. Without the full cooperation of sympathetic owners, however, projects like these cannot succeed. Buildings can be left to vandalism and decay, and there is little a municipality can do.

This is happening right now to the Lundy house, at the northeast corner of Bayview and St. John’s Sideroad. The building is slated to be restored within a planned housing development, but has been  boarded up for years, subject  to the same blight which destroyed the Wells House.

There are other examples too, going back over nearly twenty years: the Simpson House west of Bayview and north of Wellington, Gairlands on the grounds of the Magna headquarters, the Hartman House at the southwest corner of Wellington and Bayview, for example  In the case of Gairlands, the Town and the Aurora Historical Society were able to save several fine mantelpieces and other pieces of woodwork. Gairlands and the Hartman House were both associated with one of Ontario’s most important early politicians and reformers. Now these houses are nearly forgotten. To add insult to injury, the woodwork which was carefully removed from Gairlands and reinstalled in the old Aurora Museum now languishes in storage.

To the southwest, the future of the Graham-Wood House, at what is now Allaura Boulevard and Edward Street, hangs in the balance. Behind its modern stucco and mid-twentieth-century renovations  lies one of York Region’s earliest timber-frame buildings.

Fortunately, there are success stories too. The Hartman School, one of Ontario’s oldest, was rediscovered under layers of aluminum siding and has been  rehabilitated by private owners. Ballymore farmhouse has been lovingly restored and is a focal point for the subdivision at the northwest corner of Bayview and St. John’s Sideroad. Two farmhouses on Bayview, south of Wellington, are at different stages of restoration as they too are being integrated into modern developments. A magnificent early barn has received the same level of careful attention.

Every historic property needs a champion, an investor and an appropriate modern use. For the most part, it will be dedicated individuals, groups, and corporations who will decide whether a building survives or not. Various levels of government may play a significant role, but cannot be the sole protectors of heritage.

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Trendspotting – Sampling Aurora’s Finest Shops

Jennifer Curtis, YRAC Arts Administrator

By: Jennifer Curtis

Once February rolls around it starts to seem as though winter will never end. Why not warm up by exploring Aurora’s unique decorative art stores. Here are three must-visit shops along Aurora’s main street.

1.Pomegranates & Clementines
15120 Yonge Street, Aurora

What will first draw you to this shop is the uniqueness of the building – tucked away into a heritage building, P & C is carefully decorated to capture heritage charm. Carrying restored furniture, woodwick candles, salvaged decorative and kids clothing from local artists, as well as work recognized designers this shop has a one-of-a-kind gift to suit even the most discerning shopper. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Houses

John McIntyre

By: John McIntyre

Two very different houses on Leslie Street, south of Wellington in Aurora, come to mind as symbols of some of the pitfalls and some of the potential for historic preservation here in York Region. Ours is one of the fastest growing areas in Canada. Change is all around us as towns grow into cities and fields turn into suburbs. Nowhere else are historic buildings and heritage landscapes more at risk.

There are many ways in which our dynamic, growing, multicultural York Region is a far better place to live today than it was in days of yore. But there are buildings and artifacts and documents and entire places which should be preserved. If they are preserved, York Region will be a much more interesting place.

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