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Username: Benjamin

Post Number: 118
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2006 - 1:11 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The following has been posted all around St. Thomas. I'm truly petrified this may turn out to be some than blustering.


To: Concerned Citizens for the preservation of Alma College.

Re: Application for demolition permit for Alma College.

The St. Thomas Municipal Heritage Committe has requested Concerned Citizens of Alma College attend a Public Meeting Feb. 7th, 2006 - 7pm City Hall.

In order to preserve this property the Heritage Committe and City Council must see a strong representation from St. Thomas citizens.

If you want Alma to survive, you must attend this meeting.

From: Concerned Citizens group for the Preservation of Alma College

Dawn Doty - 631-3538

Come One Come All. Don't Let Alma Fall!

Alma's last stand?

Lost grandeur. Fond memories. An uncertain future. St. Thomas' magnificant landmark is at a crossroads.

I don't have a copy of the flyer scanned in, but the rest is mearly formatting and an image. I have a history of Alma college at home, and I'll scan in some historic pictures from it, hopefully tomorow. I know AIW had some current images of it, though that was some time ago. I've also got someimages of the building here: https://www.atdetroit.net/forum/mes sages/5365/4872.html. A study performed last September deemed the structure structurally sound.

1. I'm looking for advice. I've never been deeply involved with a preservation fight before, whileother people here have. Where should I go from here.
2. I've said for some time I'm morethan happy to give a historical tour of our fair city to anyone from the forum who finds themselves out this way. If anyone's interested in adding their body to these at the Tuesday meeting, consider the offer reitterated.

Benjamin A. Vazquez, U.E.
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Username: Aiw

Post Number: 5269
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2006 - 2:12 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

These are from June 2004...

As an interesting Detroit related note. James Balfour the architect was also the architect of the Detroit Art Museum, the forerunner to the DIA that was located at Jefferson & Hastings.

Benjamin, hopefully someone will be albe to relay some info. to you, maybe someone who tried to save the Madison-Lenox?

Keep in mind that the new Heritage Act proectes" designated" structures. If St. Thomas City COuncil was intent on saving it they could force designation on the building and use the act to save it.

I have sent e-mail notices to Heritage people here in the Winsdor area.
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Username: Aiw

Post Number: 5270
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2006 - 9:15 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Benjamin, I've forwarded some e-mails to you...
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Username: Benjamin

Post Number: 119
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Saturday, February 04, 2006 - 3:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I noticed. I'm sorry I wasn't able to respond earlier, but I couldn't get to a computer yesterday. I do have the history by my side as I type, but unfortunately no scanner. In a connection I should have made earlier, I checked the Scott-Sefton collection at the Elgin County Archives. They cam up with this: http://www.elgin.ca/alma.html , which should offer a reasonably good idea of what the building looked like it it's prime. Additionally the e-mails AIW fowarded me included a link to this: http://www.pbase.com/toogy/alm a_college , which gives a resonably good idea of what the complex looks like today.

As the historical marker points out, the charter for Alma College was granted on the second of march, 1877. The charter called for a private girl's school owned and controlled by the Methodist Church, allong with the addition of a simmilar facility for boys should the need arise. Despite several gestures over the years, the second portion of the petition was never fufilled. The cornerstone of the building was laid on May 24th, 1878, and the school was opened in 1881, four years after Bishop Carman's orriginal presentation at the Courthouse, and the same year St. Thomas was incorporated as a city. The Arhcibald McLachlin wing (the wing with the circulaur towers to the west) was completed in 1886. The chapel to the side is called the Ella Bowes Chapel. I can't find it's date of construction offhand, but it looks slightly post-war to me. I know the stained glass windows were donated to the college by English schoolgirls taken in by Alma durring the second world war, and I wouldn't be surprised if the chappel was built specifically to house them. I'm not certain how much it was used. The girls could select the church they'd be escorted to each Sunday. At one time they covered six demnominations and almost a dozen churches. Amazing, as I'm hard pressed to think of a dozen churches of significance in town. The plain yet dignified building out front (which unfortunately shows in neither set of photographs), is the Perry S. Dobson music building, built in 1956. Prior to it's construction, the music department had taken to practicing in the halls of the school, no doubt a distraction. There were other additions over the years, but most of them were hurried reactions to a need for space with little architectural thought being given them. Their subsiquent loss is mourned by, well, no one.

Alma College quickly gained an international reputation. Even before the building opened it had been publicised in Montreal, New York, and Detroit, and the publicity appears to have paid off. While never a serious rival of more established facilities in Europe, on our continent Alma College was among the most important institutions of it's type. From the beginning Alma College desired that it's student's should carry on to University, an idea still not fully embraced by her compeitiors in the late 1800's. To this purpose the college associated itself with universities and colleges in Belleville, Toronto, and London.

From the begining Alma College was an idealistic, not a practical institution, founded by a Bishop and a community with religious and social aims. This showed in the architecture, which even at the height of high victorianisim was expensive for this kind of school. But it took it's toll on the books. By 1898, even after drastic cost-cutting measures the college was $67,300 in debt, $1,491,072.19 in today's money, and the school very ability to survive was in doubt as late as the early 20th century.

Alma College was the heart of St. Thomas' artistic world for much of its existance. Of particulaur note were the graduation cerimonies and the May day celebrations. Almaites were everywhere, though, and courses in certain subjects not covered or poorly coverd in the public system- music, art, horseback riding, were avalible to the general public at the college. On a personal note, two of my grandfather's three sisters are Alma College allumni.

My history book was actually published as a centennial book published in 1977, and so useful as it is it doesn't cover Alma College's sad decline. The school closed sometime in the 1980's, and served a variety of uses, most notably a retirement home, most interestingly a nursery, before being abandoned altogether. Even after the abandonment the now-overgrowen amphatheatre continued to host performances for local dramatic groups until only a few years ago. The current owner, Brian Squires, compleatly gutted the building in preperation for luxury retirment suites, and then promptly ran out of financing. The building survives today with no windows and a roof that must be replaced. Universal consensus was that the building's foundations wouldn't survive another winter. Fortunatly, we didn't have winter this year (thank you global warming), and the building remains structurally sound. No one is disputing that fact, though how long it will remain true for is anybody's guess. It can be saved but action must be taken now.

Benjamin A. Vazquez, U.E.
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Username: Benjamin

Post Number: 120
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 11:15 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Some additional web sites:

The Allumni Association website: http://www.almacollege.20m.com /
(The press clippings section includes current details.)

A history of the college's first 50 years: http://www.elgin.ca/alma_colle ge.htm

A couple of online collections by "urban explorers". The first focuses on the ghost which supposedly haunts the building.
http://www.hauntedhamilton.com /31_article_almacollege.html

http://www.abandonedbutnotforg otten.com/Alma%20College%20in% 20St.%20Thomas,%20Ontario.htm
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Username: Goat

Post Number: 8115
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 1:11 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Keep us posted Benjamin and good luck in your fight!
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Username: Benjamin

Post Number: 122
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 6:09 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

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Username: Benjamin

Post Number: 123
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2006 - 12:13 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The meeting got out too late yesterday, I've been working all day today, and it's too late now, but I did take notes on the meeting that night, and I'll post them as soon as I can.

In the immediate term, there was a three part recomendation passed.

1. The demolition application be rejected.
2. Steps be taken for the preservation of the structure.
3. A request for assistance be made to the provincial government.

This still has to go before City Council on Monday.
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Username: Benjamin

Post Number: 124
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2006 - 4:35 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I arrived at the City Hall at 6:30, took advantage of the extra time to return a library book, returned about five minitues later (the library's next door), and selected a good seat in the balcony. Being early I got the best, and it wound up matering. There were 250 - 300 people there. Possibly even more. A gentleman was hanging banners over the balcony - a central one representing the Alma College allumni, and several smaller ones with names of cities students had come from. Detroit, Toronto, Vancouver, plus on I couldn't see, and a large collection he didn't have space to put up.

The meeting was delayed slightly as a member of the board was late, but eventually got underway. A gentleman - not a member of the heritage committe, but obviously in charge, spoke breifly. He suggested that the decision made tonight could potentially determine the fate of Alma College, explained how to use the microphone up front (I hereby regretted having sat in the balcony), and set two ground rules. The first was that we weren't to discuss past treatment of the building, only it's future from this point forth. The second is that we weren't to refer specifically to any one person or group of people, at least not desparagingly. He then asked a representative of Zubick holdings to make a statment.

To make this easier, I'll summarize the longer speaches in point form.

Zubick Holdings statment.
- We realize that the building is much loved by the community.
- We love the building also.
- We have tried for several years to restore this building.
- We have not been able to secure sufficiant financing.
- We have already invested a significant amount of money, both our own and borrowed.
- We have reached the end of our resources.
- No one will purchase the property with the main building, as the heritage standard to which it must be held is too strict.
- We can sell the property if the heritage structure is removed.
- This is not our wish, but it is reality.
- We ask that either...
- 1. Community purchase property from us.
- 2. We be permitted to remove the building and start fresh.
- We appreciate concerns, but there is reality.

The Herritage commite had no questions regarding the statment.

Statment by Lisa Johnson, President of Alma College Allumni Association.
- She identified her position.
- I am joined tonight by many past presidents and other allumni.
- It is not our wish to see the building restored to exactly it's former state.
- We ask, is there nothing City, County, or Province can do to save Alma College?
- I'm disapointed that Steve Peters (our M.P.P.) isn't here.
- We well remember that he promised to chain himself to Alma College if it were ever to face the wreckers ball.
- If the demolition does occour, allow us to purchase various heritage fixtures from the building, particulaurly the stained glass in the chappel.

Statment by Paul Forrimer
- I am a member of LACAC.
- I am currently involved with the efforts to save the Canada Southern station.
- The station is also listed as a heritage structure.
- There is flexibility in the doccument.
- There could be here an oppertunity for dialouge.
- We aren't looking for 100% preservation.
- We are looking for the preservation of a symbol.
- We have spent a great deal of time saving the CASO station.
- We can save this building too, it just takes time.
- The community will back the project if a plan is put foward to save the building.
- We don't wish Zubeck any financial harm.
- There are other developers willing to partner on this project.
- Look at other groups, people are willing to help.

At this point a statment was made by Kate, who didn't offer a last name. She was about ten years old, give or take two or three years. She suggested that it was important to keep Alma College, as it was a part of our heritage like the railway and Jumbo. She suggested that when she grew up, she would make St. Thomas her home, and that she wanted to ba able to show her kids Alma College. She ended with the line "Don't destroy my future." It was very cute and enduring.

Statment by John Allen
- I've spoken with the Zubeck family.
- The Zubecks must recoup their investment.
- Alma college must be preserved.
- If we can get behind a new arena, we can certainly get behind an artistic and cultural resource like Alma College.

Statment from Don Doty, representing the Concerned Citizens for Alma College.
- She mentioned her position.
- We don't want to see the building destroyed.
- We don't want a demolition permit issued.
- We need tourisim. Alma College is an attraction, even in her current state.
- Alma College has expierenced demolition by neglect since 1998
- The city needs to review a stop work order.
- The site has been unseccured since 1998.
- Structure reviewed in September of 2005 by an expert in heritage architecture (I didn't catch the name).
- Alma College is a potential gold mine.
- What is a brand the city will be proud of?
- Downtown makes a difference.
- Suburbs are all the same.
- Alma is a landmark building downtown.
- It is within walking distance of everewhere.
- Reject the demolition permit.
- This cannot be Alma's last stand.
- Alma could be used to provide St. Thomas with serivces she currently lacks.
* She listed a number of examples, most of them new homes for things the city already has and are perfectly happy in their current homes. Nevertheless.
- Zubeck holdings should indeed sell the property.
- The city should purchase it from them.
- See succesful example in CASO station
* Once again, she's off base here. The CASO station is owned by a not-for-profit group dedicated to her preservation. The city can't afford to purchase Alma College. Overall, I was disapointed with this particulaur speaker.

I'm not certain who said these. I don't have it jotted down, and I can't recall at the moment.

- I have some questions.
- Is this locally or provincially designated?
- Does that preclude demolition?
- Communities throughout Ontario have preserved structures like this.
- We aren't reinventing the Wheel
Answer from chair
- Buildings are protected under different guises.
- Alma College is only protected municipally.
- Is there a possibility for provincial designation?
- Possibilites are endless.

At this point the chair read a letter and an e-mail recieved. The first contained a very cool quote which I unfortunatly missed as I was busy finishing the last thing I'd been writing down.
The second went as follows:
- As a Canadian citizen I'm opposed to the demolition.
- The building is structurally sound.
- The building is architecturally unique.
- Many nationalities have been educated there.
- It was opened to girls from Yorkshire, England, and Japaneese-Canadians from British Columbia, both during WWII
- We have so much power.
- This could become a precident.
- As the city matures there will be an outcry - "Why didn't we...."
- Reject the permit.

Statment from Carol Wanroy
- Today is tomorow's yesterday.
- There will need to be tax dollars spent.
- We must spend to see a profit.
- It could be a Hotel or Bed & Breakfast.
- People would donate time to the effort.

At this point a member of the heritage commitie asked two questions of Zubeck holdings.
1. Just to clairfy, which buildings do you wish to demolish?
- The main building in particulaur.
- The chapel would be pointless without the main building
- The music building can be saved.
2. You say you tried to sell the property with the building intact. Can you specify which methods were used to seek out a buyer.
- I don't know. We used an agent. We have spoken with some people, but no one made any deal.

At this point statments were asked for from these in the balcony (WooHoo!!!)

Statment from Terry Cook
- How long has the building been designated?
Answer from floor: Since the 1980's, early or late - there was a difference of oppinion among these present.
- They knew what they were getting into when they purchased the building.
- They have set about demolition by neglect.
- How could you do this to our city?
- Will this be an empty lot with a historical plaque?
- This is among the top ten structures this side of Toronto.
- I'll offer my hand to fix it up.

Statment by Paul Bisson
- I am a historical painter.
- I've painted Trinity Anglican church.
- Once, climbing up on Trinitie's steeple on a foggy day, I wittnessed Alma College's tower through the fog.
- It was beautiful.
- We've lost the towers on Holy Angles
- People come for this building.
- Why weren't the P's adn Q's crossed when the building was purchased?

Statment by yours truly.
- The city has an abominable reccord regarding hitorical preservation.
- We have demolished the old Post Office, the Grand Central Hotel, the pre-merger offices of the Times and the Journal, the old Fire Station, the old Hospital, St. Thomas Collegiate Institute.
- Alma College is one of the few surviving reminders of a time when thinking St. Thomasers still believed that St. Thomas would surpass London as the regions cheif financial and cultural centre, and had to act thusly.
- Alma College is one of the finest buildings between Toronto and Detroit.
- We must save this building, we have no choice.
- It's ridiculous to say that cost is no object, it always is.
- But this really does have more value than money.

More statments to follow. I have to depart, and I've still nine sections to run through. I'll try and post them tomorow, or possibly late tonight.
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Username: Upinottawa

Post Number: 185
Registered: 09-2005
Posted From:
Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2006 - 5:10 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

How about the University of Western Ontario purchase the building for a "St. Thomas campus"?
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Username: Benjamin

Post Number: 126
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, February 13, 2006 - 5:44 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Sorry about the large delay. My internet access is sporadic.

I'm going to avoid posting the bulk of the rest of the transcript. I've gone over it again, and obviously several of the people in the gallery hadn't had any intention to speak, and were doing so off the cuff. There were several statments spoken in rather heated emotion, and in many cases I'd edited the emotions out of my transcript, often for the sake of politeness. The only significant speaker was a student of Archticture at Connistoga named Emily Xuereb who had been speaking for some time with Heritage Canada regarding the issue.

At the end a three-part recomendation was made by the Heritage Commitie. I've posted it above, but again:
1. The demolition application be rejected.
2. Steps be taken for the preservation of the structure.
3. A request for assistance be made to the provincial government.

The passage was unanimous, which was comforting, but it has yet to go before city council tonight. I'm going to do everything I can to attend, though I might not be able to. If I can, I'll try and post a (much more general) outline of the city council meeting.

Benjamin A. Vazquez, U.E.
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Username: Benjamin

Post Number: 127
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, February 13, 2006 - 5:46 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Oh, and I've considered a St. Thomas campus before, but that was quite some time ago. I'll have to muse it over again in the current climate.

Benjamin A. Vazquez, U.E.
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Username: Benjamin

Post Number: 128
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - 11:41 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The city council meeting begain at 7:00, but only got around to Alma College issues at 7:50.

A motion had been prepared to send the Heritage Committie recomendation out for further study. There was only a breif debate, involving only council members.

Heather Chapman.
- What's our time frame.
- If we have time, ask managment board to return with recomendations.

Cliff Barwick
- I recognize the nature of the motion, but I want to speak directly to the demolition issue.
- The Zubecks were aware of the heritage designation when they purchased the building.
- They have more than a legal committment, they have a moral committment.

Bill Arts
- The demolition by neglect must be stopped.
- I was impressed Tuesday by the student from Kitichener (Emily Xuereb).
- We must work with the Provincial and Federal governments.

David Warden
- I want to reject the permit now.
- Why the delay?

Tom Johnson
- I've never been in a situation where a demolition permit was denyed.
- I want a report.
- We need our i's dotted and our t's crossed.

- I support Johnson's desire for more research.
- At the same time I agree with the need to reject the demolition permit.
At this point the mayor asked a question on a technicallity, and recieved a response essentially to the effect that the municipality may indeed add additional standards to the preservation of a heritage building.

The motion (to recieve report before proceeding), was passed unanimously.

The report should be placed before the heritage committie on the 7th of March.

Benjamin A. Vazquez, U.E.

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