20 June 2013

33 on 33: Day Twenty-seven

Standing in my yard
Where they tore down the garage
To make room for the torn down garage

–TMBG, "A Self Called Nowhere"

Call me sentimental
But I want to go back
And commemorate the place
With a historical plaque

–TMBG, "Canajoharie"

Today's stop for 33 on 33 was no accident or improvisation.
I planned this site very soon after I began this project.

I painted an empty lot.

They tore down the church
to make room for the torn down church.

In August of 2010, the current owners of the 135-year-old "Brick Church," a Picton landmark, made a decision that would forever change the face of Main Street: despite popular opinion that it should be preserved as a Heritage or otherwise significant building, they hired convicted environmental criminal Jim Sinclair to tear it down...on a Sunday morning. Read about this madness here and here and here.

Something I noticed during the controversy, before the demolition, was that a certain councillor (who happened to concurrently be a real estate agent) went on record about this saying that owners should be able to do whatever they want with their property. After the demolition this same guy called the whole thing very sad and stated that it was such an unfortunate loss to the community. I'm paraphrasing and I can't find links to the articles in which these two opposing views were stated, but that's the gist of it. I wasn't surprised that a politician would be so obviously hypocritical, just kind of dumbfounded that he thought no one would remember what he said on record (in print, both times) just months before.

Now, the church had been deconsecrated for about a decade at the time and the owners were trying to run a second-hand thrift-type shop out of it (because Picton needed yet another one, I guess), but were so bad at being business people that, rather than trying something else, or selling the building, they figured their best and only option was to tear it down. There's a lot of speculation about the reasoning, one story is that there was a buyer, but they only wanted the land and didn't want to build whatever they were planning and be known as the people who tore down the church, so they had the owners do it. We do know that there were offers made, supposedly beyond asking price, but none were accepted.

Whatever the real reasons were, it's still an empty lot to this day:

For sale or lease –approaching three years now.

Have a look at the devastation in the story links above. Some solace can be had in knowing the ever-friendly Henry and Natalie of the most excellent Humble Bread rescued a whole bunch of bricks from the demolotion site and used them for the facade of their gorgeous and gigantic bread oven.

As much as Picton doesn't need a Starbucks, I think most residents would have preferred a Starbucks moving into the church –retaining its architecture and thereby its landmark status on Main Street– to the demolition that has only served to add yet another empty lot to our growing collection.

Successfully repurposed architecture.

There are many examples of old buildings being used for newer purposes all over the world and the buldings above (which happen to be next door to the torn down church) are great examples, retaining their architectural beauty and helping to give Main Street its historic character.

Looking west down Main Street.

Main Street has been changing for some time, and, unlike the repurposed buildings, the scene above bears no resemblance to anything from the "olden tymes." Of course, change isn't necessarily bad, and it's largely unavoidable. Sometimes fires happen and whole blocks get razed. But does newer architecture have to be so damn boring and uninspired? Surely new buildings can be built using the latest technology, but designed to fit in among the existing architecture. I've seen it done, but I'd like to see more of it.

Incidentally, I was set up right in front of the McDonald's to paint the empty lot today. Here's my Map of Progress.

And here's the painting.

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