Brockville’s municipal cultural heritage committee is one of hundreds of appointed advisory committees that exist in Ontario communities. Our committee was first set up in 1977, under the provisions of the 1975 Ontario Heritage Act.
Members of Heritage Brockville are appointed by Brockville City Council to advise on the retention and enhancement of our cultural heritage and environment.
Goals of the Heritage Committee:
- To promote Brockville’s existing stock of buildings and townscapes through education and public relations. We do this with plaques placed on buildings of historical importance, articles, speeches, walking tours, booklets, and photographic displays for the general public and city visitors.
- To encourage and recognize, with Heritage Awards, the successful restoration, conservation, and rehabilitation of existing buildings in Brockville. A list of previous recipients of the award can be found on our downloads page.
- To provide any individuals or groups with free advice on the use of historically appropriate building materials, colours, and signage.
- To suggest historical and architectural designation of buildings and properties under the Ontario Heritage Act.
- To collect historical information to benefit property owners in our city.
The committee is made up of ten citizens who volunteer their time to work toward these goals. They have relevant skills, interest in, and knowledge of architecture, construction, conservation, and preservation, as well as contacts within the heritage community.
Appointments are made yearly to Heritage Brockville by the Mayor and Council for a maximum four-year term. Brockville citizens interested in filling any available positions may write to the mayor for consideration at the end of the calendar year.
Municipal Register of Cultural Heritage Properties
Brockville’s Municipal Register of Cultural Heritage Properties is a required record of cultural heritage resources of value or interest in the City. The register includes properties that are designated under Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act and those that are listed under Section 27 of the Ontario Heritage Act. Read more about our Designated Heritage Sites List for detailed information on each of Brockville’s designated properties.
Properties that appear on Brockville’s Municipal Register of Cultural Heritage Properties have been mapped on a custom google map. Designated properties have been marked with a yellow flag, while Listed properties have been marked with a blue flag.
What is Heritage Designation?
In Ontario, the conservation of cultural heritage resources is considered a matter of public interest. Significant heritage resources must be conserved. The Ontario Heritage Act gives municipalities and the provincial government powers to preserve the heritage of Ontario. The primary focus of the Act is the protection of heritage buildings, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites. The Ontario Heritage Act enables municipalities to designate such properties if they hold cultural value or interest. All municipal heritage designations are enacted by City Council through the passing of a bylaw.
Once a property is designated, it gains public recognition as well as a measure of protection from demolition or unsympathetic alteration. Designation helps guide future change to the property so that the heritage value of the property can be maintained. There are two types of Ontario Heritage Act designation that would affect property owners most often: designation of individual properties (known as “Part IV” designation) and designation of unique and important streetscapes, areas or “heritage districts” (known as “Part V” designation).
What can be designated?
Any real property that has “cultural heritage value or interest” can be designated, including: houses, barns, factories, cemeteries, parks, barns, bridges, trees, gardens, hedgerows, fences, monuments, churches, woodlots, historic sites and the list goes on.
Heritage designation is a common practice in Ontario. At least 7,000 properties in the province are designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. There are presently 22 properties in Brockville designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.
The decision about whether a property should be designated or not is based strictly on its cultural heritage value. City Council prefers to designate properties with the support of the property owner. However, Council will use its discretion to designate a property without the concurrence of the property owner. In certain cases, the Government of Ontario may also designate a property if that property is deemed to be provincially significant.
- Heritage designation bestows formal public recognition on significant heritage properties with the passing of a municipal bylaw. Designation provides clarity as to the cultural importance of a given property. It serves as formal, public recognition that a property has heritage value and is worthy of ongoing care and protection. Property owners are eligible for a plaque marking the property as heritage.
- A designation bylaw identifies, itemizes and describes the specific heritage attributes and other character defining elements that give a property its heritage value so that everyone knows what features should be given special consideration. Criteria are used to identify and assess these attributes and values. The criteria determine if the property merits heritage designation. Heritage attributes can be:
- Design/Physical attributes. These include architectural elements such as: windows, chimneys, verandas, porches, doors, exterior cladding materials, decorative millwork and detailing, shutters, trim, stonework and any other structural features that are obviously old or original to the building.
- Contextual/natural heritage attributes. can also be significant with regard to the designation of streetscapes, farms, cemeteries and districts. They include: visual and aesthetic qualities, historical landscaping features, mature trees and hedgerows, fences, laneways, vistas, barns and other features found on the property.
- Historical/Associative attributes relate to past ownership history, events and associations with broader historical themes and subjects. Rarity, age, landmark status, construction methods, symbolic value and other factors are also taken into consideration, depending on the type of property being designated.
- Designation puts in place a simple permit mechanism to encourage preservation of the various heritage attributes as found. Any alteration likely to result in the loss, damage, alteration or removal of one or more designated heritage attributes requires approval from City Council before the work can begin. Usually this applies only to major exterior renovations, additions or demolition. As such, a heritage permit is required. Heritage designation is not intended to prevent the alteration or expansion of a building or site. It simply introduces a mechanism to review the proposed changes beforehand keeping heritage impacts in the equation. It is used to guide change in a reasonable and balanced manner; never losing sight of the pragmatic considerations that often trigger the call for changes in the first place. The designation review process for proposed alterations can take no longer than 90 days under the Ontario Heritage Act. In most cases, the process takes considerably less time and is usually routine.
- Designation can be used to control demolition. Council has the power to prevent demolition of a building or structure located on a designated property. If the owner of a designated property wishes to demolish or remove a building or structure, the owner must obtain approval from Council. Council decides whether to consent to demolition, to consent with terms and conditions, or to refuse the application altogether. A property owner may appeal Council’s decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal. After holding a hearing, the Ontario Land Tribunal decides whether to dismiss the appeal, to order the municipality to consent to the demolition, or to consent with terms and conditions. The Ontario Land Tribunal’s decision is final.
- Designation may make a property eligible for grants, tax relief and other incentives that may be approved by City Council or other levels of government from time to time.
- All property owners are obligated to maintain their properties, whether heritage or not. Heritage buildings can be threatened if maintenance is neglected or deferred. Designation can be used to ensure that routine maintenance and care of heritage attributes are undertaken as required.
- Designation generally does not include interior spaces unless they are unusually significant or rare. They also have to be specifically cited in the designation bylaw. If a building interior, or any other property feature, is not included in the designation bylaw, that feature can be altered or completely modernized without a heritage review of any kind.
- Designation never restricts the choice of paint colours. Guidelines and appropriate colour palettes are often encouraged however.
- Designation does not result in higher insurance premiums. A variety of factors may cause an insurance company to increase premiums for older buildings such as old ‘knob and tube’ wiring, an outdated furnace or serious maintenance issues such as a leaking roof. Heritage designation is not one of these factors. It does not place additional requirements on the insurer and, therefore, should not affect your premiums.
- Designation does not obligate a property owner, or an insurance company, to restore or replicate heritage attributes if a building is destroyed or seriously damaged. Lost heritage attributes do not have to be replaced or replicated “in like kind and quality” under heritage designation.
- Designation does not prevent the introduction of modern conveniences. It is perfectly acceptable to install central air conditioning, swimming pools, satellite dishes, garages, parking spaces, modern interior design treatments, etc. Designation is usually not about “if” such changes can be made, it’s about “how” or “how best” within the budget constraints and objectives of the property owners, factoring in the significance of the heritage attributes that might be impacted.
- Designation does not obligate landowners to restore lost features or to spend more money than they would otherwise spend as a prudent landowner. Designation is only concerned with what is there now. Restoration of lost or missing heritage attributes is not required.
- Designation does not restrict the use of a property. Only a zoning bylaw can do this.
- Designation does not prevent the redevelopment of a property. There are several instances locally where designated heritage resources and features are being sensitively adapted.
- Designation does not affect property values. In depth studies in Ontario and in other parts of Canada and the United States confirm that designation either has no negative impact on property values – or it increases property values. The conclusions of these studies suggest that people attracted to heritage homes are looking for the original heritage features to be intact. These buyers want a property with modern conveniences but not if genuine or vintage character is lost or has been slowly eroded by years or minor renovations or upgrades. Also, many heritage homes are located in established neighbourhoods that tend to further enhance property values.
Given time and determination, anyone can find information about historic buildings in Brockville and their owners. There is a lot of information recorded in different places and in different ways; a challenge for those who enjoy detective work.
Search historical land registration books online OnLand site. The land registry system was established to record all official documents related to local land ownership. These documents seldom mention any buildings on the land, but they do tell you the succession of owners.
Another approach to getting a rough date for your house is studying some of the old Brockville maps reprinted in Brockville, A Pictorial History (Besacourt Publishers, 1986), a copy of which may be found in the Brockville Public Library or the Brockville Museum. Start with the Wall & Forest map of Brockville of 1853 (pages 63-64), and then move on to H.F. Walling’s map of 1861-62 (pages 92-93), and H. Brosius’ bird’s-eye view map of 1874 (pages 102-103).
If you find your building on any of these maps, you may reasonably assume that the building was built before the date of the map. Also, these accurate maps may give you an idea of the original, or at least early appearance of your building, its ground plan and even wall elevations.
Another possible source of information about your building is the photo archives of the Brockville Museum. Though there may not be an early, dated photo of your building on file in the archives, there may be one of your street, and it may show your building. A Brockville Museum research request form can be submitted online or in person to the Brockville Museum.
Finally, the Brockville Museum has a small but useful number of fire insurance maps of Brockville from earlier times. These maps are large in scale and show virtually all buildings in town, and were colour keyed indicating stone, brick or wood frame construction.
Determining who had your building constructed is sometimes guesswork. It was usually the owner of the land at the time. Identifying the designer and contractor is difficult as such information was seldom recorded.
Discovering previous inhabitants is not quite so difficult. National censuses were taken every ten years, starting in 1851. Some of the older censuses are available on microfilm at the research library of the Leeds & Grenville Genealogical Society. This library is located in the basement of the Brockville Museum. The censuses contain information on household members including families and live-in servants (if any), and sometimes include short house descriptions.
Brockville city and business directories are another source of information about people who lived and owned businesses in town. The Brockville Museum has a set of Vernon’s directories from 1913 to 1973, and the Public Library has most of the Vernon’s directories from 1913 to 1997, and the Might-Polk directories from 1997 to 2000.
Once you have owners and occupants’ names, you may find more biographical information from inscriptions on tombstones at the Brockville Cemeteries. These have been recorded and published by the Leeds and Grenville Genealogical Society and are available in their research library. While at this library, you should consult Ed Livingston’s printed index of personal names mentioned in thousands of “On This Date” columns previously published in the Brockville Recorder and Times. These lists often include many details about area residents and are reliably dated.
Brockville’s newspaper, the Recorder and Times published columns titled “100 Years Ago”, “50 Years Ago”, etc. Most of the available Brockville newspapers have been microfilmed, and the reels can be viewed by appointment at the Brockville Public Library. You can print off photocopies for a fee. Some prominent Brockvillians are profiled in various files and histories available at the Brockville Museum reference room.
Heritage Brockville has been replacing and updating worn or damaged plaques over the past few years and adding new ones.
Take this virtual tour of the plaques that stand on display throughout the City and see how they offer a glimpse into a remarkable past.
Street Names Project
Street names are often suggested by developers to tie into their Plan of Subdivision while some may have been selected by City Council as a form of recognition of a person, place or event. Many streets in the oldest part of Brockville date back to the early 1800’s when Brockville was first incorporated in 1832 or even before that when it was called Elizabethtown. Their names are part of our history and each has its own story.
In order to explain why these “old” streets are named what they are, a new initiative has been started by Heritage Brockville. Small plaques are being attached to the posts that support street signs. Streets such as Buell Street, Bethune Street, and Apple Street, all have an interesting history that these small plaques describe. We believe these little stories will be of interest to our citizens and visitors alike.
- Bartholomew Street
- Ford Street
- Ormond Street (2)
- Bethune Street
- Broad Street
- Chase Street
- Clarissa Street
- Gilmour Street
- West Market Street
- East Market Street
- Victoria Street
- James Street
- Flint Street
Please Contact Heritage Brockville if you are interested in sponsoring a Street Name Plaque or for more details.
Manager of Cultural Services