Old Post Office
 
That so many old Port Hope buildings are still standing is due more to luck than good management. They are being torn down with depressing regularity while indifferent town officials watch, or even aid in the destruction.
 
 
The first Port Hope Post Office, above, was built in 1817 and stood until 1819 near the corner of King and Armour Streets. Charles Fothergill, Port Hope's first Postmaster, who was then promoting Toronto as the name of the town, would have used this building. For many years after, it was kept in the Craick family's back yard on King Street where it was used to store harness. In 1960, derelict and abandoned near the bottom of Sandy Dump Hill, it was photographed by Cal Clayton. Whether or not it still exists, or what ultimately became of it, is unknown. There is no doubt about the  sorry fate of a later Post Office building.
 
 
 
 
 
The edge of a downtown public park is no place for new housing of any kind. There was other land available where an even bigger project with more units might have been built, and the public sale of the old Post Office would probably have raised the money to pay for it. Seniors' housing was subsequently built on Shuter Street and land was readily found for Wladyka Park and the Ruth Clarke Seniors' Activity Centre.
If the 'danger of traffic' to 'old people' really was a concern, then the middle of the downtown business district was a particularly poor place to put a seniors' residence.
 
Today, provincial legislation requires that such a publicly owned building - owned by the people of the town, not by the Mayor or Councillors - first be declared surplus and then sold by public tender, at or very near its true market value.
 
W Arnot Craick, in 'Port Hope Historical Sketches', writes that the Post Office 'building was erected in 1883, the cornerstone being laid with much ceremonial on August 30th by Sir Hector Langevin, Minister of Public Works.'
For four score and seven years the oddly beautiful old Post Office stood on the corner of Queen and Hector Streets, an unmistakable feature of Port Hope's skyline, an ornament to the downtown and a compliment to the nearby Town Hall. Still sound and potentially useful, it was owned by the people of Port Hope who were happy to have it there. On April 20, 1970, without ceremony, a handful of fugitive Town Councillors became, like the Minister, part of the history of this unoffending old building when they decided it should be knocked down. While they were at it, they closed the convenient adjacent street that had probably been renamed for Sir Hector.

At the time in question the Council consisted of: 
Mayor - Mike Wladyka
Reeve - Ruth Clarke
Deputy-Reeve - Cyril 'Bus' Hewson
Councillors - Art Brooker, Philip B Clayton, David B Duchesne, Garnet Reddick, V A 'Mike' Vosburgh and Charles D Wallace.

The minutes of the 1970 Town Council meetings show no evidence of concern for the historical or cultural value of this building, but at least one Councillor did not want to see it torn down or given away.

Minutes of the meeting of December 29, 1969
Notice of motion P B Clayton
[Chairman of the Property Committee]
Please be advised that the Town Property Committee after thoughtful consideration will present at the last regular meeting of Council in January a resolution that the building located on Queen Street formerly the post office be sold by public tender.

Minutes of the meeting of January 26, 1970
Moved by P B Clayton Seconded by Ruth Clarke
Tenders be called for the sale of the Old Post Office. Tabled.

[The tabling of this motion effectively ended all discussion of public tenders for the building. It would now not be sold at its true market value, or sold to anyone who might use, rather than destroy it. Illegitimis non carborundum*, Philipus.] 

Council Minutes for April 20, 1970
Mr P Simone from the Ontario Housing Corporation addressed Council and discussed with Council the Ontario Housing Corporation plans for former Post Office site. This matter was referred to Council for resolution.
Resolutions
Moved by Ruth Clarke. Seconded by D B Duchesne.
Be it resolved that the Council of the town of Port Hope offer to sell the former Post Office to the Ontario Housing Corporation at a firm price of $4000
[the Town paid $8000 for it, nothing like its true market value] providing immediate attention be given to that offer. The town also agreed to proceed immediately to stop up and close Hector Street to enable immediate beginning of the projected 20 Senior Citizens' Housing Units. Carried

from the Evening Guide  August 1970  by James Cutting
OLD PORT HOPE BUILDING BOWS TO PROGRESS
When the demolition crews start yanking and banging away at the walls and foundation of the old post office this month it will be like pulling out a favourite old well-worn molar from the decaying teeth of Port Hope's historic downtown business section. 
The new 20 unit Senior Citizen apartment building may fill the gap somewhat with a brighter appearance, but it still won't seem the same nor replace the stately castle-like quality of the old federal building with its nostalgic variations of artistic stone work. What will be missed most will be the tower section built right on the corner of Queen St.
 A Paltry Price - While the 20 units of senior citizen housing are sorely needed in Port Hope, it seems a paltry price to pay for getting rid of
[surely he means to say - 20 housing units are a trifling thing to put in place of] a fine old structure even though it is outmoded in the interior facilities. If it had been a 50 or 60 unit building that was going to replace the Post Office, the decision perhaps could have been accepted more easily. But on such prime land next to Central Park in the downtown business section, it seems such a waste of facilities.
It would have been much better to demolish the old public lavatories along Queen St next to the public library and build the public housing units there so the Senior Citizens would at least have a good view of both the river and Central and Rotary Park. Then a small section of the old post office could have been converted to public lavatories while the main floor could have been redecorated into an enlarged adult library. For the more energetic younger generation, the second floor could have been turned into a junior library or combination art gallery and museum.
Various Suggestions - There have been various suggestions made that the old post office was too costly to redecorate and that the interior would have needed a completely new furnace system. However no firm estimates on the actual cost of renovations have been presented in open council to balance against proposed new construction. So how can a true comparison be given? 
The 20 senior citizens units will simply serve as a political sop to the town from the provincial government to build up support from the electors in time for the next provincial election, possibly next spring. As it is, already there is a waiting list for these yet to be built units.
The east Durham Historical Society can go on dreaming for another decade that some angelic soul will bequeath them enough money to buy the Massey home for a museum. But $40,000 gifts for such a home aren't quite that plentiful anymore, thanks to the provincial and federal taxing powers.
The historical society members would be much farther ahead to look for some place on a part-time basis to begin operations and to build up support for the need of a building of their own.
The ideal location for both a temporary or permanent museum aside from the old post office, might be the old abandoned CPR train station which has been boarded up and is empty now. A sign on the wall of this structure says it is available for leasing. With a little bit of paint to spruce it up and a sign on the roof, Port Hope might have a valuable tourist attraction to add to its historic collection of homes and buildings.
Even a temporary museum would act as a magnet to start to attract a permanent collection of historical objects which are almost doomed to be spread far and wide across the country if something isn't done about a museum in Port Hope in the next five or 10 years. As elderly people die off, their estates inevitably are auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Many senior citizens want their prized historic possessions maintained in the community after they pass on, but until a museum is established to guarantee this perpetuity, they have no guarantee this heritage will be carried on to the next generation.
It seems a shame that the Port Hope Chamber of Commerce, weak financially as they might be, or the Great Pine Ridge Tourist Council, couldn't work out an arrangement to get such a museum on its feet.
With the demolition dentists knocking out both the post office and the public lavatories this fall, the last segments of that era of prominent architectural style are slowly becoming eroded. 
Soon only the rotting gums of less structurally attractive buildings will be all that's left of this once historical paradise.

from the Evening Guide  Tuesday, April 21, 1970
FATE OF OLD POST OFFICE SEALED
The fate of the old post office on Queen Street has been finally sealed - it will be demolished and a new 20-unit senior citizen apartment building constructed on the site.
Town council passed a resolution Monday night offering to sell the building to the Ontario Housing Corporation for the $4000 it paid for the structure several years ago. The provision is that the OHC give immediate attention to the offer.
In the last few years many suggestions have been made as to how the building could be utilized. These suggestions included a museum, a medical clinic, turning it into headquarters for the county school board, headquarters for the new provincial assessment department and to blow the entire structure up.
It was Mayor Michael Wladyka who introduced the idea of approaching the OHC in regard to having the old post office converted into a complex for senior citizens. 
Immediate need - At Monday night's council meeting, P Simone, property agent for the OHC, told council that the OHC had carried out a survey in Port Hope and discovered an immediate need, not for 15 units as had been anticipated, but for 20 units.
He referred to a letter received by the OHC from Mayor Wladyka in September, 1969, which stated that since the town was able to purchase the building at a token price of $4000 it was willing to pass it on to the OHC for that same price.
Mr Simone said that the OHC realized what the town paid for the building but what hurt was the cost of demolition; it threw the land acquisition cost up.
He said he had prices for the demolition which were considered 'reasonable' at $12,000 to pull the structure down and truck it away.
'The OHC doesn't bargain with a municipality,' he said. 'That is not our function, but on the basis of this letter from Mayor Wladyka we take it as a partial commitment that council might be prepared to turn the property over to us at the book value. If council is prepared to do so, I think we have a project.' 
One Purpose - Mayor Wladyka said the building would not be available for any other purpose at the book value price.
[Considering what took place at the Council meeting of January 26th, he might have said 'would not be available to anyone else at any price.']
Council was prepared to turn the building over to the OHC, he said, for the purpose of demolition and the construction of senior citizens housing on the site.
'We would like to see the job started as soon as possible,' he added. 'We are desparate for senior citizen housing because some old people are in a position where they are paying such high rents that they can only barely eke out a living.'
Mr Simone said if the OHC undertook to put the required number of units on the site, it would mean the adjacent road allowance would have to be closed so as much space as is necessary could be utilized. 
Street Closed - Mayor Wladyka said Hector Street could be closed off without any difficulty because it only affected two buildings; the senior citizens community hall and the Salvation Army headquarters. Access to these could be made from Elias Street.
He pointed out that closing the road would also mean that old people would have direct access to the park without the danger of traffic.
Councillor Arthur Brooker said the matter had been discussed on several occasions and council was 100 per cent in favour of the project.
Councillor V A Vosburgh said council was not in the real estate business and if it had a piece of land available it could not be put to better use than housing for senior citizens. He moved that the project proceed as soon as possible.
When Councillor David Duchesne was asked for his comment, he simply applauded
.

*Illegitimis non carborundum - Don't let the bastards grind you down
 


Port Hope Town Council 1969/70
Not in the picture - Councillor Charles D Wallace
Hold cursor over a face to see the name

 

 

You can use the form below to make a comment on this article. A name is required, an email address is optional. Email addresses will not be revealed.

  Comments/Questions: