THE HISTORIC VITTORIA TOWN HALL
|History||The Inside||Rental Contact|
|Accessibility Project::||Pictures - (before and after)||Randy Pressey|
|Thank you||John Donaldson|
In May 1802, the Crown granted John Gustin 200 acres of land known as Lot 20, Concession 3, Charlotteville. Gustin sold 50 acres at the north end of this lot to S. Mabee, who in turn sold the property to Robert Nichol. Nichol deeded a portion in the northern part of the 50 acres to be "in trust for public uses of the District of Talbot." This portion of land was known as the Court House Square.
A few years later, in June of 1841, part of the Court House Square described as "being composed of part of the lot of land upon which Gaol (Jail) and Court House was formerly erected", then known as Lot B, Block 17, Vittoria, was sold to Thomas Lamport by the Clerk of the Peace for Talbot District, William Wilson.
On June 20, 1862, a subscription list was issued of citizens who promised to donate certain sums for the purpose of building a Public Hall in Vittoria. The building was also to be used for meetings of the Division Court. The following conditions were included with the subscription list: "Site to be given by Mr. Thomas Lamport and building to be erected within six months from date to be ready for next Township meeting, to be held in January next, 1863."
The publishing of this subscription list coincides with the deeding of "part of the south end of Lot 20, Concession 3, Charlotteville, better known as Village Lot B (Block 17)" by Thomas Lamport and his wife Lydia, to the Vittoria Lecture Room Company. This transaction was registered in December 1862.
The subscription list for the building of the Public Hall contained 34 names and the records indicate a total of $1055 subscribed!
One of the events, according to an old advertisement, this first Public Hall in Vittoria hosted was a Grand Musical Entertainment in aid of the Vittoria Brass Band on Thursday evening, May 24, 1866. Unfortunately the Hall was destroyed by fire sometime before March 5, 1870, for on this date a number of "members and subscribers of the Vittoria Lecture Room Joint Stock Company" pledged support to rebuild the Vittoria Public Hall or Lecture Room. The Hall was to be "rebuilt with brick as soon as possible".
Included with the list of subscribers was a sketch of the Town Hall as it was to be built and which somewhat resembles it today. There were 21 subscribers this time. The total from the subscribers amounted to $625. They were to pay their subscribed amount to William Finlay of Vittoria as Treasurer, half on the 1st day of May and the rest on the 1st of October. The building was "to be erected and finished according to the site plan and elevation as agreed upon by a majority of five persons chosen by ballot" as a building committee. The building therefore, was most likely completed by the end of 1870.
On December 1, l915, The Vittoria Lecture Room Company leased the Town Hall Property (north easterly part of Lot B, Block 17, Plan 29-B) to the Trustees of the Police Village of Vittoria for a period of 999 years.
The Trustees were to pay the sum of one dollar each year of the lease and were to be responsible for the taxes and the maintenance and fencing of the property. They were also to insure the Hall for fire, in case of which the building was to be rebuilt to its former condition. It was, according to the lease, "to be always used for the purposes of a public hall - or a place for exhibitions by said Village or for any other necessary purpose."
Also, according to the lease, the Trustees could not sublet the building without permission from the Lecture Room Company and must pay each year all money required for the Company's meetings. They were also responsible for any costs incurred by the Company to file annual statements and for the costs it might have in order to adhere to any laws of Ontario or Canada that might occur in the future. If such costs were presented to the Trustees, they were to be paid within ten days.
The lands were dedicated as park land for public use only, and under no circumstances was the sale of alcohol or the parking of vehicles to be permitted. The lease was signed by John Pow, president; R. W. McCall, secretary; James Dyer and J. C. McLennan and witnessed by Hetty Dyer, wife of James Dyer. The legalities certainly developed at a slow pace as the lease began on December 1st, 1915 but was not signed until June 2nd 1917.
On the 1st day of May, 1962, the Trustees of the Police Village of Vittoria were also to become the recipients of the lot next to the Town Hall where the Lamport Block had previously stood. Emily Alice Blanche Lamport, widow of William A. Lamport, who had been a Barrister-at-Law in Toronto and whose grandfather settled in Vittoria in or around the year 1800, donated the lot described as "being in the Township of Charlotteville, in the County of Norfolk, and being Block 17-C according to Vittoria Plan 29B" as a Park land in his memory.
The Trustees were to establish a "Lamport Memorial Garden" under the following conditions: there was to be no commercial venture permitted on the lands and under no circumstances was the sale of wine, beer or spiritual liquors to be permitted. A monument, at the expense of the Trustees, was also to be erected and maintained, as she had instructed, bearing the following inscription, "This park is the gift of Mrs. William A. Lamport in memory of her husband, who died in the year 1961 at the age of 95 years, and knowing that it would be his wish, as he loved Vittoria, the place of his birth". The Trustees were also to be responsible for all taxes and any other charges subsequent to the 31st of December 1961, the maintenance of the park and the erection and care of fencing around it.
A few years later, when the Vittoria Lamport Club (New Horizons) - the name having been chosen due to the above previous history - was organized in 1976, a Grant was received from the New Horizons and from the Township of Delhi, which, as a result of government reorganization, has inherited the responsibilities of the former Trustees. This money was used to secure items required for the operation of the Club which included the drilling of a well, a new roof at the Town Hall, where Club meetings were to be held, and the installation of washrooms, drapes, a refrigerator, etc. at the Hall.
In 1996, the 126-year-old Town Hall as well as the Lamport Memorial Garden were "spruced up" in preparation for Vittoria's Bicentennial celebrations. New front steps, a new roof, the painting of the interior and other required maintenance brought new life to this historical building, which was the centre of public life in the hamlet of Vittoria.
In 1998, a study was done to assess the condition of the Town Hall. It was found that, although the 128-year old building is in generally good condition, there are deficiencies, some rather serious, which should be addressed immediately. Some citizens suggested that it would be a great project to celebrate the new millennium, and The Vittoria & District Foundation was approached to spearhead the repairs, which should prolong the life of this historic landmark in the Village Square for years to come.
Representatives from the Foundation met with other stakeholders who share an interest in preserving our heritage, and found considerable enthusiasm to proceed, provided we could qualify for sufficient assistance from the Canada Millennium Partnership Program.
To emphasize the historical significance of Vittoria, which celebrated its Bicentennial in 1996, may we simply say that from 1815 to 1825, Vittoria was the judicial capital of the London District of Upper Canada. When the Court House (which was adjacent to the Town Hall) burned down in 1825, the courts and the judicial capital were moved to London.
We believe the restoration of the Vittoria Town Hall explores our heritage, celebrates the achievements of our founding fathers and other ancestors, and will leave a lasting legacy for years to come.
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This project is now complete except for some minor finish painting in the spring, and I am well pleased with the beautiful finished project.
The Building Inspector has signed off the project as complete and to all specs. It is nice to see the ramp being used, not only by those in a wheelchair, but also by many others. It is so much easier to get up and down the ramp while carrying things. It is great to see this project finished in less than a year from the initial presentation.
Town Hall Manager/Custodian Larry Cable advises that usage is up already and and at least 3 bookings so far were solely due to the handicap access.
Special thanks must go the County, the Norfolk Heritage Committee, our builders Collver Farms and Handy Hammer and to the local volunteers who contributed about 60 hours labour to the project. The Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Vittoria Lions and Lioness, the Vittoria Lamport Seniors Club, Vittoria Women's Institute and the Norfolk Branch 1156 and our own Vittoria & District Foundation all contributed the funds for this project.
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Thanks to Ontario Trillium Foundation
It was especially pleasing that Trillium funded this project with 100% of what we had asked them for ($14,600) and they were very enthusiastic about what we were trying to do.
Special thanks must go to Randy Pressey, our hands-on craftsman. I know he put in extra hours in building this absolutely first class facility.
The Building Inspector signed off that we met all specifications as to construction and all handicap rules were met with no further requirements.
It is interesting that Trillium sent our application to the March of Dimes and asked for their comments on our project, they being experts in dealing with handicapped accessibility. They reported that we met all the specifications but suggested that automatic doors should be included to make it truly accessible. The Norfolk Building Inspector also said he felt this was very good idea. The Vittoria & District Foundation (V&DF) Accessibility Committee met and voted to add this $3000 modification, which of course was not in the original funding.
Up to this point all was going well, then the wheels started to fall off!! It was determined that the 12 year old Town Hall front porch, steps and railings were in terrible condition and were rotting from the inside out and not one fastener was working as it should - - all had rusted to nothing with no holding power. It would only last a few years if patched and would soon require complete replacement. Do we attach a brand new wheelchair ramp to a falling apart porch??
Once again the V&DF Accessibility
Committee met and voted to replace the whole porch and steps. This plus poor
weather started to impact the project timing big time. We had set up for all
painting to be done by volunteers. The prime coat on everything on the completed
job took 50 volunteer hours but it was already into November. We feared we would
not get the final coat done and had to hire professionals who did the job in
2.5 days and as it turned out weather-wise, we would never have completed the
painting at all with volunteers.
Now we had a completed, painted project using the finest oil base paint on the steps, porch and ramp. Nobody told us this oil paint was so slippery when wet that you could not even walk up the ramp let alone use the steps. It was impossible to walk on even with a dew covering. Even the Building Inspector would not pass the project at this point. Many solutions were looked at and we finally settled on a new clear rubberized non-slip product that has proven to be an excellent product and does not interfere with the colouring. After adding some lighting the job was finally done.
I feel badly about the seemingly out-of-control costs but I don't think there was any way around any of them. The original estimate and funding was $18,600. The finish cost is under $30,000. The painting was $1000, and the non-slip were $900. Doors were $3000.
The rest is the labour, materials and paint to build the new porch steps and railings. I hope it is worth it and we can enjoy the result.
Many thanks for all the help and support of everyone involved in this very complicated project.
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Above and Beyond – Randy Pressey
An exceptionally talented local volunteer has been flying under the radar for at least the last dozen years. Sure, we knew that Randy Pressey had been donating exquisitely crafted wooden products from his workshop to our annual auction from the very beginning of those fundraisers. His contributions over the years have included a number of gorgeous keepsake chests, a deacon's bench, and a Heritage Curio clock. Each of his creations has reflected his skill and the care with which he works. Randy's contributions really came into focus during the recently completed Vittoria Town Hall accessibility project. As project co-ordinator John Donaldson puts it, "As part of the original deal, Randy had offered to build and install the inside railings of the wheelchair ramp and not charge us for this. Of course he did this, but, with the unanticipated tearing down the original cedar turning platform and steps, and replacing them with pressure-treated lumber, he obviously lost time and money.
"He took to the job from the very start, and I know that our immediate payment when he presented bills for himself and Collver Farms astounded both parties ... this just NEVER happens.
"What a guy. He prebuilt almost everything in his shop, and I never saw him have to alter anything. He stated he loved working on the project and with dealing with us and the local people. Towards the end, I do not see how he was paid for the hours he put in. I don't think he could have made a dime on the project and it probably cost him, but of course I can't prove it.
"He was totally reliable and I never had him come up short on anything. He now states his whole winter has been filled doing jobs for people who have seen his work, or learned of it by word of mouth."
Town Hall Manager/Custodian Larry Cable added that Randy was a perfect ambassador for the Town Hall, the accessibility project, and the village. When guests dropped in while he was working, he greeted them politely, and took time to show and explain the upgrades being made. His workmanship was incomparable, and he couldn't do enough to please. The Town Hall Accessibility Committee, The Foundation Trustees, the many users of the Town Hall, and the entire community at large express their appreciation to Randy Pressey – an exceptional "Above and Beyond" community volunteer. Thank you, Randy.
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Above and Beyond – John Donaldson
The Vittoria Town Hall is a preferred venue for the activities of many of our long-time residents. For several years, there has been a desire on the part of many district residents to have better, easier access provided to the Town Hall. A survey showed that attendance at a number of functions and activities would increase if the Hall was made accessible.
But there were some formidable challenges and barriers to overcome. The Town Hall is owned by Norfolk County, and we knew it could not rank very high on any list of the County's funding priorities.
So John Donaldson began researching the possibility of securing a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to help make the Hall accessible. As a member of the Town Hall Accessibility Committee, John led the research into various options of making the Hall user-friendly for all; studied the requirements to obtain a Trillium Grant; helped negotiate a 5-year lease on the Town Hall with Norfolk County; met with the Norfolk Heritage Committee to endorse a mutually agreeable ramp design; sought quotations on the various components of the project; completed the Ontario Trillium Foundation application; invested many uncredited volunteer hours hands-on the job; and generally dealt with frustrating off- and on-site complications with persistence and single-mindedness.
To his credit, John forged on relentlessly, never losing his focus and dealing with mini-crises when they arose. If he became discouraged, he masked it with his determination to get the job finished. John is a Founding Trustee of The Vittoria & District Foundation, and is a leading force in our annual Membership drive. Congratulations for successfully guiding this project to a successful conclusion, and many thanks, John.