Auction gives Petrolians to own a piece of history

A weight from the clock tower and some iron work are among the items on auction. Heather Wright Photo

It is a celebration of a milestone in Petrolia.
Twenty-five years ago, Victoria Hall reopened after a tragic fire. It had been completely renovated while still looking like the iconic building erected by the oil elite as an opera house in 1889.
Petrolia Councillor Liz Welsh, who is a member of Petrolia Heritage, says the committee wanted to mark the occasion. So it sifted through some of the relics taken from the burnt out shell of the building and decided a number of them could be sold to raise money for heritage projects.
On a table at the back of the council chambers in Victoria Hall there are iron lions, ornate pieces of metal which appear to be from the balcony and one of the weights of the clock.
There are also smaller items, such as pullies and clamps which came from the clock tower and old newspapers which tell part of the story of the fire and the rebuilding of the historic hall.
“We have kept examples (of iron work from in the original building) for posterity; we’re not selling off the farm here,” she says.
But Welsh says the committee wanted to do something to mark the event. “It was a pretty big deal,” she says of the reopening gala 25 years ago.
And she says it is a great example to the rest of southwestern Ontario. “When everyone is building new, new, new all the time, it just shows you what you can do with a heritage structure.”
She adds when people visit Victoria Hall and the theatre and see the pictures of the fire, they “can’t believe what we did.”
The reconstruction cost $6.5 million and the community raised $750,000 of it. The building reopened Sept. 26, 1992. The auction will be on until Sept. 29.
Also to mark the reopening of the hall, the Petrolia Community Foundation is working with Victoria Playhouse Petrolia on a gala performance of Rockabilly Swingtime. It will be Sept. 23, and a portion of the $60 ticket will go to support the Petrolia Community Foundation.