Brooke-Alvinston councillors want Campbell House saved

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The historic farm house at AW Campbell Conservation Area

Historic home slated for demolition by the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority

Brooke-Alvinston council doesn’t want the former home of AW Campbell torn down.

In September, the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority voted to take down the home of the man who donated the 308 acres which has become the park bearing his name.

The authority opened the Campbell House Museum in the early 1970s. It was furnished with items from the late 1800s- donated by local residents – to look like a typical farmhouse from that period. It was open a few days a week in the summer months with the province pitching in some of the money to run it.

But in the 1980s, the money ran out and the museum would only operate during the annual Maple Syrup Festival until 2001. That’s when the museum was broken into and thieves stole the more valuable artifacts.

It never reopened.

Greg Wilcox, the manager of conservation areas, told the board at the time “I don’t see this being fixed,” adding there are “holes in the roof, holes in the floors. I don’t even like to walk up the stairs to look at the items upstairs. It’s in really poor condition.”

Deputy Mayor Frank Nemcek says once people saw the news in The Independent, he started getting calls from people angry the building may come down.

Local historians voiced their concerns online. Kevin Edwards says it’s “pretty sad.

“A.W. was born and died in that house and it was built by his parents in the 1870s who settled the land. The last original farmhouse in the area.”

Dawn McNally posted a letter she wrote to the conservation authority hoping to change minds.

“Too many buildings of value have been torn down at this park I feel this is one that does need to be saved,” says McNally. “As a small child, I visited Mr. Campbell with my dad, John Leitch, and feel Mr. Campbell left you a gem of a property. My dad helped to build that dream into the park facility it is now with the campgrounds and trails. I think this needs to be revisited and looked at in a different way. Preserve the history of the park.”

Councillor Wayne Deans went into the building with Wilcox Wednesday to take a look. “Yeah, it was in rough shape,” he told council Thursday. “I blame the conservation authority for not doing the upkeep.”

Deans says there was a hole in the wall which should have been boarded up long ago. Racoons went into the building making a mess.

But he also told council there were still lots of artifacts – including photos and an old spinning wheel – which were inside.

“I would like to see a letter sent from the municipality to save it,” says Dean.

Councillor Jamie Armstrong agreed saying it may never be a museum again, but the house should remain standing. “At least have the building there so people can still see it…it’s not like they’re going to put a high rise there.”

“To me, it is an historic building,” said Mayor Dave Ferguson. He suggested the letter should ask for dialogue between the authority and the municipality aiming to keep the building standing.

Armstrong suggested members of the community might be willing to donate money to repair the building so it could remain. Hours after the council meeting, local artist Liana Russwurm said she had commitments for $500.

Council agreed to send a letter asking for discussions about the historic home. Nemcek warned the conservation authority is ready to act. “If we’re going to do this, do it right away because it is on the agenda to come down,” he said. “The fire department was asked if they wanted to do a controlled burn.”

Deans says it’s important to preserve the Campbell House particularly since the nature centre and the sugar shack are also gone.

“It will be the last thing there (from the family), everything else will have been be torn down.”