Is it history? Old Plympton Hall closed to public use; future to be determined

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Fred Eaglesmith played the Old Plympton Hall in 2016, extolling the virtues of the small venues which brought rural communities together.

The Old Plympton Hall will stay silent as town council decides its future.

The hall on Egremont Road was built in 1869 and was the seat of the former Plympton Township municipal government until the mid-1950s. It was also the first site of what is now the Plympton-Wyoming Fair. In the 1950s, it became a community hall with a community committee taking care of it.

Deputy Mayor Muriel Wright was one of those caretakers. “It’s very close to my heart. I looked after that building, scrubbed the floors, cleaned the windows, made curtains for, you know, painted, and you name it. I’ve done that over the last 50 years. It is very close to me, and it is part of our community,” she told The Independent.

There are vocal supporters of the hall on council and in the broader community. In 2016, one of Canada’s most successful independent recording artists, Fred Eaglesmith, played the hall and extolled the virtues of it as a symbol of the heart of small communities. “When we had little townships people had to stick together to fight for their little municipalities…it was community,” he told The Independent at the time. “All these hall should have dances in them on Saturday night and cards in them on Monday morning.”

But, the hall has been a sore point for some on council. Plympton-Wyoming has been sinking money into it making repairs to the wood frame building. The hall has an operating budget of about $5,000 a year but brings in only $1,500 in revenue. Councillor Netty McEwen has suggested for several years the Old Plympton Hall should be closed.

Recently, as Plympton-Wyoming was considering some capital repairs, the public works manager said his employees would not touch the shed beside the hall because it is not safe.

And when councillors suggested a reduced rental rate to attract new users, McEwen again voiced concerned and suggested a report on the condition of the historic hall.

Wednesday, that report by Public Works Manager Adam Sobanski’s showed there were up to $365,000 in repairs and accessibility improvements which need to be made. That’s about the same amount, Sobanski estimates, as it would cost to build a replica on site.

Council voted 5-2 to stop renting the hall until it can determine its future. Mayor Lonny Napper and Councillor Tim Wilkins were opposed.

Wright wants the Old Plympton Hall to be used, but she’s aware the cost is high.

“I am conscious of taxpayers dollars, but it’s the only historical significant building left in our community. It’s the only place left because all the rest have been sold off and demolished,” she says.

Sobanski’s report suggests a couple of solutions to deal with the aging building. “Council could also consider reconstructing a replica of the building as the replacement cost is not significantly more than the identified repairs,” he says. It could also be closed and sold off or the land could be repurposed, Sobanski says.

Councillor Gary Atkinson isn’t sure about the proposed solutions, but he does believe the building is not safe for public use right now.

“We have some work on the front porch that has to be done. I think the doorway would have to be opened up. The washroom facility is not really a washroom facility – it was good back in those days. And then, of course, there’s a stage in there that is very short. That would have to come out or be remodeled.”

“There’s a lot of issues that I believe we need to address, especially as we move forward, on accessibility, and a few other things that it’s just not really safe at this time to be renting out to our public,” he says.

“We have to be cognizant of that and made sure that we have it in good condition.

Town staff will be setting up a public meeting to get input from the public on the use for the historic hall.