Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blog Guelph: 130 Years, How Many More

A. D. Petrie Building (1882) by thomevered
A. D. Petrie Building (1882), a photo by thomevered on Flickr.


15 Wyndham Street North in Guelph is where the Petrie Building has stood now for 130 years, 1882 - 2012. It's now one of only two buildings left in Canada that has a galvanized iron façade.

Designed by Guelph architect John Day, it was completed for Alexander Bain Petrie, a pharmacist, manufacturer, and businessmen. 

But I really couldn't even begin to recount the history of this building to you. It's been so many things, held so many business, seen so many people come and go, thrived in so many times of prosperity, survived times of scarcity...and it's always, always endured change. 

Much of our historic core is wiped out; gone with the functionalist movement that swept through our city in the 60s and 70s, leaving heavy concrete lines, smooth generalities, soviet style boxes, and rigid angles. A trip through the online Guelph Public Library Archives reveals the depth of our loss. 

But Petrie survived. The building, like the man, is a bit of legacy in Guelph. A survivor...and although it's still standing, it's façade has eroded
 immeasurably. The whole building needs massive restoration. Yet, it's still standing.

One of only two left.

There are people out there vying for this building, people who want to protect it, to save it from "demolition by neglect" as archaeologist and artist David Knight has stated. He has been the leader of a remarkable little group of concerned citizens on Facebook through the Save the Petrie Building page, and now he has curated an astonishing exhibition that will actually take you inside the building for the first time in many years.

The photographs by Dean Palmer are revealing of another time, a window onto our past while yet opening a door onto our present. They speak of old times and yet also the future - the questions we face now, the ones we will surely face in the coming years. 

How do we handle our history? How can we protect it? How can it live with us today?

Why do we need it anyway?

I'll tell you why we need it. We need it because 
societies without history, are like a person without memory. They have no sense of belonging, of integration, no idea about being part of a family, no concept of being part of culture or a community - no sense of home. 

130 years. That's generations of people. Think of how many thousands, how many millions, have walked in the shadow of the Petrie. 

What an incredible legacy. And it's ours. 

So I really hope, you'll give your top hat a dust and join us tomorrow at the one-night only toast to our amazing Petrie Building. Ed Video at 7pm. 

~ Aidan M.D. Ware



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For more great Guelph photos, try these links:

Downtown Guelph, University of Guelph, The Guelph Hillside Festival or The Guelph Lake Conservation Area.

On the other hand, you may be curious about what the City of Guelph looked like last October or maybe Spring.

Indeed you may be the type that would love to wade through our deep and refreshing archives. There are over 5,000 terrific Guelph photos, taken by a growing tribe of fantastic photographers, currently available for your viewing pleasure. Check out the Blog Guelph archives located 'back up there' and appropriately titled: Blog Guelph Archives.