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Heritage group wants government funds to preserve historic buildings

Aging buildings and dwindling resources are challenging Thunder Bay churches and those in charge of protecting historic structures in the city.
Keeping historic buildings... from becoming history.As the owners of old buildings struggle with upkeep and repair costs, we'll ask how the city can help.Larry Hebert is with the Heritage Advisory Commmittee 8:20
Aging buildings and dwindling resources are challenging Thunder Bay churches and those in charge of protecting historic structures in the city.
Thunder Bay city councillor Larry Hebert, who sits on the Heritage Advisory Committee, says he wants more help from the Ontario and federal governments for preserving historic buildings.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church officials recently hired a contractor to fix the ceiling in the sanctuary that collapsed last year. It's just one of several repair jobs the century-old building needs. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

Hebert said the need for money to maintain older buildings is a frequent topic at committee meetings. And in the case of churches, he added, they generate less revenue these days, even as their buildings age.

“They're getting older and, again, people have less money to put into them because they're just trying to survive … with many churches … congregation size is getting down.”

The minister at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church says they hired a contractor to fix the ceiling in the sanctuary that collapsed last year — one of several repair jobs the century-old building needs.

“We're looking at our steps which were built from sandstone and they are wearing and needing some repair, so we need to take a look at that,” Joyce Yanishewski said.
Thunder Bay councillor Larry Hebert. (Supplied)

“We've had damages to our windows as well.”

Maintenance costs have led another Thunder Bay church to seek permission to demolish its old ministers' residence.

Hebert said other levels of government should help.

“It would be great if, either federally or provincially, we could get some money to the municipal sector to preserve buildings,” he said.

In the meantime, Hebert said the heritage committee hopes to set up a local fund.

Yanishewski said she would welcome more help from anywhere.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian minister Joyce Yanishewski says the church is working on a maintenance plan to space out needed upkeep and renovations over several years, as funds permit. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

“If it could be done, of course it would be [a] great blessing for everybody,” she said.

"I think if people are deeming this important .... [and] want to preserve the heritage … that would be very helpful."

However, she added she doesn't know how practical that idea is, particularly with so many historic and heritage buildings in Ontario.

Yanishewski noted local businesses and the heritage committee have been very helpful during the process of getting the sanctuary ceiling fixed, and said the space will be back in commission by late fall.

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