British Columbia

Heritage B.C. names 6 spots at risk of disappearing from local history

This week, Heritage B.C. released its first ever "watch list" of six culturally significant sites in need of protection.

The Heritage B.C. watch list is meant to draw attention to sites of significance around the province

The aging Victoria High School building, constructed in 1914, needs seismic upgrades and has been approved for expansion. The school board has proposed to keep the exterior while upgrading the interior. (Greater Victoria School District/Facebook)

This week, Heritage B.C. released its first ever "watch list" of six culturally significant sites in need of protection.

Two of those sites are on Vancouver Island, including Victoria High School, opened in 1914, which is also on the National Trust for Canada's Endangered Places list.  

"Vic High is an example of one of these schools which was slightly too small for its purpose today and it also really urgently needed to be seismically upgraded," said Heritage B.C. President Gordon MacDonald.

The school board has proposed  maintaining its heritage by keeping the exterior intact, while upgrading the interior, a move MacDonald applauds.

"The solutions are never simple … and always the best solutions come about as the product of collaboration," he told On The Island's Gregor Craigie.

The City of Vancouver said it is exploring its options toward retaining the Fairmont building, which was formerly the RCMP's headquarters. It is now on Heritage B.C.'s watch list because the land it sits on is being redeveloped. (City of Vancouver)

The other site is Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park, the site of a former coal mine located near Nanaimo, which Macdonald said displays examples of industrial heritage and the large engineering works that are a legacy of the province's early days.

"What you can see there are the remains of the above ground ... structures that supported the old mine workings. It was a very important coal mine in its day. Now, that's all become a bit precarious," he said.

The two sites flagged in Vancouver are the Fairmont Academy and the Vancouver Public Library Collingwood Branch.

First Presbyterian church in Prince Rupert and the Turner House or Cruikshank Residence in Abbotsford complete the watch list.

The goal of the watch list l is to engage communities surrounding the heritage sites in advocating for improved protection, awareness and conversation, MacDonald said.

The organization is aware of the need to move on, the need to make schools seismically safe and to provide new and affordable housing. He argues that preservation and progress "are not contradictory but rather complementary agendas."

"We promote the adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of historic spaces for contemporary new uses."

"Our heritage is only really effective when we use it and value it, so it's how we inhabit those spaces that is what we're really championing in the watch list."

With files from On The Island

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

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