Waterloo Region creates inventory of historical buildings

The Region of Waterloo has released two lists of public buildings constructed before 1951 to increase awareness about the structures and support future heritage conservation efforts.

List of current and former public buildings a trove of architectural history

An auto body shop in downtown Kitchener used to be an old trolley station.

The former Hespeler Town Hall and fire station is now a home.

An old Carnegie library turned into office space.

These are just a few of the examples of the more than 220 historically significant buildings that are part of a new inventory completed by Waterloo Region. Among the listings: fire stations, courthouses, park gazebos and hospitals. All the buildings included in the inventory were built prior to 1951.

"The definition we used was structures that were built for a specific purpose to serve the needs of the public," Lindsay Benjamin, a cultural heritage planner with the region, said in an interview about the project, which was started in 2009 and completed last year.

More than 100 schools

There were also 104 education-related buildings listed in a separate inventory.

"A lot of those were larger, more widely known schools, maybe high schools, but then there was also a large number of … historic one-room school houses that were inventoried, and so a lot of those were quite interesting because many have been adaptively reused and are private homes," Benjamin said.

"A lot of them have been changed quite considerably so driving down the street, you might never know that that was, say, the schoolhouse in Greenfield Village, a tiny little milling community north of Ayr in North Dumfries Township. We learned a lot of interesting history."

Fascinating, 'architecturally detailed' buildings

Benjamin said about 30 buildings were inventoried in 2009. Then last year, summer student James Arteaga was "super enthusiastic" about the project and began working with local historians and he would drive around the region just looking for buildings.

"He found all kinds of structures that I don't think we otherwise would have found just through, really, word of mouth," she said.

The inventory, which can be accessed from the region's website, will help regional and city staff with planning. But it will also be a great resource for history buffs and researchers, Benjamin said. It is also meant to raise awareness of the buildings and help support future conservation efforts and adaptive re-use projects.

"A lot of these are really interesting, fascinating, well-built, architecturally detailed buildings," she said.