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The Globe and Mail

The loss of Canada's heritage buildings demands community action

The hockey museum in Windsor, Nova Scotia, October 21, 2011.

Paul Darrow/The Globe and Mail/Paul Darrow/The Globe and Mail

Canada's heritage buildings are disappearing. In the past 30 years, more than one in every five pre-1920 heritage buildings have had a date with the wrecker's ball. Even as this nation embarks on a massive program to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, our history is being dismantled, brick by brick.

Rather than wring hands or wait for the federal government to leap to the rescue, why don't communities launch One Building programs, along the lines of the One City, One Book programs of hundreds of cities in North America? Those programs have taken the warmth and intimacy of book clubs and turned them into a city-wide happening. If Chicago can ask its residents to read Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March, a wonderful but arduous read, why can't cities, towns or regions (if the municipalities are too small), do the same for a building, or an attempt to preserve a historical record, as in Windsor, N.S.'s hard-pressed hockey museum?

Communities have it within their power to preserve an endangered building by mobilizing around it, adopting it and fundraising for it. Thus mobilized, they could leverage additional funds from a small pot of money from senior levels of government.

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One Book has made a public event of the private act of reading. One Building could make the preservation of history a communal purpose.

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