The North Grenville Historical Society [NGHS] celebrated ten years at their current location this month. Back in 2009 the Society was desperately looking for a home, as their archives had been housed in the old schoolhouse at Acton’s Corners for many years. That building, however, was becoming uninhabitable because of mold and damp working its way up from the basement. People with breathing issues, such as asthma, could not remain inside the schoolhouse for more than a few minutes without suffering the effects, and the impact on the Society’s holdings, both paper and clothing, was becoming serious also.
The Society approached the Municipality about the problem, as it was from the Municipality of North Grenville that the archives building was leased, and talks began on moving into the old Kemptville Town Hall on Water Street. The upstairs of the Town Hall has a long and historically significant story. From the time it was built in 1873, it housed the Kemptville Town Council offices, as well as sessions of the courts and Inquests. It was only when the Municipal Centre was opened that the Municipality finally left the building completely.
The NGHS has thrived since it moved into the Town Hall, and attendances at their regular public meetings has increased many times over since 2009. The location on the upper floor of the building has allowed the Society to enlarge the holdings year by year, and the public make use of the Society’s records on a constant basis. There has been something appropriate about having historical records and research located in such an historic building.
The provincial courts and probation offices occupied the downstairs and two offices upstairs, though the court sessions are less frequent these days, and the Probation Service moved out altogether over a year ago. This has left the Historical Society as the sole regular user of the Town Hall, paying a nominal annual rent to the Municipality.
With expensive repairs and alterations now looming for the old structure, including a new furnace, roof and, possibly, even an elevator to make it accessible to all, the revenue from rents and leases is far from sufficient to cover the costs. The Municipality has been in talks with the Society about finding a new home for the Archives, and it is possible that the building may be emptied in the near future.
The Historical Society is in the process of creating a digital inventory of the extensive holdings it maintains, preserving and promoting our local history, and these efforts will be badly impacted by any relocation. The possible, and likely sizeable, increase in rent or lease charges may be beyond the Society’s ability to carry. Furthermore, the future of the old Town Hall itself may be in jeopardy. Given the manner in which the Township Hall has been practically abandoned since the Library housed there was closed some years ago, the fear is that these two historic sites may be left to disintegrate owing to the cost of preserving them in the years to come.
Talks continue, but there is clearly a need for some overall plan to be developed that will consider the fate and future use of heritage properties owned by the Municipality. Yet another issue for the Council and staff to deal with in the months to come.