On November 12, the St. Catharines Heritage Commitee considered beginning the process of designating Glen Ridge School for conservation due to its “cultural heritage value or interest.” This followed City Council’s motion of support on November 2. I was able to speak on behalf of the Save Glen Ridge School group that Matt Harris started. Below is the text of my presentation.
Thank you to the St. Catharines Heritage Review Committee for your consideration of the Glen Ridge School building for a heritage designation. My name is Greg Miller and I have been working with many, many interested community members (570 and counting) on a project we are calling “Save Glen Ridge School”. In addition to this, I grew up in the Glen Ridge and attended Glen Ridge School way back when we were just Gophers, not the mightier Glen Ridge Grizzlies you know today. My experience then and since has confirmed that Glen Ridge is one of the most unique neighbourhood communities in St. Catharines, and the primary reason for that is the Glen Ridge School building.
A brief bit of history. One hundred years ago the Glenridge Bridge was opened over the old Welland Canal, now the 406, to provide access to the south portion St. Catharines. Though less famous than the Burgoyne Bridge, also built in 1915, the Glenridge Bridge had a historic effect on St. Catharines. Prior to 1915 the area that is now known as Old Glen Ridge, was primarily farm and park land, with few homes. By the 1920s, the population of this area had grown enough that a school in the neighbourhood was required. St. Catharines architectural firm A.E. Nicholson and Ian Macbeth designed Glen Ridge School, and it opened in 1929. The designs of Nicholson and Macbeth from this era are well-known in St. Catharines and well-regarded in the architectural community, including the Montebello Park band stand and the Old Grandstand at the Henley Regatta.
After the school opened, the community grew organically around it. It is, and I don’t use this word lightly, literally the centre of the community. For 85 years, Glen Ridge School has been more than just a school; it has been a community hub. The building and its surrounding green space is where children meet their first friends and play their first game of soccer, where parents take their kids to play after dinner and where the neighbourhood dogs get to know eachother. I shouldn’t say it’s a community hub, it’s THE community hub. The community of Glen Ridge could not be more closely-tied with Glen Ridge School. Without this community asset, the neighbourhood would not be what it has been and what it is today; that is one of St. Catharines’ most unique and identifiable communities. I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that one day this Committee will be discussing a Part Five designation to mark Glen Ridge as a Heritage Conservation District. Buildings and neighbourhoods are simply not constructed and planned that way anymore and it is as important as ever to preserve this unique heritage, with Glen Ridge School being the most prominent part.
I will close by repeating that the Glen Ridge community would not be what it is without Glen Ridge School. Glen Ridge will never be the same if the school is allowed to be torn down. If this particular community is allowed to recede and disappear, what does that signal about St. Catharines? What is our identity going to be when we allow our history and our culture to fade away? A city should be defined by its community, not its budget. It is time for this city to stand up for its communities. That is why it is absolutely necessary for this Committee to recommend Glen Ridge School as a property of value and interest for its cultural heritage.
The Committee did pass the following motion:
“That the SCHAC prepare the background information necessary to consider the designation of Glen Ridge school and lands under the Ontario Heritage Act in accordance with Council’s direction of November 2, 2015, and that the Owner (DSBN) and community be invited to future meeting(s) of the SCHAC when this matter is to be discussed”