Councillors hold off on hall’s heritage designation

aperwork is holding up the placement of the Willow Point Community Hall on the city’s Heritage Register

Paperwork is holding up the placement of the Willow Point Community Hall on the city’s Heritage Register.

The Lions Club, which owns and operates the hall, has been working with city staff since May to get the hall on the register in order to protect it and secure funding to fix it up.

Tom McKenzie, who spearheads the campaign, says the hall has a rich history and he wants to see the building stay as the Willow Point Hall.

“There were dances, weddings, roller skating, all organized at the hall,” said McKenzie. “It was a busy, busy hall with dances every weekend.”

The Lions would like to improve the hall and having it on the Heritage Register would not only recognize the building’s historical importance but also help secure future funding for restoration.

“The Lions are considering raising and levelling the hall, replacing the kitchen, adding a deck and relocating the hall on the property to allow parking in front of the building,” said Morgan Ostler, chair of the Community Advisory Committee, in a report to council.

The committee, which has been working with the Lions, hoped council would vote to put the hall on the register at Tuesday night’s council meeting but councillors felt something was missing.

Coun. Claire Moglove noted that in order for a building or property to be put on the Heritage Register, a statement of significance – explaining why the property has heritage value or character – is required.

But Ross Milnthorp, city manager of parks, recreation and culture, said it’s not necessary for the statement to be complete, it’s just part of the process.

McKenzie said the statement of significance for the hall is about three-quarters of the way complete.

“We’ve done a ton of research on it,” said McKenzie. “I have papers that go back to 1939 such as minutes and financial records from the Willow Point Community Club’s regular meetings.” He also has a binder full of old photos and newspaper clippings.

Coun. Andy Adams said he would like to see that research before making any decisions.

“It’s an interesting proposal but I’m not prepared to support it at this time,” said Adams. “It says in order to be included a statement of significance is required so I would want to see that statement of what holds value before putting it on the Community Heritage Register.”

Coun. Roy Grant agreed that he too would like to see a statement of significance.

The hall was built in 1939 by mostly volunteers, and by 1940 it housed concerts, funerals and socials. It was originally owned by the Willow Point Community Club, which held weekly bingo and shared its profits with other non-profit and youth groups. In 1984, as Willow Point Community Club members got older, they asked the Willow Point Lions Club for help with bingo and eventually, in 1986, the Lions Club officially took ownership of the hall.