At the Heart of Communities

For small communities like Silverton and Harrop, gathering places like the Silverton Memorial Hall and Harrop Schoolhouse play…

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For small communities like Silverton and Harrop, gathering places like the Silverton Memorial Hall and Harrop Schoolhouse play vital roles—roles that sometimes remain the same for decades.

Whatever their histories, these buildings remain at the centre of a place. They provide spaces for celebrations, commemorations and gatherings, from weddings to reunions. They host arts and culture events, plus workshops and markets. They reflect and support the lives of residents, helping to create vibrant, dynamic spaces in communities.

A Century of Civic Pride

Serving the community’s 195 residents, the Silverton Memorial Hall supports a diverse range of activities. It’s an important source of revenue for the Village and one of its three civic spaces, which also include a gallery, fire hall and municipal campground.

“The hall is a source of pride, a social hub and an important asset for our community,” says Mayor Jason Clarke. “It’s a place where our residents mark life’s passages and celebrations. Our residents and staff take a lot of pride in the hall.”

Now, with Trust support, the 101-year-old heritage building is getting a facelift. New south-facing windows will increase energy efficiency and dampen noise from the highway, while being true to the pane design of the original windows. An extended roof will better protect the outside of the building and create much-needed additional storage for the activities that take place there.

“These improvements have been good news for our community right now,” says Mayor Clarke. “Everyone is very excited to have the work done.”

Operations at the hall have had to change in light of COVID-19, including a “phasing-in” for accommodating only smaller groups of people and the cancellation of annual events like the Canada Day pancake breakfast. However, these renovations will help ensure it remains one of the cogs that make Silverton tick.

An Exciting New Chapter

Built in 1912, the Harrop Schoolhouse has been through a number of changes. It was a one-room school. It was the home of herbalist John Balf. It’s now a gallery showcasing local artists and facilitating arts workshops, owned by the Harrop and District Community Centre Society. For over a century, the little red building has been drawing people to it.

It’s now drawing them in one more way, by hosting a weekend outdoor market. This has created another way for people in Harrop and Proctor to participate in community life, bringing together residents with local food producers and makers.

But this increasingly popular venue was facing challenges. When it came to market access, people, vendors and cars had to use the same road to park, drive and walk along. The Society also decided they wanted to enhance and expand an existing outdoor space to accommodate additional activities, but the grounds were uneven and overgrown.

“We wanted to have the grounds reflect what we’ve done with the inside…”

“We’d done so much work to improve and renovate the interior of the schoolhouse, and we wanted to have the grounds reflect what we’ve done with the inside,” says Coordinator Barb Kingsland. “We wanted to be able to have an activity that’s happening inside, like a performance or workshop, spill outside of the building into a new seating area. And we wanted to address some of the safety concerns when it came to people and cars getting to the market.”

With support from the Trust’s Community Outdoor Revitalization Grants, the Society created safer access by building a new gated lane for vendor vehicles, along with a separate parking area and walkway for patrons. Levelling, contouring, landscaping and fencing the grounds created a new seating and garden area. Also, a timber frame sign is in the works, which will talk about the history of the schoolhouse.

“These changes have made a world of difference to how the community can experience and participate in activities at the schoolhouse, especially now,” says Kingsland. “We are so lucky to live where we do. Being able to be here as a community, enjoying what we have with local food, arts and culture, makes you realize how good being right here is.”

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