Winning the battle

Peterborough's Market Hall, before

Photo: Peterborough's Market Hall, before

Peterborough's Market Hall, after

Photo: Peterborough's Market Hall, after


Gordon Pim

Buildings and architecture, Community, Tools for conservation

Published Date: Feb 16, 2006

There are countless examples across the province of successful restorations of Ontario’s treasured heritage sites. Although the challenges are great – funding being the primary hurdle – we are winning the battle.

One such victory is Peterborough’s Market Hall – the premier heritage structure in the city. In 1999, the City of Peterborough acquired the building and determined the extent of the restoration required. Proposals were developed and grant applications submitted. A formal request was made to the Ontario Heritage Trust (then the Ontario Heritage Foundation) under the now-expired Heritage Challenge Fund Community Program. A $150,000 grant was awarded to the City of Peterborough for this project and over $475,000 was raised through individual/small business donations, organizations and service clubs, foundations and corporations.

The restoration required at this site was significant. Extensive repairs were necessary to the tower (including the cupola, clock faces, roof, walls and cornice work), windows, masonry and dormers. The large ornamental coat of arms had deteriorated beyond repair and a replica was required.

In addition to new lead-coated copper metal shingles and restoration of the clock faces and hands, paint restoration was a highlight of this project. Samples of paint from the building were taken to the microscopy lab at Trent University where original colours were matched using sophisticated computer technology. The new paint matches authentic colours while protecting the building from the elements more effectively.

Overall, this project lasted nearly three years. Community support for the restoration of Market Hall and the old clock tower was inspiring. The Save the Market Hall fundraising team created posters, T-shirts and brochures to publicize the campaign and raised nearly $170,000 in the first seven months of the drive. Special community benefits were held, including dances, walkathons and theatre productions. Local media interest, too, was significant both in raising funds and awareness, but also chronicling the progress of this important restoration project.

Today, Peterborough’s Market Hall remains a vital part of the landscape in this community. The complex now houses ground-floor commercial space with the Market Hall Performing Arts Centre above. Not only was this project successful from a restoration perspective, but it also united the community and validated their efforts by showing to the world the proud heritage that continues to tower above their historic downtown.

“The restoration of the building has been a major part of the reconstruction of the downtown as a place to be,” said Erik Hanson, Heritage Preservation Officer for the City of Peterborough. “It was inconceivable to the townspeople that the building would be lost, and they responded admirably with a campaign that raised nearly half a million dollars for the restoration work. The Market Hall is Peterborough's premiere heritage icon. It centres people in the town and roots them to the place. It is a powerful symbol of our history.”

The $5-million Heritage Challenge Fund Community Program was established in 1999 by the Government of Ontario and was administered by the Ontario Heritage Trust. Heritage organizations across the province applied for funds for capital restoration projects and endowment funds; applicants were required to raise matching dollars. The fund was over-subscribed by April 2001.