“Most disheartening to see. Grateful for documentation of it in my personal photos and @paulbrandt documentary there.”
“A simple country church yet said much to one's heart when experiencing it in its landscape-sad that its been lost to fire #McDougall Church”
Upon hearing a month ago of the loss of the McDougall Church to a fire, these two tweets were my first thoughts when I learned of the unfortunate news. I was immediately disheartened and shortly after taken to a spot of reflection of my experience and appreciation of the church. No matter the size of a building, its use, or the people stories that reinforce its heritage value – it's a loss that causes reflection and a desire to understand and learn. For me, it hasn't ended there as it once again confirmed the value of documenting historic buildings and the stories that go with them. When it comes to the loss of a building or even entire city blocks to fire, it's a reminder that this also becomes a part of the story to be documented.
What was actually documented of the building and where was that archived? If not enough was documented and archived, then how we can get those photos and stories as part of rebuilding (if that’s possible), interpreting or now gathering photos and stories so the building remains a part of the evolution of a family’s or the community’s story and physical environment.
Loss, whether to fire or unnecessary demolition, is a loss to evolving our cities and communities. These layers of the built environment are needed as they create a “sense of place” and vibrant character areas. Without this layering over time, they lack uniqueness, which is one of the elements of a community or city that draws people to want to come and experience them. In the case of the McDougall Church, it is a big loss as it was a founding building that brought people to and through the community. Whether it is a church, a school, city hall or a post office these are all buildings that bring people together and build the people stories of that community.
I have had the pleasure of learning the value of documenting my own family stories and being a part of documenting history for a community. Despite this, I am reminded that whenever I hear of a historic building lost to fire, I, and we all, can do so much more to ensure that historic buildings are maintained, watched over with extra care by the community and equally, ensure they have been documented and safely archived be it written, photographed or in video formats. Building conservation and documentation are worth the time (and cost) to ensure we have unique community experiences as a part of our own personal family stories and history.
To read more about the heritage value of the McDougall Church, click here.
To learn more about Paul Brandt's perspectives on the value of the Church, click here.