In recent news, Thunder Bay City Council decided to remove the historic High Street stone retaining wall and replace it with an artificial “rock face” at a mere $2.4 million price tag.
Many citizens are divided on this issue; some defending Council’s decision, others unfazed and many dumbfounded.
I myself am dumbfounded, and extremely disappointed.
Why? “It’s just a wall” after all…
The structure is vital to the roadway above it, and the road beside it. It’s called a retaining wall for a reason, holding soils between two different elevations. It’s pretty damn important, YET I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous comments on social media like:
“Get rid of the wall if it serves no purpose. Let us know what purpose it serves if it is there for a reason!!!!”
Hmm… please, just stop talking Facebook commenter. You’re bringing down my IQ.
I’ve also read comments like: “Get over it”. and “It’s just an old ugly wall”. You’d think the discussion was about a bridge with the amount of Trolls commenting. Fine, call it what you will – everyone is entitled to their opinion, so here’s mine (not poorly written or chalked with grammatical errors and extensive unnecessary punctuation).
The stone wall is simply a small piece of a much larger issue; lack of preservation.
This city is notorious for it’s lack of historic preservation. Without thinking, name 5 structures off the top of your head that are over or nearing 100 years old.
Difficult, isn’t it?
It’s because council after council and bad decision after bad decision have jeopardized buildings, structures and authentic pieces of our past. It begins slowly, first with a lack of maintenance and turning a blind eye, and suddenly it’s too late and too expensive to fix. Ciao!
Which brings me to question…
Why hasn’t the wall been maintained throughout the years? Isn’t this due diligence, or common sense? The stairs were replaced recently, yet the stone was ignored?.
Why weren’t other options considered, like the motion of local masons assisting? And the offer from The Brick and Allied Craft Union (BACU) Local 25 to quote and repair the wall (this was made public in the Chronicle Journal)?
The Stone wall was little piece of history some of us were clinging to, hoping to avoid yet another bad decision. Alas, that’s now out the window.
I feel as though the ideas brought forward were purposely disregarded by council, and I’m not entirely sure why. Yes, they claim liability and it not being structurally sound, but couldn’t tradespeople and engineers tackle this situation together? If anything, this issue reiterates the fact that public opinion has little to no value to many of our city Councillors, nor does the preservation of our history.
Councillor Frank Pullia made a significant effort to maintain the stone wall, and vouch for a more cost effective and salvageable alternative. Sadly his plea fell on deaf ears, but I commend his efforts. I tip my hat to Mr. Rodney Brown, who has been advocating for the Stone wall – creating awareness and bringing many groups of citizens together. His tenacity has not gone unnoticed, and his passion has reaffirmed that I am not alone in my quest to preserve what little we have left.
For those of you wondering what the significance is, and why this wall is important – I’ve done a little digging. These snippets of information were gathered from both social media and ancestry.com.
Story has it, sometime before or during the second world war, this unique wall was constructed by an Italian immigrant by the name of Francesco Furfaro, who is listed in census records as being a cement finisher and mason. He and fellow labourer, Peter Steine, constructed the wall by hand, using authentic masonry techniques – taught to Francesco while he was an apprentice in Italy. Both men were residents of Mariday Park.
The Stone Wall represents far more than mortar and rock – it symbolizes what little we have left of our visual history. It’s more than a wall to many of us, it’s a metaphor of our City’s history; slowly eroding, ignored, undervalued and slated for demolition.
By the way, the above images I found in a 2 page newspaper spread from the The Winnipeg Tribune, 1910 – I have saved the entire PDF here, if you’d like to take a look.
Maybe we’ll revert back to 1910, becoming a city with no past, just a future.
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