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Crumbling building a hard reality


It’s a story repeated awkwardly in most small Newfoundland towns.

The post office that stood for 80 years, which is now faltering from its foundation, doesn’t see daily traffic, no longer that meeting place or beacon of the town.

It’s the church whose congregation has unfortunately passed on, now occupying their place in the cemetery owned by the same entity.

It’s the school with the population that has dwindled so far that staff outnumber students in each grade, and whose crumbling exterior is showing its years.

Last week, Woody Point was dealt one of these familiar blows when it said goodbye to the old courthouse, a building that has not housed a criminal proceeding in decades, but still stood in the centre of the town’s beautiful facade.

The province owned the building, but it supported the town in its effort to develop the area into a war veterans’ memorial garden. The existing war memorial is in the adjacent lot. This makes a lot of sense given the difficult decision that had to be made.

Watching historic buildings and structures collapse is always a sour pill to swallow, but those that carry the weight of a community’s growth or those that provided a pillar or backbone of a town’s existence are even harder to deal with.

It seems to have happened a lot over the past few years and, unfortunately, will happen even more in the two or three decades to come.

People are not moving back to our rural areas in the droves many get weepily nostalgic over. Government and church infrastructure has less relevance in the communities that have been largely vacated over the past 30 years. And the generation of stalwarts who continue to populate the communities are aging at an alarming rate.

So we can expect to see more of this type of demolition in the future as communities show their age and demographic shift.

That doesn’t make it wrong.

There is, however, a way to curb the change in a community’s facade: rather than watch skylines fade, invest and encourage investment in the community yourself.

The church can no longer pay its bills? Maybe it can stay alive as a B&B. An old municipal building is left vacant to crumble? Maybe it could be used as a cabin or second home. A school is sitting embedded in a perimeter of alders? What about turning the building into a cold-storage facility?

There may be ways to keep some of these buildings alive, albeit serving different purposes.

And while that may not be a solution for all, it beats sitting around waiting for communities to repopulate or lamenting the days the structures were built, complete with no electricity or indoor plumbing.

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