Address: 6581 Fourth Line [Main Street]
Old North Gower Town Hall
Location: Lot 71, Plan 628
Date and Fabric: 1876 Brick Town Hall
|Township of North Gower||1876 - 1973|
|Township of Rideau||1974 -|
Etensive photography on file including photo reports in connection with the restoration [A.D. Perry, 1978 and Paul A Croteau, 1983]; other photos "before and after" the restoration - most of them undated. Also large oversize c. 1979.
The file includes a good deal of documentation on the specifications for the hall, including a copy of the original contract for its construction, as well as studies undertaken prior to stabilization and restoration in the 1980's. There appears however to be surprisingly little documentation on the history of the building, as distinct from the history of what went on in the building 38, which served both as a public hall and as a council room from 1876 until the second Township Hall was constructed at 2358 Roger Stevens Drive [q.v.], as a centennial project in 1967. The formal reopening of the old building as a Township Archives, planned for May, 1990, will probably provide an occasion for more research.
North Gower Township existed as a geographic entity from the original survey late in the 18th century, but it was not until the formation of Carleton County following the Baldwin Act of 1848 that North Gower, the only village at the time, became the seat of municipal government. Municipal meetings were held from 1850 until 1876 in a room of James Johnston's hotel. In 1874, serious consideration was given to the construction of a town hall but the idea was discussed and defeated at a public meeting. In 1875, however, the plan was re-introduced and a committee headed by Reeve James Wallace was commissioned to examine recently built town halls in the county to determine what would be appropriate.
The site for the hall, in lot 20 of the third concession, was purchased early in 1876 from James Craig for $100., and on the seventeenth of January of the same year a contract was concluded with John A. Eastman to build the hall for $2290. complete. Council met there for the first time on November 18, 1876. It is reported that the cost of the Hall was met from a windfall accruing to the Township when the Clergy Reserves.were secularized some years earlier 39.
The building was intended as a public hall, and in addition to its municipal functions it accommodated many dances and other social events. When the North Gower Council moved to their new premises in 1967, it was turned over to the North Gower Fire Department and a garage [later recycled into a public library] was constructed immediately to the north.
By the late 1970's, when the Fire Brigade had moved to the former Township Road Garage at 2353 Roger Stevens Drive, the old hall was in poor shape. On the advice of the Township Heritage Board and LACAC, Rideau Township Council decided after some discussion to maintain the building, taking advantage of grants from the Ontario Government as far as possible. The work was very largely planned and supervised by volunteers. Partly because of the annual ceiling on the grants and other financial factors, and partly because the deficiencies in the building proved in practice to be even more serious than expected, the renovations extended over ten years. After a great deal of work, the old hall was by 1990 literally better than new, and ready for its next role as a home and study centre for the archives of the Township and its predecessors, and other local documentation.
[after Robert Hunter 1978, with additional material from the editor, 1990]
The old Town Hall was designated by By-law 33/79 of March 1, 1979. Reasons for Designation follow:
The North Gower Old Town Hall was built in 1876 as the Township's first municipal building. The one storey, brick faced structure is a fine example of a modest type of town hall, interesting architecturally due to its fine proportions, careful detailing and cupola.
38 While documentation exists, in council minutes and elsewhere, on the political and social history of Rideau and its predecessor Townships, much of it has not been compiled. There is plenty of room for more interesting work.
39 Parish of North Gower, Historical Sketch, op cit., page 9