Bringing the past into the present

The Markham Village Conservancy (MVC) has an impressive record of bringing the past into the present. The MVC’s mandate is to build community and preserve the quality of life by strengthening the heritage and history of the historic village of Markham.

The restoration of the train station, initially built in 1871, was completed in 2000. Dianne Moore, the current President of the MVC was on the original board of directors that oversaw the restoration. The MVC has successfully initiated a project to install plaques at dozens of historical homes, and after in-person interviews, exhibited stories and images about women of distinction and long-standing families in Markham. Other projects have included Christmas arts and crafts sales, and commissioning of the Markham Group of Artists to create an historically relevant painting currently on display at the Morgan Pool.

MVC members Andrew Fuyarchuk and Eugene Martel represented the MVC when they attended the recent Ontario Heritage Conference (OHC). They aimed to learn how to build toward a culturally rich future by strengthening the past. Lynn Holden, renowned author of Canadian World Heritage Sites, shared her research about twenty-two UNESCO-designated sites in Canada.

Holden’s presentation was followed by a lecture about the making of the film “Lost Airmen of Muskoka.” The film recounts the recovery of the plane and the bodies of two heroic airmen from Canadian Forces Base Borden. They had crashed in Lake Muskoka while searching for a pilot who had gone missing; training to join the RCAF during World War II. Both lectures provided valuable lessons about how to educate the public about Canada’s rich history, places, geography and culture.

Jeff Lehman, District Chair of the Muskoka Municipal Council, explained that we could not ignore issues of social isolation, traffic congestion and pollution. In response, he highlighted how to cooperate with local businesses to create “social infrastructure” with outdoor patios, greenery, and cultural stages.

Antonio Gómez-Palacio, from Dialog Design, explained how to anchor heritage into the allure of a better future by showing how our traditions and history sustain our livelihoods. In this regard, he emphasized the role of architecture in bringing the past forward, architecture that complements pre-existing designs and environments. Henry Krans from Timmerman Timberworks, an accomplished artisan and carpenter, explained how this has been accomplished with traditional wood building techniques and materials.

Martel and Fuyarchuk returned to the MVC with important strategies for preserving history as an enduring foundation for the future. These strategies included heritage tourism, incentives for owners to maintain historical architecture, and exhibits and information about buildings and families that have made significant contributions to the foundations for the future of Markham.


Photo: The restoration of the Markham train station, initially built in 1871, was completed in 2000. (Photo courtesy of Dianne Moore.)

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