Architectural Conservancy of Ontario branch launched in Prince Edward County

GONE IN A CLOUD OF DUST- A firm contracted by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks levelled the Hyatt house at Sandbanks in September, 2021. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)



Out of the dust and rubble of a pair of historic homes demolished at Sandbanks Provincial Park this summer comes a new local branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO).

Prince Edward County has a wealth of heritage embodied in its historic buildings and landscapes. But according to organizers and initial members of the Prince Edward County branch of the ACO, the future is uncertain because of unprecedented development in towns, rural landscapes, and shorelines. Local heritage structures face other challenges from the increasing costs of maintaining older properties to the limited capacities of many disparate heritage groups.

Recognizing the need for a cohesive and proactive community response to protect the County’s heritage, a group of citizens have come together to form the Prince Edward County branch that was approved by the provincial organization in January.

“The ACO is a provincial organization founded in 1933 with local branches in many Ontario communities. Through education and advocacy, ACO’s mission is to encourage the conservation and reuse of structures, districts and landscapes of architectural, historic and cultural significance, to inspire and benefit Ontarians,” says Liz Driver, the Interim President of the new branch. “Membership ensures County heritage groups can speak with one strong voice when needed, and provides us with access to a treasury of experience, resources, political advocacy, and other benefits.”

The Moses Hudgin Log House. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)

In recent years there have been several local heritage restoration successes driven by the private sector. The Royal Hotel, Picton Armoury, Drake Devonshire, and The Cape are all significant heritage properties that have been restored and re-purposed for a new life by the private sector. On the South Shore, committed volunteers, under the South Shore Joint Initiative, are restoring the heritage-designated Hudgin Log House as a social enterprise and gathering place to explore the natural environment.

But there have also been some setbacks like the demolition of two heritage homes at the Sandbanks Provincial Park in September 2021.

As part of this year’s Flashback February Heritage Week celebrations, the fledgling branch is inviting the public to a watershed moment in County history – a presentation on ACO’s work to mark the launch of the new Prince Edward County branch.

The event is an opportunity to learn how the community will benefit from ACO’s advocacy and educational expertise.

This virtual event will take place on Thursday, February 24 at 1 pm.The keynote speaker is Diane Chin of Cobourg, President of the provincial organization. Chin, a retired school principal, joined ACO Cobourg & East Northumberland in 2014 serving as Chair of the branch since 2016.

Under her leadership, the Certo building, fronted by a heavy Greek-style colonnade, and situated on an early twentieth-century industrial site, was designated and saved from demolition. More recently, Chin was involved in establishing an agreement with the Ontario Heritage Trust to open Barnum House, which is the founding property for ACO. Barnum House is now being used by ACO and the community. Chin is also Chair of the Victoria Hall Volunteers in Cobourg, and a member of the Board of the Cobourg Historical Society.

To join ACO Prince Edward County, visit: