Restoration or renovation? Oro-Medonte’s historic Black community church
An early photograph of the African Church.
AWARE News Network
Oro-Medonte’s historic African church was built by black settlers in the mid-19th century and used by that community – some free black refugees, some escaped slaves and a few of them veterans of the War of 1812 – until 1920.
It may be the oldest structure in Ontario with significant connections to the black settlers, writes local historian Gary French. Which is why there was widespread and enthusiastic support for a restoration undertaken by the Township of Oro-Medonte and completed two years ago.
But in an article published in the Springwater News, French raises significant concerns about the lack of restoration expertise on the project, errors resulting from historical inaccuracy and threats to the future integrity of the structure.
“This was a project incompetently done and there was no lack of information available or funds available for it to have been done properly,” French states. “This church deserved better. The people of Oro-Medonte deserved better. The people of Canada deserved better.”
The township rejects the criticism.
Operations director Shawn Binns states the project was completed to Heritage restoration best practice, and Parks Canada’s Standards and Guidelines for National Historic Sites.
He adds that input was obtained from a heritage consultant, a heritage architect, an engineering team, archaeological consultants, technical staff within the Township of Oro-Medonte, input from descendants and input from Parks Canada staff.
“The project has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades for heritage conservation and community leadership,” Binns points out.