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January 11th 2006
Fire breaks out at The Old Stone Gallery
Fires aren't always caused by careless disposal of matches or cigarette
butts. Whatever the cause, the results can be disastrous and can affect
more than just the bricks and mortar of a building.
In January 2006, just as a new photographic and art studio was to open
on the main floor, there was a fire caused through improper storage of
cleaning rags by a ground floor tenant.
Fortunately the local fire brigade arrived swiftly and the main
structure of the building was saved, but the smoke and water damage has
meant a total refit of the interior of the gallery. Smoke from a fire
is pervasive and the pressure that builds up in a fire causes the smoke
and fumes to be forced into every nook and cranny.
The two buildings housed several tenants, who arrived to find their
office equipment and personal property along with stock and customers'
goods, damaged by smoke or water. Even though the main effects of the
fire itself were confined to the front of the stone building, every
room on every floor was affected.
It was fortunate that the firemen hung around for a while as, whilst
inspecting the second floor, I noticed smoke curling up from under
beams near a window, so they were able to come up and douse the embers.
The fire started in a small cupboard under the stairs on the main
floor, just opposite the front door, and the fire insinuated itself
under the floor and attacked a main support joist.
The tenants removed or threw out their damaged property, filed
insurance claims and set up elsewhere. I was left with an empty
building, no tenants and no rental income.
I come from the U.K. where we take pride in our old buildings. I have
often found in Canada there is an attitude of "Oh, it's only an old
building. Let's knock it down and put up something new". European cities
attract the tourists because they preserve their old buildings and they
become tourist attractions in themselves. For anyone in the Hamilton,
Ontario area, you have only to talk about the Lister Block to realise
how neglectful people are with historic properties. In this picture, beautiful honey coloured pine panelling lining two rooms was destroyed.
Looking at the fire damaged Gallery - and you can check some of the post-fire photos here,
I had every opportunity to cut my losses, demolish the building, and
give the site over to residential development. I could not, in all
conscience, do this . The Gallery, which is the last complete mill
building left from the Crooks Hollow industrial era, deserves to
survive, arise like a phoenix from the ashes, and stand for another 160