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Anyone with a passion for the history and landmarks of Pictou County will be suffering a double whammy. Less than two months after seeing the Mortimer house in Pictou knocked down, the MacLellan house on the outskirts of New Glasgow has suffered the same fate.

Obviously, some residents hold greater interest than others. But the aftermath reaction always produces strikingly similar comments.

How could the owner do this? Why are our community leaders standing by, allowing this to happen?

If only it were that simple. No matter how historically significant a building is, no matter how solid it was in its day, when it’s been empty and fallen out of use for years, saving it becomes a mammoth, costly project. There comes a point when even vast sums spent can only slow the degradation.

Recognizing the unique heritage properties before that point is vital, along with identifying a way they can remain in use. Once vacant, and at a point of being simply a rugged character on the streetscape with an interesting story to tell, restoration is often too late.

As many will note, such projects are costly ventures. This area is not one of high population; there’s not scads of money lying around idle, waiting to be put into use. Also, consider the process of registering a heritage building – if such a route is chosen – and then ensuring requirements can be met to preserve its integrity.

There’s no point blaming an owner or a municipality for not coming up with the remedy. Municipalities have enough on their plate and can raise only so much through taxes to nail the priorities.

Strong public will for such projects has to present itself, then organize to take them under wing – and find ways to raise the funds.

But as in many instances, time is not on our side. The structures we want to preserve for tomorrow have to be identified today, with the action plan put in place before the crumbling starts, along with a specific use identified for the building.

Organizations: Mortimer house, MacLellan house

Geographic location: Pictou County, New Glasgow

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