South Dundas group aims to save historical building

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Forward House in Iroquois.

The Historical Society of South Dundas has quite a task on its hands. A well-known landmark in the town of Iroquois – the 207 year old stone building known as Forward House – is in need of repairs. The building is rich in history, being one of the oldest buildings remaining in town. 

While the structure of the building is still strong, some rehabilitation is needed, including roof repairs and the removal of the building’s original furnace which is contaminated with asbestos. The former Council in South Dundas wanted the building gone, but the Historical Society successfully fought for the chance to return it to its former glory, and won. Now, they need money to make the necessary repairs happen.

The Historical Society has entered into a contest run by the National Trust of Canada called “The Great Save”. The premise of the contest is simple – 50 communities across Canada compete for funding to help restore or save a local landmark. Forward House has made it into the finalist round, which means the building is one of 10 across the country eligible for the chance to win the grand prize – $50,000. The contest winner is determined by online voting. As of the time of writing, an old train station in Duncan, BC has a strong lead with over 18,000 votes, while Forward House sits at just over 3,600 votes. There is still time for Iroquois’ beloved landmark to take the lead, however – the voting period does not end until February 22. 

If the Historical Society wins the prize money, the plan is for Forward House to be turned into a historical centre and a local meeting place. The area along the St. Lawrence River is rich in history owing to the flooding of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s. Ten communities were submerged by the flooding, which was done to create a shipping passage between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic ocean. Many of the displaced people from these ten communities were understandably angry at the time, particularly because many felt that the money offered for their land was insufficient. The towns of Long Sault and Ingleside originated as planned communities intended as a new home for those displaced by the flooding of the Seaway. Morrisburg was partially flooded, and the original town of Iroquois was submerged, but Iroquois was relocated 1.5 kilometres north rather than being abandoned. However, Forward House did not have to be moved. 

“Forward House was not relocated, it sits on its original foundation on high ground,” explained Shawn Walker, Vice President of the Historical Society of South Dundas. “The house is one of only a handful that did not need to be relocated that still are standing.”

Forward House and the property on which it sits are both owned by the Municipality of South Dundas. The Municipality cannot commit to investing in the needed repairs on its own, but South Dundas Mayor Jason Broad confirmed in an interview with CTV News that Council will consider a fundraising dollar match type of support in its 2023 budget. 

While an ideal outcome would be for Forward House to win the $50,000 prize money from The Great Save, the contest is not the last option for the Historical Society. “If the Society fails to win the prize, we will persevere and continue to make efforts to raise the funds required to make the building structurally sound and revitalize the space for public use and for creating a home for the Historical Society of South Dundas,” added Shawn. 

Anyone can help Forward House by registering an online vote once per day until February 22. Only a name and email address is required, and don’t forget to confirm your vote by clicking the email link. With enough joint community support, we can show the rest of Canada that Eastern Ontario sticks together. To cast a vote, visit https://nationaltrustcanada.ca/what-you-can-do/nextgreatsave/competition2022.  

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