After a century of weather, cenotaph needs donations for repairs

·4 min read

The Queen Street clocktower cenotaph is ubiquitous when it comes to Niagara-on-the-Lake and the iconic structure is in need of repairs as it reaches its centennial.

“This century-old iconic structure is in need of renovation to ensure it stands for another 100 years,” Stan Harrington told councillors during a May 16 committee of the whole meeting.

Harrington is a member and past-president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 124. The Legion is working to raise money for a series of repairs to the cenotaph in tandem with the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The clocktower cenotaph is arguably the image most associated with Niagara-on-the-Lake on the international stage.

“As we all know, the Queen Street cenotaph is in the Heritage District in the centre of the Old Town,” Harrington said.

“It’s been on national TV in Germany — these are the places that I know of — the U.K. and Japan. About 20 years ago a representative from Ottawa came in and told us that, at that time, it was the second-most photographed cenotaph in Ontario.”

“It’s sacred to not just Niagara-on-the-Lake residents but to all of our country,” he said.

But the cenotaph is not important simply because of its aesthetic appeal and association with the town.

It is an emotionally charged and important landmark that ensures the memories of Niagarans who gave their lives in service of the nation are not forgotten, Harrington said.

It has long been featured as the centrepiece of commemorative events such as Remembrance Day and 9/11.

“It symbolizes what we have done and what our ancestors have done for the country,” Harrington said.

He recounted the stories of individuals who have been moved to donate to the cenotaph over the years.

“Seven years ago, two ladies whose mother had passed away gave me the loose coins they had found in her home. They asked me to donate this money to a Legion-supported cause,” he said.

“After all these years we have now given the money to the cenotaph renovation campaign.”

Harrington said the majority of the renovations are for the inside of the cenotaph, which has suffered water damage.

There is no fundraising target yet as the cost and breadth of the renovations have not been determined.

Harrington said individuals from the Willowbank School of Restoration Arts in Queenston are putting together a report on damage and costs.

Legion president Allan Howse sought to remind councillors of the important part Niagara-on-the-Lake has played in the military history of Canada.

“First settled in 1778 by the British forces moving to the west bank of the Niagara, permanent navy and army settlements were built, including Fort George,” Howse said.

“There were major battles fought on this ground in the War of 1812. There has been training conducted here up until 1966, including large concentrations of troops during both world wars," he said.

“This town cenotaph is a reminder of the community service to this nation.”

Howse also shed some light on the cenotaph’s origins.

“The structure was selected by a vote of all town citizens. Of 632 votes, 316 were in favour of the clocktower, 237 voted for a memorial hospital and 74 voted for a monument,” he said.

“A community clocktower in the 1920s and '30s was a very practical choice, ringing out the time for the many community members who didn't have watches.”

The cenotaph was unveiled on June 3, 1922, Howse said.

“On Saturday, June 4, 2022, the lord mayor and the town, with the town cenotaph community and Branch 124 Legion, will honour the Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell as we celebrate 100 years of honouring those from the community who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

There will be a parade out front of the cenotaph at 11 a.m. on June 4.

Coun. Gary Burroughs said the town has been working closely with the Legion to help get the work done.

Burroughs said the bells, which have been ringing for a century, are also getting assessed for repairs.

“The other thing I would like to mention is, while we are always looking for larger donations, any donation would be greatly received (and a) benefit to the project,” Burroughs said.

He also called on town staff to set up an outreach program to collect donations from visitors.

Cash donations can be made directly to Branch 124 but cheques should be delivered to the town, a representative from Branch 124 told The Lake Report.

That is because the town can distribute tax receipts for any donation over $25 while the Legion cannot.

Donations can also be made online at notl.com/recreation-events/community-initiatives-events.

Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report

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