Victoria Jubilee Hall: Celebrating 125 years – and counting

·3 min read

WALKERTON – It would be easy to say that the community leaders who laid the cornerstone for Victoria Jubilee Hall in 1897 could never have imagined that 125 years later, the building would be the scene of a gala celebration featuring music, the arts and a demonstration by the fire department.

In truth, they more than imagined it, they planned for it. That hall was not designed to be used for a couple of decades and replaced. It was meant to be a lasting legacy of the community leaders of the day, a tribute to their foresight. More than a showplace, it was designed to be used, to be the focal point of a growing and prosperous community more than a century after its construction.

Building designs change and so does technology, but a structure like Victoria Jubilee Hall, with its elegant architecture, solid workmanship, wonderful acoustics and ideal location, was intended to stand the test of time.

Indeed, the people who planned that building and saw to its construction, would not have been surprised by the events of Sept. 17; they would have been astounded by anything less.

Festivities began with an outdoor display in the parking lot. While piper Denis Bilyard played, people viewed the fire department memorabilia. Victoria Jubilee Hall was not designed solely for the arts, although it has served them wonderfully over the years; it was a utilitarian building that at various points in its history housed a market, council chamber, and the fire department.

Next came formal greetings from various levels of government – MP Ben Lobb; MPP Lisa Thompson; and Brockton Coun. James Lang, representing Mayor Chris Peabody and council.

Making reference to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Thompson described Victoria Jubilee Hall as a “gem, the crown jewel” of Brockton. She noted it’s important to celebrate the building, designed to be a gathering place for the community.

Byron Ballagh, director of the Sing! Show Chorus, served as MC for the first part of the celebration, and spoke of the need to celebrate community town halls, and more than that, to use them.

Lang provided information on the history of the hall, which, as the community’s first fire hall, is intertwined with the history of the local fire department.

It was only fitting that the festivities were shared by the arts community, fire department and many community volunteers.

Artist Ingrid Rudnick O’Gorman said she was “pleased and honoured” to see her work still used “to tell the story of Victoria Jubilee Hall.”

Bob Ferguson said he was “always proud of this building.”

Actor Robert (to his Walkerton friends, “Bob”) Creighton brought greetings via video from Broadway.

Following a slide presentation showing the hall’s history, the Sing! Show Chorus gave a performance fit for a “jewel” of a building.

The 125th anniversary celebration was, in many ways, a tribute to the many volunteers – members of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario group and local service clubs who saved the building from the wrecker’s ball a couple of decades ago and who have maintained it ever since.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times