Building Identity - Lost Architecture

Shifting Skylines

Maturing involves accepting change.  As an older city, Peterborough is no stranger to this.  Disasters, demolitions, and re-purposing of buildings have transformed the city. Some of these transformations have been unfortunate while others have been inspiring. Changes can bring a community together and make them stronger.  Demolitions can make way for new developments; however moving forward can also involve re-purposing. Peterborough’s shift in ideals regarding heritage buildings allows the city to keep its history while making way for the future.  

Climbing from the Rubble

George Street Fire
What is known as Peterborough’s ‘great fire’ broke out on August 11, 1861.  The fire consumed Harper’s Block, which consisted of George, Hunter, and Water Streets. The Fire had a lasting impact on the city.  Many of the burnt buildings had been made of lumber.  The street was made notable for its three-storey brick buildings, which marked a shift in building materials and styles.

The Turnbull Company department store disaster is one of the most recognized tragedies in Peterborough.  The building located on Simcoe Street “collapsed like a deck of cards” during a renovation in 1918 killing five people. When a section of unstable wall was mistakenly removed during an expansion, the weight of the floor above could no longer be sustained and the building came crashing down.

Peterborough Turnbull Disaster CrowdPeterborough Turnbull Disaster AmbulancePeterborough Turnbull Disaster Wreckage

In Memoriam

Here we remember the individuals who lost their lives due to the disasters that struck Peterborough.
Zacks Fire

  • Grover Deck
  • Orville Rome
  • George Reynolds
  • Earl Spencely

Turnbull Collapse

  • Lilly Bodison
  • Elizabeth Brown
  • John James Cuff
  • Emma Kelly
  • Dorothy Sisson

Quaker Oats Fire

  • Filippon Capone
  • Richard Chowen
  • John Conway
  • Vincenzo del Fornaro
  • James Foster
  • James Gordon
  • Richard Healy
  • William Hogan
  • Walter Holden
  • Joseph Houlihan
  • Edward Howley
  • John Kemp
  • Domenico Martino
  • Alphonse McGee
  • William Mesley
  • Dennis O'Brien
  • Patrick O'Connell
  • Thomas Parsons
  • Albert Staunton
  • William Teatro
  • William Walsh
  • George Vosbourg

Bulldozing a New Path

Cluxton Building

Architecture was viewed as something that should be new and shiny during the 1950s to 1970s. The Cluxton Building, made in John Belcher’s Second Empire style, was no exception when it came under scrutiny in the early 1970s.  Martha Kidd campaigned strongly to keep it. Unfortunately, the building was deemed too dangerous after a piece of the building fell off and killed a pedestrian.  There was not enough public interest at the time to save it and the building was demolished in 1973. The loss of the building sparked the Heritage Movement in Peterborough lead by Martha.  This loss was the trigger that saw the shift to repurposing old buildings and saving architectural heritage.


Making Old New Again: From Threatened to Thriving

As a community transforms, so do its buildings.  This can happen in function and appearance as structures are adapted to suit current needs.  Saved from demolition, buildings may no longer serve their original purpose, but many wonderful examples of Peterborough's historic architecture still survive.

Education for All
The Carnegie Library was built in 1911 with the Andrew Carnegie Foundation grant that supported growing communities having free education. In the 1980s Peterborough built a larger public library on Aylmer Street.  The building is now part of City Hall and houses many departments, including the Heritage Preservation Office.  You can still find books here… on the importance of preserving the city’s history.

Religion and Recreation

Parish to Play
In 1843 George Street Methodist Church was built using the traditional timber framing technique of the early settlers.  The parish outgrew the building by 1875.  It served as apartments until 1996, when it was threatened to be demolished to make a parking lot. A great effort was made by the city and community, and the white pine frame was moved to Ashburnham Memorial Park.  It is now the Heritage Pavilion next to the Peterborough Museum & Archives.

Sunday School to Shakespeare
In 1959, a fire at St. Luke’s Church quickly destroyed the interior.  Vacant until 1966, it was purchased by the Peterborough Theatre Guild.  They preserved the original features of the Neo-Gothic 1877 structure by reusing the chancel as a stage area.

Serving Public, Serving Patrons

Guests and the Government
Built in 1875 the lavish Oriental Hotel reflected Peterborough's early success as a tourist town.  As Temperance gained popularity visitors would not stay for the soda and the hotel closed in 1917.  Used as a Spanish Flu isolation hospital in 1918, it then became cafes, barbershops, and a Trent University bookstore.  Most of the building was demolished in the 1980s for the Bell Telecommunications parking lot.  What remains is now the Lilico Law Firm.

Banks and Barbeque
The first bank in Peterborough was made of brick in 1852.  It was run by Robert Nicholls as a Bank of Montreal.  When the bank moved across the street in 1909 the Peterborough Club for Gentlemen met here until a fire damaged the building in 1992.  A dance club called Trasheteria bought the building in 1994 and ran until 2012.   It is now the BrickHouse Grill where you can invest in a burger and beer.

A Driving and Creative Force

Built in 1932, this building housed the G. A. Gillespie Studebaker Dealership and eventually a Ford Dealership. It was one of the first in a new trend of commercial ‘cookie cutter’ buildings to shape the city.  You cannot miss the large showcase display windows on the lower level.  This flat roofed, square structure now houses the community organization GreenUp and the art gallery ArtSpace.

My Home is Your Home

Private Practice
Charlotte Nicholls offered Moira Hall to the Protestants in Peterborough in 1885. The mansion became the first hospital in Peterborough, and the fifteenth in the province.  The building soon became inadequate to serve the growing population. Five years later William Blackwell built a new hospital on Argyle Avenue.  Today the great Moira Hall is an apartment building on a quiet street.

Caring for the Young and Old
Thomas Bradburn lived in this Gothic mansion in the late 1800s.  It became St. Vincent Orphanage when his widow sold it to the city in 1909.  In 1956 it became the Balmoral Lodge Senior’s residence for 25 years.  It is now owned by the Peterborough Housing Corporation and is apartments for seniors and singles.

Holding on to Heritage
Growing older means letting go of what was and embracing what is now.  These historic buildings are treasured because they tell the story of the city. Repurposing heritage buildings allows us to appreciate our past while living in the present.  While these buildings may not be what they once were, they function as part of the city’s history and future.

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