Heritage of EcoHouse: dormant, but not forgotten
In honour of the National Trust Conference: Heritage Rising, held this past weekend in Hamilton, GV Executive Director, Michael Gemmell, offers some thoughts on Green Venture’s EcoHouse and its links to the past.
“I came to Green Venture in 2007 after working in the museum field for a decade. My original task when I was hired for Green Venture was to determine how to integrate the EcoHouse’s heritage shell into the existing programming. I hoped to put some new emphasis on the backstory of the site (historically referred to as “Glen Manor”), and specifically how it tied in to the concept of Adaptive Reuse.
Green Venture’s underlying environmental messaging is all about wisely using resources, whether that is energy, water, proper waste disposal, reduced inappropriate fuels in transportation, or greenhouse gas reduction through climate change education. The heritage property, known today as EcoHouse, has 165+ years of invested resources in all of those areas, and the key link to be made was the fact that is: were we (the community, the City, or even just GV) to eliminate this heritage property, all of that invested energy and resources would be lost. A much smaller amount of resources could instead be invested in maintaining the existing property (albeit with modifications to bring it into the modern era) and still respect the intention of its 1986 heritage designation.
While most of the time, Green Venture only pays limited attention to the backstory of its office and education centre, there are occasions when the heritage comes to the fore. Doors Open Hamilton weekend, the first Saturday and Sunday in May, is one such example. Every year, Green Venture shows off what new historical research has discovered about the site. A variety of small artifacts remain at the house, although with a digital photo collection.
Some recent examples:
- A small medicine bottle, located on the grounds, from the early 20th century
- Milk tickets from the 1960s dairy operation.
- A photo of Quigley Construction Company from a descendant of the Quigley family, the namesake of the road off of which modern Veevers Drive runs.
Our staff also take some pride in the unique circumstances of our office. The names of the former occupants of the house, Ronald and Bertram Veevers, are incorporated into room names. As part of our environmental education programming, their use of the property is contrasted to the modern use in a number of areas, inside and out. Green Venture also works to maintain a nearby park where a near duplicate of a commemorative stone found at Glen Manor can be seen. In 2014, Green Venture added a historical mural to the park commemorating the history of the former farm, which at one time included both our site and the park.
Today as director, my role has changed again. I am now more focused on the environmental aspects of our work than the historical elements, but the fascinating evolution of EcoHouse and the surrounding community into which it was constructed remains a item of significance.”