Jun 14, 2017

Craig Beattie, of Edgewater Stonemasons in Kingston, loves working on restoration projects involving heritage buildings. He took the Heritage Masonry course, along with his colleagues at Edgewater, at Algonquin College and has worked on projects on government and other heritage buildings over the years.

These days, Beattie and his crew are at the Grace Centre in Sydenham, restoring the Grace Centre to the condition it was in when it was first constructed in 1861.  He said he is pleased with the condition of the building.

“You can see that the stone work is intact, nothing is really coming apart,” he said, pointing to the building. All we have to do is take out what is there and replace it with something that is as close to the original mortar as we can use nowadays.

He explained that the idea behind the original limestone based mortar was that the mortar would absorb moisture in the wet and cold seasons, and would dry out in the hot summer weather, maintaining the stone cladding in good condition. Later on, the thinking was that the buildings would be better off if they were sealed against moisture completely, so a layer of Portland cement was applied over the original mortar.

“The problem that resulted for these heritage building is that any moisture that got in, even through cracks in the rock, was trapped inside and can do damage over time,” he said.

So in recent times many buildings, including the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and Queen’s Park, are having the Portland cement removed and replaced so the buildings can function the way they were first intended to, and can live on for another 150 or more years in good condition.

The Grace Centre re-pointing project is being supported to the tune of $38,000 from the Ontario150 Community Capital grants program, with the funds being administered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Last Wednesday, (June 7), at the Grace Centre, scaffolding was already covering the south wall of the building and a three member crew was hard at work when they took a break to allow for MPP Randy Hillier, Ontario Trillium Foundation Rep John Blake, and Southern Frontenac Community Services Executive Director David Townsend to conduct a ceremony announcing the grant.

Hillier took the opportunity to don a hard hat and chip off the old mortar from the front of the building, under strict supervision from Craig Beattie.

“These kinds of non-partisan projects, and the work of the Trillium Foundation, are what government is really about, beyond all the politics at Queen’s Park,” said Hillier.

“The Centre is delighted to receive the funding to ensure it will continue to be a place where seniors and others in the community can gather to benefit from programs and events that reduce social isolation and contribute to their quality of life,” said David Townsend.

The politicians, officials, SFCS Board members and the public then went into the building for coffee and treats at the Grace cafe. Soon after, all the officials drove off, the SFCS staff returned to work, and the masons climbed back up the scaffolding to continue working.

The project is expected to be completed by the fall.

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