Although it’s just 20 minutes down the highway from the city where I live and work, I haven’t spent a lot of time in Brantford. I always knew it as the place where Wayne Gretzky came from and where Alexander Graham Bell tested his great invention, the telephone. In the various jobs I’ve worked at locally I’ve known a lot of people who still live in Brantford yet work in Hamilton.
Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s Brantford’s economy saw a steady decline as long time manufacturers went bankrupt, throwing thousands of people out of work, and subsequently killing many businesses which relied on the big companies and the people they employed.
Many southern Ontario towns and cities suffered as a result of the manufacturing sector but not to the extent of devastation felt in Brantford. Things have begun to look up but as the financial numbers start to get better architectural heritage is taking a beating.
Last week Brantford city council voted to demolish 41 old buildings along a stretch of Colborne Street in the city’s downtown. Many of the blocks remained empty as a result of the exodus which followed the meltdown of the manufacturing sector. For decades they were ignored and neglected despite the heritage significance. One of the buildings was used as an office by Alexander Graham Bell.
I’ve come rather late to appreciating Brantford along with my ancestral connection to that city. I have a new found appreciation for the people who have worked rather tirelessly to protect our heritage long before the big headlines arrived too late for people like me who were newly awoken to the travesty. One of those activists is Lisa Wood, who came across the above cartoon and asked if she could have it printed on t-shirts. I was more than happy to oblige: