St. Thomas Times Journal
February 11, 2003
I now live in Halifax, N.S., but have spent most of my life in St. Thomas. The possibility of Alma College being demolished has just come to my attention and I find the whole concept absurd.
On more than one occasion I have been in conversation with St. Thomas natives and have found that most are disappointed with how the city has deteriorated over the years. In those conversations I have found myself time and time again making the same comparison, which I would like to share now.
I have spent many an afternoon strolling through the parks and main streets of Stratford, Ontario, enjoying the city either before or after whichever play I'm attending. I've always found Stratford and St. Thomas are similar and as a result feel quite at home there. One of the major differences I see, however, is that Stratford thrives on tourism an does everything possible to preserve its quaint city. True, they have the theatre. But, more than that the old buildings are kept in wonderful condition. The parks are immaculate. The shops on main street are always bustling and open for business.
St. Thomas, on the other hand, continues to deteriorate. Our main street has numerous empty shops and buildings. The buildings are in horrid condition. The one attraction I see trying to break through is our railroad heritage and even that, I hear, is in question of being taken down. What I'm saying is that instead of working to preserve our town, we find it's better to rip down the old buildings and replace them (or not) with modern (boring) buildings.
I also visited Italy recently and was amazed at the pride Italians feel towards their architecture and their cities. The Colosseum is half missing. Do they tear it down? No. The leaning tower of Pisa almost toppled over. Did they tear it down? No.
I'm only 30 years old but in my time I've seen the old jail at the courthouse fall. I've seen the Memorial Hospital fall. I've seen the YMCA fall. I've seen Talbot Park Golf Course turned into a parking lot. I heard Holy Angels' (Roman Catholic Church) is having problems. And that is to name just a few.
To see Alma College deteriorate as it has over the years was bad enough. To think of it being ripped down altogether is a disheartening blow.
Let's strive to be more like Stratford and the Romans. Build on the strength of our city's character don't discard it in hopes that what replaces it will do a better job. It won't.
Halifax, Nova Scotia