City Scope
Plan to demolish historic girls’ school stirs passionate debate

By Ian McCallum, St. Thomas Times-Journal
Saturday January 28, 2006

And all Angus Walton wants to do is enjoy a quiet retirement.

The chairman of the local Municipal Heritage Committee is already wrestling with the semantics of approving the sale of a parcel of land at Pinafore Park to developer Bob McCaig. And now what should land in Walton’s lap but an application to demolish the main building at Alma College. Unlike the former, Walton really has but one option … deny approval of the application submitted by Alma Heritage Estates which owns the former private school for girls.

Although the building stands derelict, its future has generated emotional response from City Scope readers. Comments by Brian Squires of Alma Heritage Estates that “I was always fighting to save it” drew a challenge from Alma alumnae Donna Robertson.

“Kinda funny …who has left the windows open for the last five years? This guy can look you straight in the eye and say those things. Scary.” Robertson adds, “Several of us have tried to talk to the Zubicks (the Zubick family of London, Ont.) about the windows in the chapel in order to buy them and move them. No response.”

Reid Tucker wrote this corner with a suggestion the $12 million spent on the community centre could have been put to better use purchasing heritage buildings in the city. “Alma College could become the permanent home of the military and pioneer museums and even the art gallery,” noted Tucker.

And 15-year-old Ryan Belanger tells it like it is. “I don’t know how this beautiful place turned into this. It is terrible to look at with almost all the windows missing, bricks falling out and full emptiness on the inside. How can everyone involved let it go? There was so much history in it. I think this landmark is more popular than Jumbo.”

It’s not the elements that are leading to the ruination of Alma, the culprit is apathy.