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Rehabilitation of Historic Places

Canadian heritage buildings are victims of the same weather conditions and natural forces as their residents.  As time passes, some sites need to be attended to in order to conserve their heritage value.  Often, a mix of environmental factors and human interaction causes sites to deteriorate.  Since Canada's historic places are integral to Canadian culture and identity, efforts are consistently made to conserve heritage through rehabilitation.  It is for this reason that the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada is consulted for practical conservation advice.  Rehabilitation, a conservation method that makes contemporary use of historic places through repair, carefully protects vital aspects of the structure.  Throughout Canada, there have been numerous large rehabilitation projects, though most are done on a smaller scale. Shaughnessy House, Jean-Francois Rodrigue /Maison Shaughnessy,Jean-Francois Rodrigue

Located in Montréal, Quebec, Maison Shaughnessy is a large mansion built in the Second Empire style that had lost much of its integrity.  Because of its style, the rehabilitation process paid close attention to its architectural features.  Though parts of the metal roof cresting on were missing, there was enough physical evidence to recreate it.  And since overall detailing and form of the roof was still evident, it was possible to rehabilitate its cresting to unify the buildings aesthetics.

When rehabilitating a historic place it is important to understand the cause of damage.  For example, the North Pacific Cannery NHS in Port Edward, British Columbia was greatly affected by its exposure to marine conditions.  Situated on a narrow strip by the mountains at the mouth of the Skeena River, this historic place is open to natural elements.  In particular, since most of the site's buildings are supported on piers in the water, the North Pacific Cannery NHS structures are exposed on all sides.  The wooden North Pacific Cannery, Parks Canada 2002 / Conserverie Nord Pacific, Parcs Canadasiding was damaged beyond repair and required replacement.  In rehabilitation projects, replacements are done "in kind" which means they are made of the same material and mimic the style of the original features.  In keeping with the heritage value of the site and stylistic aspects of the era in which it was constructed, rehabilitated heritage places may include reproduced features.  The Standards and Guidelines manual provides clear instruction about appropriate additions and alterations for rehabilitation projects.

The Rideau Canal NHS is a 200 km artificial waterway in Eastern Ontario built in the 19th century.  Because its heritage value includes the survival of a high number of its original canal structures, it is important to retain as much of the canal's authenticity as possible.  The locks, blockhouses, dams, weirs, andRideau Canal, Parks Canada / Canal Rideau, Parcs Canada lockmasters' houses all contain original elements which must be conserved.  A rehabilitation project was necessary for the Rideau Canal NHS because portions of the canal's stone walls and lock gates were deteriorated beyond repair.  Using physical evidence from the existing walls and gates, replicas of the original stone blocks and wooden members replaced the damaged features.  When rehabilitating historic places such as this, it is important to take the original form and detail into account to conserve character-defining elements of the site.

Nova Scotia's Truro Post Office NHS underwent an extensive rehabilitation project to replace missing historic features.  Based on physical and documented evidence, necessary parts of the post office's roof were redone.  As a two-and-a-half storey structure, Truro Post Office NHS is valued as an intact example of Thomas Fuller's architecture.  Heritage conservation specialists were careful to restore the Gothic and Romanesque elements of the Truro Post Office, Parks Canada 1982 / Bureau de poste de Truro, Parcs Canada 1982original design while replacing features "in kind".  Occasionally, rehabilitation consists of slight design alterations that are compatible yet distinctive in form, material, era, and character of the building.  However, in the case of Truro Post Office NHS, character-defining elements focus heavily on Fuller's original design, thus removing the option of alterations. Although in some cases the Standards and Guidelines manual approves modern alterations, this would not be an appropriate rehabilitation method for the Truro Post Office NHS.

There are other considerations that may need to be taken into account during the process of rehabilitation.  For example, health, safety, accessibility, energy efficiency, and environmental issues can play an important role.  Though these considerations are not a necessary part of the process, these factors frequently affect rehabilitation.  Conservation and rehabilitation is based on the individual needs of each historic place - no two are the same.   Rehabilitation strives to bring heritage sites into the modern world without damaging any historic elements.  Adaptive reuse of Canadian historic places brings new life to valuable heritage buildings in ways that extend the site's longevity and utilization.