History of The Old Armoury

BACKGROUND

Georgetown Globe Productions has committed to preserve and renovate “The Old Armoury” at the Georgetown Fairgrounds Park. The project will transform this important piece of our history into both a home for Globe Productions and a multi-purpose centre for arts, culture and heritage.

“The Old Armoury” is a wood frame structure of approximately 5,000 square feet built by the village of Georgetown in 1866 as a Drill Hall for the local militia. It was designed by well known Canadian Pacific Railway engineer Walter Moberly. In 1890 the structure was relocated from the Market Square area a few blocks away to its present spot in the Fairgrounds Park.

Mark Rowe, Past Chair of the Heritage Halton Hills Committee, states that the Armoury “…has been an integral part of the history of Georgetown throughout its long history. While the building was designed to be purely functional, its historic significance and cultural importance have rendered it more valuable than most fine architecture in the Town. As one of the oldest buildings in the town, the Armoury is a very well known local structure and a fixture of the park. Like many of the older drill halls, it has also served as a community centre and dance hall.”

“The Old Armoury” was built by the townspeople of Georgetown in response to the Fenian raiders, an organization of Irish-Americans trying to bring pressure on Britain to withdraw from Ireland. The importance of the Fenian Raids was in creating a great feeling of Canadian nationalism in British North America and showing Canadians that safety lay in unity. The result was the confederation of the Canada we know today.

Most of the 100 Drill Halls and Armouries which were constructed in Ontario and Quebec have been demolished. Georgetown’s Armoury was the last functioning Drill Hall dating from the 1860s, only ending this role in 1997 when the Lorne Scots, ‘C’ Company moved to their newly constructed Armoury on Todd Road. In World War I “The Old Armoury” served as the recruitment centre for the 4th Battalion which formed part of the first Overseas Expeditionary Force in 1914. During World War II the Lorne Scots served as defense platoons for each “Brigade Headquarters” and since World War II they have provided soldiers for NATO and UN missions and Operations around the world.

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PROJECT HISTORY

The Town of Halton Hills purchased The Old Armoury in 1997 from the Department of National Defense. The Town had hoped to find a tenant for the building but it remained vacant, used only for park equipment storage and as a bad weather shelter for some Fall Fair displays.

Unfortunately, the lack of use resulted in the deterioration of The Old Armoury and in 2008 the Town proposed that it be scheduled for demolition. Community reaction was one of great concern; the prospect of losing yet another historical and distinctive landmark was tragic. The Town delayed the final decision on The Old Armoury until the end of 2008, in order to give organizations one last chance to come forward with a proposal to save the structure.

At the same time Globe was under increased pressure to find a home of our own….the John Elliott Theatre, where we perform, was to be closed for renovations until 2013; there was to be a 30% increase in rent at the hall we were utilizing; we were outgrowing our rehearsal, set construction and costume space; and there was a high impetus to continue the newly formed Youth Company but no capacity to accommodate the youth within our existing rental facility.

Globe also realized quickly that it was unlikely that our assets as a small community group would ever be sufficient to purchase both land and a building in today’s real estate market.

Discussions between Globe and The Town of Halton Hills began in early spring 2009 regarding the feasibility of Globe taking possession of The Old Armoury. In September 2010 we were excited to sign a contract with The Town of Halton Hills giving Globe ownership of The Old Armoury as our permanent home. This contract also stipulates that should Globe cease to exist then ownership of The Old Armoury will revert to the Town with the guarantee that it will always be used solely for the benefit of arts, culture and heritage.

When the renovation is completed, The Old Armoury will include a 120 seat performance space and a 1000 square foot multipurpose room. There will also be set building and costume workshops. The building will accommodate a full range of activities; from rehearsing and live theatre to meetings and social events. Globe will also offer The Old Armoury to support Fairground Park events and to assist other community groups.

To date over $450,000 has been committed to The Old Armoury project. This includes Globe’s $170,000 building fund, $30,000 from the reallocation of demolition costs from The Town of Halton Hills, a $150,000 Ontario Trillium Fund Grant and $100,000 in interest free loans from private sponsors.

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Although we are only half way to the project’s completion what we have accomplished is fabulous.

  • The building structure has been stabilized using a steel post and ridge beam support system, allowing the original timber structure to remain intact.
  • A new and fully insulated Vic West steel roof was laid over the original roof boards and will hopefully last another 100 years!
  • The interior timbers, roof boards and barn boards (all original) were sandblasted to restore their rich wood tone and texture.
  • The East end and mezzanine has been completely renovated to include barrier free washrooms, a costume workshop, storage, a kitchen, a mechanical room and lobby.
  • These improvements have enabled Globe to turn a building about to be demolished into an important community asset which is currently valued at more than 1.2 million dollars! The best news is that we have achieved the first part of our dream…The Old Armoury has come back to life as our own clubhouse for rehearsing and set building!

However, there remains much work to be done in The Old Armoury in order to complete our project goals, which includes:

  • Adding insulation onto the exterior and re-cladding it with high quality James Hardie fibre cement siding in an authentic board and batten style, to restore the original appearance. ($75,000)
  • Reconstruction of the interior West mezzanine to incorporate a multi-purpose room, set building workshop and storage. ($150,000)
  • The installation of a new concrete floor and the application of a flooring material suitable for rehearsing, dancing and as a performance venue. ($30,000)
  • The addition of fire suppressing sprinklers, alarms and monitoring. ($25,000)
  • Security alarm and camera systems. ($6,000)
  • Installation of a heating, cooling and ventilation system for the main space which meets building codes to allow public audiences. ($40,000)

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OUR COMMITMENT

  • A public fundraising campaign was kicked off on October 20th, 2011 with an article in the Georgetown Independent.
  • Globe has established a capital fund account with The Town of Halton Hills to receive donations and issue tax receipts for amounts of $25.00 or more.
  • Globe intends to solicit contributions from both our current and past membership.
  • Globe will continue to move all net revenues from our shows to The Old Armoury capital project.
  • All proceeds from our annual Dinner and Silent Auction and an annual “Cabaret” fundraiser event will flow to The Old Armoury.
  • Globe will explore all available Provincial, Federal and Business grant opportunities.
  • Globe will seek opportunities to partner with other community groups and agencies.


IN CLOSING

Georgetown Globe Productions envisions The Old Armoury as a “place to go” in Halton Hills. A meeting place for visitors young and old to enjoy a glimpse of our history. A place to honour our veterans, share in a social event or take in some live theatre. The Old Armoury might host an art exhibit or a tea room or be a place to have a wedding or reception. What better way to respect and preserve our past than by embracing it as a vibrant part of our community life.

Support the Old Armoury

Please share Georgetown Globe Production’s passion and help us to make our vision for The Old Armoury a reality!