Whither the highway?

Fryfogel Tavern is a provincially significant historic site protected since 1990 by an easement held by Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT), formerly Ontario Heritage Foundation (OHF).

This easement was put in place when the Perth County Historical Foundation — now the Stratford Perth Heritage Foundtion — realized it would be hard pressed to protect the building and site if the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) chose to widen highway 7/8. The Foundation called on the provincially mandated and funded OHT to act on its behalf in protecting the tavern and site.

In December, 2005,  a letter to Thor Dingman, Vice-Chair of the Foundation’s Restoration Committee, from Sean Fraser, Co-ordinator of the Conservation Easement Program, Ontario Heritage Trust, stated:

“No OHT easement site has ever had land expropriated from it in an MTO road widening, nor has any OHT easement heritage building ever been demolished or moved with or without our permission.”

The MTO said it would undertake a Class Environmental Assessment and engage in a public process that would examine selected options in detail before choosing a route or proceeding to design and build a wider highway. Not only was the tavern at risk. So was every farm, business and home fronting on the road.

In a letter June 13, 2008, OHT Acting Easement Program Coordinator Michelle Hedges reminded the consulting firm conducting the Class Environmental Assessment Study that:

“Should the highway expansion threaten to impact Fryfogel, the Trust would exercise its statutory role as advisor to the Minister of Culture to insist that the property be conserved. To be clear, the Trust does not permit heritage buildings protected by conservation easements to be moved.”

The Foundation’s Restoration Committee drew comfort from these assurances in light of restoration work underway or completed over the preceding five years, including a new roof (2003), rebuilt chimneys, site drainage, sill replacement, sashes reglazed, repaired, and painted.

The Stratford Perth Heritage Foundation continues to monitor this issue today.