Downeyville Hall does big time renos with legacy in mind

By Denis Grignon

Mary Connell (L) and Karen Cook (R) are part of the team responsible for the major renovations to the historic Downeyville Hall.

On paper, it made fiscal sense to tear down the historic Downeyville Hall and start anew from the ground up.

Indeed, even a cursory budget would have shown it was the wiser option, compared to undertaking a monumental, and more costly, renovation.

And Mary Connell – a born-and bred, die-hard Downeyville resident who embodies that no-nonsense practicality of farm life – fully acknowledges that fact.

“But that would never be what our ancestors built — for us,” says Connell, with a conviction that could sway even the most ardent accountant.

It’s hard not to dismiss the bigger expense, as Karen Cook, who helped steer the project with Connell, points to a chalkboard from the 1940s that was discovered as the basement’s interior walls were clawed back and refurbished.

Cook, however, wasn’t as taken with that discovery as she was with one on the hall’s main floor: a brick wall that featured scrawled signatures.

“Because there were names of people I know,” says Cook, who considers herself a “late-comer ” to the community – since she only relocated to Downeyville in 1980s. “People who are now adults and working on the (renovation) committee.”

Adds Connell, “we’ve been so lucky that this community and those surrounding us supported us. It’s been many, many fundraisers.”

“And,” she stresses with a tone that suggest overwhelming pride, “we’re going to leave this for the next generations. We are continuing what they did.”

Last month, Denis Grignon, toured the hall with Cook and Connell. That interview appears on the next episode of The Advocate Podcast: Stories from Kawartha Lakes, sponsored by Wards Lawyers.

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