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Possible new plans for old Belleville train station

 

By Meaghan Bury [4] 

BELLEVILLE – The city’s old train station hasn’t closed its doors forever.

At least, that’s what councillor Mitch Panciuk is hoping.

Last week at the city’s capital budget meeting, Panciuk introduced a motion directing staff to begin looking into acquiring the old Via Rail station so that it could serve a purpose again for the public in the future.

The station, which was built in 1856 as part of the Grand Trunk Railway system [5], has been vacant since the new Via station was built in 2012.

Panciuk said it’s an important piece of Canadian history and he is concerned about what will happen if no action is taken to preserve it.

“If we don’t use it, it’s going to fall into a state of disrepair that we can’t salvage.”

But he said he has a plan.

Panciuk proposed the idea of turning the old station into a museum to house the overflow of artifacts from the Glanmore House [6].

The historic site is a nationally recognized museum that illustrates the history of the Belleville region using objects that portray the lifestyle of the house’s original residents.

Over the years the Glanmore House and the Community Archives  [7] have received a great deal of artifacts that don’t fit within the purpose of each facility, but are historical in nature. Panciuk said the city needs a place where people can view these.

“We have hundreds and thousands of artifacts and items that we would like to display but we can’t because of space, so having a new facility would allow us to be able to do that and maintain the historical integrity of Glanmore.”

Education and marketing co-ordinator of the historical house, Melissa Wakeling, said the challenge that they are faced with is making those extra artifacts accessible to the community, adding that up to 200 items a year are donated.

Wakeling said that she is interested in Panciuk’s proposal but mentions that there are very strict requirements for museums.

“Our job is to preserve these artifacts for the community,” she said, explaining that you must be mindful of air temperature, humidity, lighting and pests.

Janna Colton, chair of Heritage Belleville [8], said she is also concerned about the future of the old building.

“A building is taken better care of if it’s being used by somebody.”

Colton joined the committee  six years ago because she doesn’t want to see Belleville lose any more of its heritage buildings.

Panciuk said if everything goes well he hopes the station will be open for business in the next three or four years, adding that the first step is finding out if there is any interest from Via to give the building to the city.

“We want to give people a reason to come to Belleville; culture and history is something we all share in our country.”

QNet News reporter Megan Pounder [9] has the video story below.

Below is a timeline history of the old Belleville train station.

Files from James Gaughan [10].

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