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Two historic northern Ont. buildings vie for $50K

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Historic buildings across Canada are competing for up to $50,000 to help with restoration costs – the competition is called ‘The Next Great Save’ and it is being held by the charity National Trust for Canada.

Historic buildings across Canada are competing for up to $50,000 in the Nation Trust for Canada's Next Great Save contest. (Supplied/Nation Trust for Canada)

Two of the 12 finalists vying for one of the three top prizes in the competition are located in northern Ontario.

Lasalle Theatre

The Lasalle Theatre on Government Road West in Kirkland Lake was built in 1939 during the gold mine boom.

A still image from a video of the exterior of the historic Lasalle Theatre in Kirkland Lake, Ont. on April 18, 2024. (Sergio Arangio/CTV News Northern Ontario)

The Hollywood-style building is now far past its prime.

“It is a streamline modern art deco design, and that is a very late art deco,” said Michael Rawley, the theatre's artistic director.

“There’s only six of these style of theatres remaining in Canada, so that… makes it significant.”

Rawley told CTV News that the immediate goal is to repair the roof and ceiling – but staff hope to one day restore the theatre to its original condition.

“Let’s call her a fated old lady – a ‘grande dame’ who is in need of a little TLC,” he said.

St. Thomas’ Anglican Church

The Old St. Thomas Church located on Front Street on Moose Factory Island was built by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the mid-1800s with the help of the local Cree First Nation community.

An undated photo of the historic St. Thomas’ Anglican Church on Moose Factory island. (Supplied/Moose River Heritage and Hospitality Association)

Moose Factory is home to one of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s oldest trading posts and is one of Canada’s oldest Indigenous-European settlements.

“This was a building put up by people of mixed Cree and European ancestry – and Cree people, as well,” said the executive director of the Moose River Heritage and Hospitality Association, Cecil Chabot.

Chabot told CTV News that the building has been sustained by both the Cree people and others in the region over its entire lifetime.

The church was deconsecrated in 2006 due to its poor condition.

While the landmark symbolizes an almost two-century-old community – it is also tied to the country’s troubled history with residential schools.

Chabot said it is still a sacred place in the community.

“The idea is to try to draw from the best of that history, in order to heal some of the worst aspects of that history,” he said.

“We’re trying to restore the very best of the relationships that that church embodies.”

The Next Great Save

There were initially about 30 applicants for the Next Great Save contest.

Officials with the National Trust for Canada said the two northern Ontario buildings definitely fit the competition’s criteria.

“A site that has an important story to tell and a place that is continuing to play a vital role in its community today,” said National Trust for Canada executive director Patricia Kell, describing how finalists in the contest were chosen.

The 12 finalists are competing for the 3 Top prizes of $5,000, $10,000 and $50,000.

Kell told CTV News that even just being a finalist will boost their profile and help open up more funding opportunities for the sites.

People can vote online daily.

Voting opened Thursday and runs until May 6 with the winner announced May 7.

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