The District of Hope council recently issued a resolution approving demolition of the Hope Station House. I don’t know if it’s deep-seated optimism, a pang of second-hand nostalgia or an unhealthy level of skepticism, but I hesitate to call this a closed case.
For the record, I can see both sides. In a perfect world, with the right resources, yes, it would be great to have the Station House restored. I come from my previous home in a part of Wyoming that relies on history tourism. The dollars spent there and visitors that come through are unmistakable as the permanent population of 200-something people multiplies several-fold in the high tourism season. The Station House had – and still has – that potential.
On the other hand, the Station House has been in need of singificant repairs since 2010, and debates about restoration costs still rage on local social media. Hands have metaphorically been shaken, gavels struck, ink dried – where council is concerned, the deal is done. The removal/demolition is due, and the district feels they need to meet their end of the bargain of the province. That resolution wasn’t easy on anyone in an elected position, and the desire to save it was there among council, but they made their stance clear during the Feb. 22 meeting – demoltion will proceed.
Even if this is the end for the Station House – and I hesitate to say it is – there are simple lessons all sides can take from this experience so far.
First, let’s address the district. This resolution pleases many residents who have wanted to see the building go down for years as well as those who would rather see their tax dollars – directly or indirectly, spent via government grants or not – be channeled elsewhere. There are, on the other hand, plenty who are clearly unhappy about the demolition and would rather see the Station House stand elsewhere, possibly on district land.
It’s worth noting that, while perhaps unfair, single-issue voters exist. I’m American by blood; I would know. However, perhaps a compromise to honour the Station House and all it represents can soften potential vote losses, preserve some modicum of important history and change taxpayer and employer perception.
Before we talk talk too much about compromise, let’s address the population who wish to preserve the Station House. There’s a proverb that says the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago and the second best time is now. While I commend the efforts and the raw passion to mobilize a grassroots effort, I fear while it was wonderful to see, it may have come too late.
Had this same hard-driving history-preserving effort been steadily worked on even before the building was under threat of demolition again, it may have had a different effect and outcome. No one can really say for sure, though. As I’m writing this, I’m told there are some additional counter-plans in motion, so maybe the battle isn’t as done as many are led to believe. I don’t want to speculate further on this right now.
Is this grassroots effort worthwhile? Yes, absolutely; it’s the foundation of any self-respecting democracy. Can it have a place in the legacy of the Station House, even after this setback? A thousand times, yes.
However, I would request that everyone entertain a cauterizing notion: local historians and current officials may have to compromise. When the time is right, sooner rather than later, I call upon the district and historians to check their differences at the door and form their own super-coalition. It’ll be like Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, only with less Ringo and a more consistent lineup.
If saving the entire building itself is indeed off the table, we’re fools to believe there’s no other way to honour its legacy and its place in Hope. Perhaps portions can safely be saved and displayed in a creative way. Maybe an upcoming visitor or information centre can be replicated to pay tribute to one of Hope’s last historic buildings. Maybe some material can be salvaged to be used in a new building.
The us-versus-them, my way or the highway mentality does not seem to be bearing fruit. Call me an idealist, but is there another way?
The Station House and its legacy will only ever be lost if we let it. Today is the day. Set egos aside. Let’s work preserve and create what we can to honour our past and get to work writing our own legacy.
This page in history is blank. How we fill it us up to us.