The Queen Street Cenotaph, the most recognized landmark in town, will mark its 100th anniversary, this Saturday, June 4, beginning at 10:45 a.m.
It will begin with a parade at 10:45 a.m. on Queen Street, with a short ceremony to follow at the Court House, with the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, attending.
The public is encouraged to attend, said Royal Canadian Legion past president Stan Harrington, who spoke to councillors recently about the event, and the need for repairs to the the 100-year-old cenotaph.
It’s showing its age, and needs some work done before the celebrations begin.
It was unveiled June 23, 1922 by then lieutenant governor of Ontario, Henry Cockshut, Allan Howse, also a past president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 124, told councillors last week. And it will be celebrated at a June 4 event organized by the local legion, which will be hosting the current lieutenant governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdswell, for the occasion.
Howse outlined the history of the military and the cenotaph for councillors, explaining the town was first settled in 1778 by British forces moving to the west bank of the Niagara River. Permanent navy and army facilities were built, including Fort George, he said, and there were major battles fought on this ground during the War of 1812.
“There has been training conducted here up to 1966, including major concentrations of troops during both World Wars. The town cenotaph is a reminder of the community’s service to the nation.”
The cenotaph, he said, is dedicated to members of the community lost in war. It is in the shape of a clock tower, “in the centre of the Old Town, in the centre of the main street of town.”
The clock tower cenotaph was selected as a memorial by vote of all town residents, he explained. “Of the 632 votes, 316 were in favour of the clock tower, 237 voted for a memorial hospital, and 74 for a monument.” It was a practical choice, he added, “ringing out the time to the many community members who didn’t have watches.”
The red brick and grey limestone tower was designed by Toronto architect Charles M Willmott, financed by public subscription, and became the site of the annual Remembrance Day ceremony. Since 2002, the NOTL Chamber of Commerce, with first responders in town also hold a short remembrance service at the cenotaph on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. As a landmark, it represents the town worldwide, said Howse.
Stan Harrington, also a former president of the local legion branch, said the “iconic cenotaph is very sacred to all of NOTL
residents, and to all of the country.”
He spoke of the need for its restoration, and said he hopes to raise enough funds to carry out much-needed repairs both outside and inside, where there is water damage, “to make sure it stands for another 100 years.”
The bells, too, open to the weather and ringing the time for 100 years regardless of the weather, will also need some work, he said.
The Willowbank School of Restoration Arts is having a look at the clock tower to see what needs to be done, and a report should be completed soon, Harrington said.
He has two goals he’d like to accomplish. One is the fundraising — there’s no target yet, until they know what kind of repairs it needs — and while the legion can accept cheques and cash donations, he is hoping electronic donations can be made through the town hall office.
“While we’re always looking for larger donations, any donation would be gratefully received,” he said, suggesting the town could also help by using social media to spread the word.
He is also looking for people who have relatives listed on the cenotaph, to attend the June 4 service if they can.
“If anyone knows of anybody who has a relative listed on the Old Town cenotaph, we’d really like them to get a hold of us if they wouldn’t mind.” The cenotaph committee would like to honour their relatives as part of the 100th anniversary service, Harrington said.
“Their family paid the ultimate sacrifice, and we’d like to acknowledge them.”
The parade is “not a big close-the-street-off event, but similar to Remembrance Day,” at 11 a.m.
“Please come to the celebration,” said Harrington.