Original article from the Northumberland News.
PORT HOPE — Volunteers attempting to save a nearby ghost town’s last remaining buildings can finally get started.
Friends of Wesleyville Village, a volunteer-led group of about 150 members, recently announced it inked a new 20-year lease with land owners of the properties to restore the abandoned village’s remaining buildings: a school house, a house and a barn.
“I’m pleased to report that last week we signed a 20-year lease with (Ontario Power Generation) for the provincially-listed heritage schoolhouse and Oughtred house properties along with the woodlot between the church and the Barrowclough house to the east,” volunteer chair Kathryn McHolm said.
“I’d say we’re almost ecstatic.”
Wesleyville Village, located on a pair of lots on Lakeshore Road 10 kilometres west of downtown Port Hope, was once an up-and-coming 19th-century hamlet. By the 1860s, the village saw growth with the opening of a tavern, post office, blacksmith shop, machine shop and local trades people moving to the village.
In the 1970s, the properties were purchased with the intent of building a power-generating station, but the project was later killed and the site was left to deteriorate.
Prior to amalgamation in 2001, Hope Township’s Local architectural conservancy advisory committee, supported by Ontario Power Generation and the Port Hope branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, undertook a study to determine the village’s remaining heritage value. According to the volunteer group, the study illustrated a village consisting of disjointed collection of abandoned buildings and overgrown vegetation, but there was hope to salvage and restore: a church, a school house, two 19th-century homes and two barns.
By 2009, volunteers formed a group and began work to revitalize the decaying church, but were unable to purchase it from the Welcome United Church. Instead, the group signed a then precedent-setting 20-year lease, renewable every five years, to restore the historic church.
Since then, the group has continued to work with OPG to secure the preservation of the remaining buildings and finally signed a 20-year lease last week.
“Since 2009 when our organization was founded and signed a trail-blazing lease on the village church, we’ve been working with Ontario Power Generation toward a similar agreement for the remaining buildings in the Village,” McHolm said.
Now, the process begins in restoring the school house, which McHolm said is in “almost pristine condition”; the 1870s-built Oughtred house and accompanying barn.
The group intends to offer the buildings to the community for visitors and educational purposes.
For more information, visit www.wesleyvillevillage.com.