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Reproduced, with kind permission, from
The Gazette, November 17, 2006
The County Gazette
Gazette photo by Rick Fralick
Treasure Chest - Directors of the Archives and Collections Society check out the contents of a "treasure chest" containing the kind of marine-related memorabilia that the ACS will be able to display at its new home in the soon-to-be-former Picton Post Office building on Main Street. From left are: executive director Paul Adamthwaite, executive director and secretary Betty Ann Anderson, direc­tor and architect Allan Rae, and director and fund-raising co-chair Ross Trant.

Marine collections dock at old post office

Expansion to bring 'new dimension' to Picton's Main Street

By Rick Fralick
Gazette Staff

When it comes to the fate of the old post office building in Picton, think collections, not condos. As in, the Archives and Collections Society and the Canadian Society of Marine Artists, which have signed an agreement with Canada Post to purchase the Main Street building that has housed the Picton post office since 1900.

The expansion of the ACS (a federal charitable organization established in 1998) and the CSMA (a federal not-for-profit established in 1983) has been in the making for some two years now and is expected to not only bolster the revitalization of Picton's Main Street, but will also enhance an already formidable community resource that has national and international importance.

Both collections have been housed by ACS founding directors Paul Adamthwaite and Betty Ann Anderson in a private home in Picton for the past eight years.

Although the collections have been available to the public, a lack of space has resulted in limited accessibility.

The move to the soon-to-be-former post office building - the deal is supposed to close Feb. 28. 2007, with the likelihood of a limited exhibition as early as this summer - will change that, and allow improved access to the ACS collection of 9,400 marine-related books, another 700 duplicate editions, and more than 150,000 journals and periodicals that Adamthwaite describes as "one of the biggest collections in North America."

Meanwhile, the CSMA collection of original paintings and prints now stands at 350 works.

While the new premises will not be large enough to display them all at once, there will be much more room for display of these works of art than is currently available. And it is intended that the displays will change every few months, so that the entire collection eventually sees the light of day.

The Archives and Collections Society's mandate is to promote a broader understanding of certain aspects of local, regional and world history by preserving collections of material about ships and the boats, the waters and the people who constitute our maritime heritage.

The ACS acts as an umbrella organization for the Canadian Society of Marine Artists, whose mandate is to bring together the finest marine painters, sculptors and model makers to encourage excellence in marine artistic expression.

Anderson notes that the societies continue to grow and need a bigger home.

"What better choice than the old post office?" she asks. "People already have the routine of going there for their mail. Now, they can still go there, but instead have a new experience.

"It'll bring a new dimension to main street," she says.

The old post office is part of what urban planners have previously identified as the "central meeting place" of Picton, which also includes the Armoury, the library and the Regent Theatre, and, as such, is ideally placed to become a community centrepoint, offering a coffee shop, art and educational lectures.

The building also has substantial historical value, in and of itself, having once housed the Customs House and, later on, the Canada Manpower Centre.
Gazette photo by Rick Fralick
New Use - The soon-to-be-former Picton Post Office building is being purchased by the Archives and Collections Society and will be used to exhibit its collection as well as works by the Canadian Society of Marine Artists.

Plans call for the restoration of the old facade of the building as well as making an attractive walkway linking Main Street and Benson Park, which should, in turn, revitalize the latter.

Besides Adamthwaite and Anderson - he's a former Royal Navy aviator, accomplished yachtsman, mathematician and computer software designer; she's a county native, registered nurse, sailor and artist - other society directors involved include Toronto-based architect Allan Rae, an avid sailor who has been visiting Prince Edward County for the past 30 years, and fund-raising co-chairs Ross Trant and Larry Tilling.

Rae has been working with the ACS for four or five years now and says the old post office "grabbed my fancy. "The building is ideally suited to house the collection because it's a well-built structure with the necessary floor-load capacity built in."

Rae adds that the building is also located at the heart of the town's aforementioned commercial core. The original facade is to be replicated as closely as possible, with the entrance at grade, to bring the existing greenspace into focus. A step-ramp to the first floor and a barrier-free elevator for all three levels will also be incorporated.

Rae's plans call for an 80 to 90-seat auditorium at the back of the building and a cafeteria overlooking Benson Park. A room for younger users is also envisaged.

"I'm confident the building will accommodate the collections of both societies and regenerate pride in the downtown with a treasure trove of marine-oriented material," Rae said.

The directors are currently engaged in due diligence, with an eye to the Feb. 28 closing date.

While an initial deposit had already been forwarded to Canada Post, the total cost of the project is not available at this time.

Trant says he and the fund-raising committee will be approaching foundations and corporate entities. The building campaign will have a national profile by virtue of its national campaign chair, George Cuthbertson, founder of C&C Yachts, who lives near Toronto.

The project has not received final approval from the county's planning department, but Rae says they are "onside" and have been "receptive and accom­modating."

Notwithstanding the yachts and art milieu, Adamthwaite stresses that this is a project for everyone. "The girls at the post office love the idea," he says. "We're doing this for everyone - we're not elitist. Once we get possession, it will open up a huge opportunity, not only for Picton, but the entire county, to become the biggest library in Ontario for marine subjects, including books, art and artifacts, and will become a tourist attraction far beyond our dreams," Adamthwaite said.


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Members are always encouraged to contact us with suggestions as to content - both on our web pages and at our premises in Picton, Ontario.

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