MURRAY RIVER — It looks a little rough around the edges but the chairman of the village council sees a return to glory for the old train station here.
Now in full view along the streetscape, the building that served a bygone era needs a lot of work. But Garnet Buell is confident that history will win the day here and this small fishing village in southeastern P.E.I. will save a heritage building and create a landmark.
“I would like to see it repaired and used again,’’ says the spry and industrious 81-year-old who is best known for his guitar playing and fundraising ceilidhs. “We’ve torn down so much….why not save something?”
Buell is hoping he doesn’t stand alone, and believes a pending public meeting will bring residents of the village together to decide.
The train station hasn’t been in the public eye for the past 30 years, ever since the face was ripped off and it became the rear portion of the local IGA grocery store on the main street. A demolition project over the past few weeks has taken down five empty buildings and freed the station, now propped up in the front, from its lengthy imprisonment.
First built in 1904, residents would take the train to Charlottetown and back for the day. Buell wants to see the original building in the heart of the village saved and returned as a beacon in the community.
However, not everyone agrees.
Resident Wayne Burke says the building is too far gone, a waste of any taxpayer’s dollars to restore, and he’s conveyed that opinion to elected officials.
“It would easier and cheaper to build a replica if people want one,’’ he told The Guardian.
David Keenlyside says there is no way the province can save everything but he sees merit in the original building.
“The loss of an original building essentially erases the authentic heritage value, compared to a replica, and the historical context….can greatly diminish any associated legacy of human events at that place,” said the executive director of the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation. “Hopefully the building can be saved and add to the public heritage interests in Murray River.”
Keenlyside said each situation is unique and has to be evaluated. Factors of importance include the condition of the building, historical significance, importance to the community and province, future use and the availability of funding.
“We know we can’t save everything and in towns where a building is lost through fire or demolition, a replica infill is sometimes built to retain the continuity of a historical streetscape,” he offered. “In the case of the Murray River Station, I understood that positive discussions were being held and there is hope.”
The fear of a tear down has led some heritage hawkers to abscond with a few pieces of history from the station, but local officials say there are no rats in the building.
A website devoted to the train station is now operating and there are offers to purchase the original building should the community turn its back on any restoration plans at an upcoming public meeting yet to be scheduled.