Letter from DJK regarding the Wilson Farmhouse

A resident’s perspective.

For the past 46 years my family residence has been close to the Wilson farmhouse, with a lifetime of wonderful shared memories with the Ingram family. As a suburban youth, the various experiences I enjoyed at this farm helped indelibly shape my aspirations and appreciation of the past. In many ways, it is why I am an Archaeologist and writer today. My siblings were also deeply affected by the close proximity and agrarian life; one entered and graduated from the OVC on the back of many years helping out with the chores at the farm – even eventually being married on the front lawn of the farmhouse.

It is natural for memories to fade and develop into an enhanced lived present. It is not natural for memories to be erased. The recent refusal of City staff to fairly assess the invited expressions of interest in the Wilson Farmhouse, and bias from the onset to an agenda of demolition, continues a broader Guelph trend of erasing our heritage. This is a deeply destructive course for the future, and I hope you will indeed embrace the warning spoken at the Urban Design Summit last Monday: “Too often the pragmatics of now defeat the possibilities of the future”.

For the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario group, on 21 January, I presented a series of shared Ingram and Knight family photographs set to a live sound poem performed by Scott McGovern of Ed Video and Ben Grossman of Silence. The remainder of the evening was a positive, articulate presentation by Ben Barclay on the Wilson farmhouse becoming a new vital part of the community. The Mercury reporter who subsequently wrote a damning article on this event, was in fact not present that night, and missed the fact that several Ingram family members attended and supported ideas of refurbishing the house. The evening was a success, and demonstrated there were a large number of individuals and groups in support of saving the farmhouse. The Mercury article did not make this at all clear.

More importantly, the invited Request for Expressions of Interest in the Wilson farmhouse was never advertised as having to be a detailed business plan, and yet, unaccountably, City staff have judged the expressions as though they were meant to be detailed business plans. The hypocritical double-standard and goal-post shifting has underlined to the Guelph and broader public a deep level of unprofessionalism on the part of City staff. I hope City staff have enough integrity to openly admit not adhering to its own criteria and concertedly endeavor to correct this sham. It does not bespeak the positive embrace of past, present and future in any good planning for the Guelph community.

I therefore ask Mayor Farbridge and Councillors to approve Option 3 of the staff action recommendations and encourage these expressions of interest to be fairly considered. Guelph deserves a future that has not erased the past. DJK