Harcourt welcomes new community centre
By Jenn Watt
Published May 22, 2018
It took more than two years to replace the Harcourt Community Centre, which burned down at the end of November of 2015.
Many in the wider Highlands community first found out about the blaze from photos taken by Dysart et al Councillor Tammy Donaldson, who posted them to Facebook.
On Saturday, Donaldson gave a speech at the podium of the new community centre.
“From the ashes of the old community centre – from which most of you here today have memories from the old community centre – [comes] this state-of-the-art facility I’m sure you’re all excited to make new memories in,” she said at the grand opening of the new facility.
“The community centre was built for the people and I encourage everybody to be active, participate and enjoy,” she said.
Chairman of the Harcourt Community Centre Ross Covert opened the ceremony and thanked the long list of people who worked on getting the building done.
Several organizers alluded to frustrations along the way in getting the community centre rebuilt, however, on Saturday everyone was in a jovial spirit as lunch and cake was served in the new 4,035-square-foot space, which includes a large hall, kitchen, room for a stage, washrooms and storage space.
Insurance provided about $800,000 for the replacement of the building, said Dysart et al Mayor Murray Fearrey.
The building ended up costing more than $1 million, he said.
Fundraising in the community and money from the municipality made up the difference.
Duncan Ross Architect designed the building and Ross said the space was designed in a way that could be expanded. A meeting room, for example, could be built on as an addition in years to come, he said.
As guests came into the new Harcourt Community Centre, they could peruse the history book, Harcourt’s Sons and Daughters: Village of Harcourt EST. 1903, written by Valerie Smith. In it, details of the founding of the first community centre, built in 1960.
“Under the leadership and guidance of the hall board members such as Waulzie Gerow, Louis Roderick, Harold Schickler, Harcourt Pacey, Ernie Warren and Murray Scott, the hall was soon competed by June 19, 1960,” the passage reads.
The cost for the community centre back then was $9,751.80, built on land purchased from Ruth Scott and Wallace Scott.
The first dance was held in August of 1960 for Harold Schickler’s wedding.
The first dance held in the new community centre was Saturday, May 19, in celebration of new beginnings.
“This beautiful building, I have to say you’ve got the most modern commercial kitchen in the county. … I think you’re going to turn some great stuff out of there,” Fearrey said in his address to the crowd.
Organizers anticipate weddings, community dances, funerals, private events as well as bingo, euchre and sewing to return to the centre, now that it’s open again.
There are still things to be done. A sign needs to be mounted, the stage has not yet been installed. The ladies’ auxiliary was holding a raffle on Saturday to raise money for small kitchen items they still need – things like blenders, said Joan Clark, of the Harcourt Ladies’ Auxiliary.
“When you go to cook a meal, you need a lot of stuff and those are the things we don’t have,” she said.
Joan Clark hands out raffle tickets to benefit the new Harcourt Community Centre during the grand opening on Saturday, May 19, 2018. /JENN WATT Staff
Connie Rees, president of the Ladies’ Auxiliary, said that over the last two years, regular events such as bingo and euchre were relocated to facilities in Wilberforce and Highland Grove.
“We’re hoping it’s used a lot more now,” she said of the new centre.
Local politicians arrived at the Harcourt Community Centre to celebrate the new building’s grand opening on Saturday, May 19, 2018. From left, Dysart et al Deputy Mayor Andrea Roberts, Mayor Murray Fearrey, Councillor Tammy Donaldson, MP Jamie Schmale, MPP Laurie Scott and Councillor Dennis Casey. /JENN WATT Staff
MP Jamie Schmale and MPP Laurie Scott both attended the grand opening ceremony and remarked on the strength of small communities to get things done.
“Look what you have all done. … The ladies [auxiliary], the community: you’ve fundraised, you’ve persevered and it truly speaks to the heart of the Harcourt community,” Scott said.
“You guys did it.”
Schmale echoed those sentiments.
“This shows the spirit that small towns have,” he said. “They see an issue that needs to be tackled they roll up their sleeves and they get the job done. And that’s exactly what each and every one of you have done in Harcourt here today with this amazing building.”