The Award of Merit in Conservation – Engineering was given to Dr. Thomas Morrison, Heritage Standing Inc., for the Old Penniac Baptist Church for demonstrating humble and creative engineering, guided in a minimal intervention approach by the Standards and Guidelines, in order to successfully maintain the integrity of the character defining elements of the historic church.
The judges were impressed by the project’s recognition of settler history in the area; inspired by the commendable grassroots and civic movement organized to save the church from demolition; and noted that the project overcame preconceived assumptions that appropriate maintenance of historic structures is impossible when working with strict budget-constraints.
The 150 year old wood frame Old Penniac Baptist Church was fated for demolition; there was no active congregation and the interior was damaged by salvage hunters. The dry-laid stone foundation, with no mortar or frost wall, caused concern for contractors. Concerned community members understood the heritage value of the building and formed the non-profit group Friends of the Penniac Church and Cemetery Inc. to take ownership of the property. They hoped to conserve the building for future use. Structural and safety concerns were unknown but assumed to be significant and perhaps too costly to address. They reached out to Dr. Tom Morrison to undertake an inspection and provide a report of prioritized work using a conservation approach. Evaluation found the building was in good structural health with few structural repairs required and some deferred maintenance to be addressed. The Friends of the Penniac Church and Cemetery Inc. were able to move forward with their plans for continued use of the building as a centre for community activities and celebrations. Demolition was avoided, minimal intervention was required and character defining elements were left intact. The first site visit took place on Nov. 22, 2017. The engineering project was completed in January 2018 while construction was completed in August 2018. A financially prudent conservation-based assessment and evaluation was all that was needed to save a significant historic community building.