Ravenscliffe hall renovation garners strong support



When it comes to the renewed love for the resurrection of the Ravenscliffe Community Centre, Rick Keevil suspects it all boils down to the history.

“I think people really appreciate the history but they also want a place where they can join together again,” he says.

Keevil, who is the president of the Ravenscliffe Community Centre Association, shares that appreciation with fellow supporters for a few of reasons. One, he’s seen the historic building in its glory. A place that was once a happening spot for special occasions and events. Two, Keevil can clearly see the potential. The potential to bring the building back to what it once was but with a modernized addition. The property is large and open and there’s ample parking to accommodate large numbers of people. And three, the history. That is definitely something to hold on to, he says. More than a century ago, it was a schoolhouse for the children of Ravenscliffe Road. Across the road is the just-as-old post office, which has long since been converted into a home.

A handmade sign says it all for an upcoming yard sale at the Ravenscliffe Community Centre.

“I tried to quit, but they won’t hear of it,” he says with a laugh.

Keevil’s been a guiding force behind the plans for a renovation since the beginning. He was the one who initiated a meeting with an engineer to assess the work needed on the building. He once referred to the revitalization project of the Ravenscliffe Community Centre as moving “as slow as molasses” but even so, he’s never had a doubt that it could be brought back to the vibrant place it once was. And with a newly-elected board of directors and more support than ever, Keevil knows he can’t walk away. Too much is at stake now.

We got a big thermometer sign given to us from St.John’s (Ravenscliffe) that we will be putting up to gauge the money we’ve got from fundraising. Right now, we have $10,000. We need $250,000 for the renovation and I think we can do it. That will cover an addition at the back, a new septic, washrooms, and hopefully a stage.

The community centre needs a new ridge cap and a new ceiling, which Keevil says the funds have already been obtained for.

“The list of what else it needs is as long as your arm,” Keevil jokes.

But, he adds, all the required upgrades can be achieved with continued fundraising initiatives and government grants (a board member is currently in charge of seeking out all available government grants). The furnace that was donated still needs to be installed and the outside of the building needs new soffit and fascia. The renovation will add new wheelchair accessible washrooms, a ramp to be constructed outside, and a stage extension for concerts and plays.

Keevil shows the side of the building where a new ramp will be built making the washroom addition wheelchair accessible. (As you can see the current washroom facility is an outhouse, which is a little outdated.)

“We’d also like to see a pavilion like the ones in Sprucedale and Kearney. It’s just like a giant roof and people use them for picnics and outdoor events and then it’s flooded in the winter and used as a rink. The pavillions have been a big success and we’d like to follow that example.”

This Saturday, there will be another yard sale at the Ravenscliffe Community Centre. Last month’s raised $2,200 for the revitalization project and Keevil is hoping this upcoming one will raise even more. There’s more support now than ever, he says, a testament that people believe in what the historic building and grounds has to offer.

Keevil notes it’s been devastating to see the recent closure of multiple historic churches and community centres. That will not be the case with the Ravenscliffe Community Centre. Thirty years ago there was a threat of the building closing and the renewed support for bringing the old building back to life could put an end to any future threat, says Keevil. The deed is held in trust by the community and if the community quits using it it goes back to Trillium Lakelands District School Board. The board could then look into selling it, says Keevil.

“But the interest has been renewed. There’s new blood involved, and that’s always a good thing.”

Any financial donation made toward the renovation of the Ravenscliffe Community Centre will be graciously accepted. As well, donations of gently used items (excluding fabrics such as sheets, blankets and old couches) are being sought for this Saturday’s yard sale. Please contact Rick Keevil at 705-783-9499. There are also positions available for anyone interested in becoming a board member.

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  1. The plans for re-birth sound feasible and if it takes time, so be it. Kudos to those behind it. I remember some of the school house years, late 1930s. It held the first blackboard I ever scribbled on as a preschooler who “helped” my grandmother tidy it up on a Sunday in preparation for Monday. We banged the chalk brushes outside too. There were “huge” desks. [doubles] and a wood stove for heating. My father went to the 1 room school, grade 1 through 8. It was my mother’s 1st school as a young teacher. Oh, yes, and my grandmother lived across the road with the post office in a front corner of her living room. I loved playing with the ink pad and date stamps on rainy days. I remember it as a very nice stone farmhouse.

  2. Kudos to Rick and the new Board members. This is a welcoming and charming place and great location for all kinds of community events (wedding receptions, music, theatre, shinny hockey, etc.) Build it and they will come!

  3. It makes me so happy to not only see a community rally to resurrect a heritage building; but to see them recognize people with disabilities as well. Additions to heritage buildings are prohibited, in general, but when the AODA comes into conflict with the Heritage Act; the AODA has supremacy. Please don’t let the ownership revert to the Trillium Lakelands Board: It’s obvious that they have done nothing with respect to maintenance. They certainly don’t deserve a windfall (especially with the Premier’s strange concept of holistic education).

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