Ravenscliffe’s historic community centre making a comeback thanks to dedicated volunteers

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A revitalization project to bring the Ravenscliffe Community Centre back to the vibrant and happening place it once was is getting underway.

More than 80 years ago, the historic building was used as a small schoolhouse for children who resided around the Ravenscliffe Road area. Over the last few years, interest in maintaining the building, which is in need of some repairs, has dwindled. One could easily drive by it and not give it a second look. It appears abandoned. But behind the scenes, a small group of like-minded individuals who make up the Ravenscliffe Community Centre Association’s board of directors are now working together to give the hall a new lease on life.

“We’ve done quite a bit of work there, it’s just as slow as molasses,” said board president Rick Keevil, a longtime resident of Ravenscliffe Road. “As a teen, I used to play the guitar at square dances that were held there regularly. The previous president retired and was looking for someone to help keep it alive… to keep it in the community and from being sold. So it’s sort of become a hobby of mine.”

ravenscliffe community centre

A side view of the Ravenscliffe Community Centre shows it’s not in a state of disrepair.

The roof underwent a total repair around 20 years ago and is still in good shape. The soffit and fascia needs to be replaced as well as the ceiling and insulation inside the building. The centre has only a small kitchenette and no running water, but government grant money that is available “can be pretty widespread” for those upgrades. Downstairs provides perfect storage space for pressure tanks and plumbing equipment, and an electric furnace to replace the current oil one has already been donated. When Ravenscliffe Road recently underwent improvements, Keevil made a deal with the construction company to allow them to store their equipment and fill on the property if they put new gravel in the driveway.

“It’s better than it’s ever been,” he said.

Keevil indicated that the community centre is entrusted to Trillium Lakelands District School Board for community use. And it’s his goal to help ensure it stays that way and that it continues being used by the public to avoid it being shut down.

Hopefully we can prevent someone from taking it over or selling it. That’s my main concern, so it’s left to people. Ravenscliffe Community Centre Association’s board president, Rick Keevil

Keevil and secretary/treasurer Wanda Sawyer have been instrumental in getting the ball rolling on the project. Keevil recently hired an engineer to conduct an assessment on the state of the building who discovered that even after all these years of hardly being used, it still maintains a solid foundation. A new electrical system has been installed underground with a 200-amp breaker. A local company has agreed to donate time and materials for a new well that is needed, and a septic system will also be donated.

“We would like to put some washrooms inside which, of course, would be wheelchair accessible,” said Keevil, pointing out that the community centre has only ever had an outhouse located behind the building. “We put in an application for an Ontario Trillium grant, and there is money available to upgrade washrooms. We’d really like to have a meeting where we gather public input but the idea is to take the back wall out and put in a step-up stage, because we want to have more music there.”

Ravenscliffe community centre

An outhouse is the only washroom available, but an addition to the building would change that

He said he estimates the cost for the community centre repairs and addition to be around $100,000, a figure that is highly obtainable when taking into account the generousity of the local community. Bringing the hall back to life is something the entire community will benefit from. It’s situated on an ideal piece of property, with ample parking space, and is located within close proximity to town.

“We have about $8,000 right now. That’s enough to fix up what we have, go for some grants, and with donations of labour and time, I think that’s pretty good. We’re hoping that maybe for the addition, we could get some recycled brick to go with what’s already there.”

Keevil added a future goal of his for the community centre is to have an open dome structure with a concrete floor that could be flooded, similar to the one the Town of Kearney has, and used as a skating rink during the winter months.

The centre has a long past considering that more than 80 years ago it was a schoolhouse for the children who resided around the Ravenscliffe Road area. It then became a lively hall that was often used as a venue for weekly bible school and bingo, dances and benefits, special celebrations like family reunions, stag and doe parties, and even wedding receptions. Ravenscliffe’s St. John’s Anglican Church is a two-minute walk away from the community centre and, in the past, church members used the building and property for various fundraisers like bake sales, concerts and an annual yard sale. Last year was the last time it was used when hunter safety courses were held there.

ravenscliffe community centre

Over the years, many people have carved their names into the bricks of the historic building

“I’d be really sad to see it close,” said Lois Stead, who has been a mainstay of the hall for over 40 years and just retired as secretary/treasurer last year. She was instrumental in organizing the yard sales and church bazaars at the community centre.

“Back in the day, it was a popular spot. I know not much has been going on there lately, but Wanda and Rick are working on that.”

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the revitalization project, making a donation or becoming a volunteer can contact Rick Keevil at 705-783-9499.

10 Comments

  1. Eileen Haggart on

    My husband and I have recently purchased land on Ravenscliff Road with the intent on building our retirement home next year. With retirement coming we look to help out in the new community we will be residing in. We have driven by the community centre many times and commented how great it would to restore it. We drove by it this morning and decided to search it to find out the history of it. I was so please to see that others are looking to help restore it. I would love to help out and would love to be a part of your restoration group.

  2. Margaret Diana on

    My granny Mrs George Tipper was a teacher there in the early 1900s. My mother Dorothy Tipper and Phyliss Tipper both attended school there also. I remember my mom telling me about the school. We took her back for her 85th birthday and she pretended to play ball as they did in the past. Mr and Mrs George Tipper lived in the house across from the school and it became a post office also. Funny thing. It was so long ago.

    • Annie Walker on

      Hi,my name is Annie Walker ,my husband and i now live in the house at 1557 Ravenscliffe rd. across the road from the community. Could you send me any information on our home ,I have some but would love to get more . hope to hear from you . Thank you .

  3. My Dad, and many others of that era, went to school there. He is buried at St. John’s… as is most of my family.

    I think it’s a shame to see young people etch their names into the soft bricks, with dates like 1997. If they only knew the history behind (or … in, out and around this building …) would they think twice ? I doubt it. Now a days, kids are so self focused they are all about themselves, not the history of a building.

    I have been at the “old schoolhouse” for many occasions, usually 3 or 4 times a year, for Halloween, Easter Egg Hunts, and other celebrations.

    I don’t live or cottage in the area any more, but know most of the people involved in improving the building.
    I wouldn’t want to see it changed so much that it would be unrecognizable, but I give many KOODO’S to those who are helping to preserve it. If it were not for these people, this little piece of history may not be standing today.

    To Laura; I watched you grow up, and yes, you’re right… you had an amazing childhood on Lake Vernon. You and Ryan are so very blessed to have the perfect parents. I miss your Mom so much, and hope your Dad is doing well.

  4. Cjhristie Johnstone on

    Would like to help in any way I can to support the efforts to restore our Community Centre ! My Mother and a number of her siblings went to school there and would like to see in remain in our community ! Not to mention a few good party that I attending in my younger days 🙂 I also have a small donation (every little bit helps ) as a Thank you for allowing parking there during our MacLeod Reunion.

  5. John Rivière-Anderson on

    Fine work, Rick and partners! Your village hub is so important for community life. Best of luck in your efforts.

    John Rivière-Anderson, Newholm Community Heritage Centre

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