Protecting Peterborough’s Heritage

Protecting Peterborough’s heritage:  Part 1

With the recent discussion about heritage designations and preservation of heritage in the city of Peterborough, it is worth putting the issue in context to give everyone more information about this important topic.

This is the first of a two-part feature on the subject.  In this Blog, we’ll focus on why a property gets a historic designation, why preserving the city’s heritage is worth considering, and the council’s overall perspective on heritage preservation.

Under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, municipalities may designate individual properties deemed to be of “cultural heritage value or interest” to the community, through the passage of municipal by-laws. Heritage designation stops unwarranted demolition and controls major alterations that might otherwise harm specific heritage features.

Here are some of the criteria listed in the Act that can be used to designate a property.  A property needs to meet any one of the criteria to be designated, although many properties meet more than one criterium:

Showing the Quaker Oats factory on the Otonabee River as an example of a historical manufacturing building in Peterborough Ontario
The history of the Quaker Oats (PepsiCo) building, built in the late 1800s and still operating today, is an integral part of the story of Peterborough.

•  The property has design value or physical value because it is rare, unique, representative or an early example of a style, type, expression, material or construction method.

•  Demonstrates a high degree of technical or scientific achievement.

•  Has direct association with a theme, event, belief, person, activity, organization or institution that is significant to a community.

•  Demonstrates or reflects the work or ideas of an architect, artist, builder, designer or theorist who is significant to a community.

•  The property has contextual value because it is important in defining, maintaining or supporting the character of an area.

•  The property is a landmark.


Of note, the age of the property is not a major factor. For example, modern buildings, including office towers, drive-in theatres, mid-century houses, and industrial buildings are also eligible for heritage designation, provided they meet the criteria as culturally significant properties.

In 1975, just months after the passage of the Ontario Heritage Act, the City of Peterborough – only the second in the province to do so – established the Peterborough Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (PACAC) to encourage people to recognize the inherent cultural and economic value of preserving old buildings and to advocate for heritage preservation in the wider Peterborough community.  PACAC is an extension of the Peterborough Historical Society’s ‘Old Buildings’ Committee. The PACAC administers the designation program in partnership with the Arts, Culture and Heritage Division –through the Heritage Preservation Office –and the Office of the Clerk at city hall.

PACAC is strictly a volunteer body whose members are appointed by city council to advise council and work with municipal staff on architectural preservation issues. A member of city council sits on the committee and city staff provide on-going support. 

Council’s overall role in heritage preservation is one of stewardship which means the protection and celebration of Peterborough’s culture and heritage.  Council is responsible for ensuring the continuity of our shared history, an ever evolving chronology that tells the story of this unique community, a past that sets us apart from other cities.

So, if you think you own a building  or property that could be given a heritage designation, part 2 of this Blog Post will discuss what you can do to start the designation process, including the application, research conducted by city officials into the property, what it means to you as a property owner, the difference between  being listed on the register and designating, and how designation approvals are determined.

Sources:  Information in this blog post came from the city of Peterborough’s arts, culture and heritage webpages and from a document on the city’s website titled A Property Owner’s Guide to Heritage Designation published in 2018.

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