Bringing the Past to the Present for the Future

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Sunday, April 1, 2007

Cemetery Designation

(reprinted courtesy of the Ministry of Culture-to be redirected to their website click on the link above)

Our inheritance of architecture, cultural landscapes, and material culture is an irreplaceable asset and resource. In Ontario, the task of conserving historically and architecturally significant properties is primarily a municipal matter. The Ontario Heritage Act provides a framework within which municipalities can act to ensure conservation of such properties. It also encourages citizens participation in local heritage conservation.

Local municipalities may designate heritage cemeteries under Parts IV and V of the Ontario Heritage Act (Ontario, 1990b). Cemetery owners or property managers may also enter into easement agreements with other agencies, such as the Ontario Heritage Foundation or a municipality. All these measures may assist in preservation of cemeteries. Properties may either be associated with significant heritage buildings or be related to a settlement or rural area. The ministry makes available a list of Ontario's designated cemeteries.

Designation is a means by which local municipalities can exercise control over those proposed alterations to heritage properties which would affect the property's heritage significance. Generally speaking, new burials in a designated cemetery do not constitute such an alteration as it is unlikely that new burials would alter or affect a cemetery's heritage significance. However, other types of work within a designated cemetery may constitute an alteration requiring consultation with the municipality. Well-worded descriptions of the cemetery properties and their built and landscape features are essential in order to provide a clear understanding of the heritage significance of these features so that can be protected from inappropriate alteration. These descriptions, referred to as "the reasons for designation", form the most important section of the designation by-law approved by the municipality.

Where cemeteries are significant primarily for historical reasons, it is important to include information such as historical association with:

- a specific event, such as a battle or a disaster;
- well-known people, such as a pioneer founding family;
- a well-known person in the burial place; and
- a well-known rural community and associated cemetery

Where context and landscape design are significant, the application should describe the attributes of the landscape in which the cemetery is located. It is useful to note the following:

- design and layout of the cemetery, including any special landscape features such as trees, plantings, fences, entrances, roads, open spaces, walls, pathways, gates, and fountains;
- the relationship of the cemetery to the general community in which it is located;
- its relationship to historical settlement patterns and use of land;
- a particular designer or landscape firm involved;
- the integrity of the site;
- if the property is one of only a few remaining;
- the cemetery's role as a physical or spiritual landmark

Where craftsmanship and architectural design are significant, the document should describe the attributes of the built features located within the property either individually or as a group -- for example, funerary monuments, dead house, fences and gates, markers and mausoleums. The following attributes for built features are elements for consideration in a statement of reasons for designation:

- the name of the builder, artist, designer, mason, carver, or architect
- a description of the building and/or marker type, including:
- materials of building construction and markers
- religious and artistic influences, as in pyramids, obelisks, metal work
- type or architectural or decorative elements, carving or detailing, such as lambs and angels
- special construction techniques or devices

The following example of heritage designation from a municipality in Ontario represents efforts to reflect accurately the significance of these features through the statement of reasons for designation, in support of a local municipal by-law, as required under the Ontario Heritage Act.