Port Hope’s first railway station is on its way to becoming a creative hub for the community.
Critical Mass, the not-for-profit arts organization in Port Hope that’s leading the transformation of the “Little Station House”, invited VIA Rail employees to paint the interior of the former railway station during Ontario Culture Days this past weekend (September 29 and 30).
Currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, VIA Rail has launched its “40 sustainable actions in 40 Canadian communities” initiative, where employees work closely with members of communities from coast to coast.
In addition to the volunteer painters, local businesses — including Kingsmill Kitchens and Baths, Benjamin Moore, and Olympus Burger — donated supplies and food for the volunteer painting effort.
Critical Mass is partnering with the building’s current owner, Architectural Conservancy Ontario Port Hope (ACO), to lease the former railway station and transform it into a creative community art space for exhibitions, workshops, and more.
Although the early history of the Little Station House is unknown, the small one-story building was built in the mid 1850s, with its frame construction, diagonal match board cladding, and low-pitched gable roof typical of a 19th-century railway station.
One theory is that the station was originally a whistle stop for the Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway Company. Another theory holds that it was the original railway station for the Grand Trunk Railway in Port Hope.
When the former Grand Trunk Railway Station was built in 1856, the building was moved east and became a baggage shed. After it was no longer needed, the building was donated to a railroad employee and moved to his private property.
The municipality of Port Hope recognized the building for its heritage value in 1980.
Later acquired by ACO, the building needed to be moved or else it would be demolished as part of the Port Hope Area Initiative to relocate historic low-level radioactive waste. ACO approached the municipality to approve permanently relocating the Little Station House to Lent Lane, the original location of the Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway’s waiting room for passengers from the downtown hotels to board the train.
The building was moved in June 2018, with the cost of relocation and a new foundation funded by ACO, the Port Hope Area Initiative, and the municipality.
For Critical Mass, the moving of the Little Station House has sparked an interesting and timely reflection around the idea of migration, and how the theme of migration has played a role, both past and present, in the shaping of Port Hope’s identity.
The organization will explore contemporary visual art interpretations of migration and shared dialogue through a series of artist-led workshops, installations and exhibits, and through social connections and art happenings at and around the little station.