WEYMOUTH, N.S.- For nearly 10 years Hal Theriault and Stacey Doucette have been researching the history of the New France, Electric City near Weymouth.
Along with a board of directors, the group is trying to establish an interpretative centre to share their research and the community of Weymouth’s stories to anyone who wants to learn about it.
On Aug. 29 their plans were changed but the board isn’t giving up.
The morning of Aug. 29 there was a fire in Weymouth that destroyed two buildings. One of the buildings held artifacts, research and photographs for the Electric City project.
“Weymouth as you may know has been victimized by fires too often in its history,” said Theriault, at a public meeting on Oct. 4 to discuss the loss from the fire and how the board will move forward. “This will not stop us from moving forward,” he adds.
The fire has now been deemed suspicious and is under investigation by the RCMP.
Since the fire the group has been planning ways to move past their loss and continue working on this project.
“The easy way would have been to say we don’t have anything anymore and we’re going to give up. That never entered anyone’s head,” Theriault says. “We may not have everything we started out with, but we still have the story. It can not be replaced in anyway.”
Since the fire, members of the public have reached out to the board offering artifacts that might be of interest to them.
Prior to the fire the board created an index of what they had, and they did photograph some of it. So, for moving forward with the interpretive centre, they do still have some information about the lost items.
“If you’ve ever had a fire you’d know, when you wake up the next morning and you go to do something and it’s like, ‘man we don’t have that now, we can’t do it’ and it’s like, we got to come up with another idea,” said Doucette.
The board planning the Electric City Interpretative Centre has been looking into locations for their project. Before the fire, they selected a building they were interested in and hoped to make it a reality.
The building they chose was the former Campbell’s Store in Weymouth, the one that burnt down, along with their artifacts on Aug. 29.
“Everything has changed since the fire,” says Doucette.
“It changes a lot of our plans, but it also gives us new ideas,” adds Theriault.
To build a brand new building, equipped with their interpretive centre, a museum, a theatre, board rooms, a workspace, a café and gift shop the project is estimated to cost $4.2 million.
If the group looks into purchasing an older building and redesigning it, it would be estimated at 60 per cent of the cost of a new building.
“We need to get tourists back to Weymouth and this story could be the turnaround for us. That’s why we’d like to see this open in the village,” says Theriault.
The board figures that by adding in extras to the center, like the theatre and boardrooms, it will attract more people to the area even if it’s not for the Electric City display.
With an increase of traffic in the area, this could potentially boost the economic impact for local inn’s and bed and breakfasts.
“There’s no way we can exist or survive if we don’t work together as a community.”
Some questions were raised at the meeting if adding extras to the center, like board rooms, would take away from other organizations that host events, like the fire department and legion.
Theriault and Doucette assured the public they plan to work together with local organizations and businesses. They have already met with many people about their project, and they will continue meeting with groups to help get the whole community on board with their vision.
“Nothing is written in stone at the moment, we still have lots of time to hear anyone’s concerns and hopefully create a solution that works for everyone,” says Theriault.
However, the Electric City group is now a non-profit organization and they are trying to create ways the interpretive center can make money to stay open.
“We wanted to have this meeting, so we could let you guys know where we’re at since the fire,” says Doucette. “We wanted this type of discussion because we are still planning, and we need input from the village before we move forward with anything.”
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