The iconic Pointe-Claire windmill, the city’s civic symbol, was badly damaged during last Friday’s storm which left nearly a million Hydro-Quebec customers across the province without electricity over the weekend.
Two of the windmill’s four wooden blades were snapped by high winds and now lie at the foot of the stone building, built in 1709.
Roof shingles from the adjacent convent were also strewn across the property that sits next to the shores of Lake St. Louis.
Although the 310-year-old windmill and former convent are on property of St-Joachim Parish, the la Pointe area has heritage protection.
Pointe-Claire’s municipal website said the windmill, which was officially declared a cultural property in 1982, “is one of the last remnants of the shore settlement of the Island of Montreal. An iconic symbol of la pointe Claire, it is a figurehead of the city’s heritage, especially with the “Croix des Missions”, which has stood at its current location since 1900.”
The La pointe Claire heritage site was recognized by the City of Pointe-Claire in 2013. In March of this year, the city tabled a 50-page conservation plan “to guide the site’s protection and enhancement.”
In an email to West Island Gazette, the city noted the windmill belongs to the Fonds d’Entraide de l’Archevêque pour les paroisses de l’Archidiocèse de Montréal.
“The city has contacted them to find out what they plan to do,” said city spokesperson Marie-Pier Paquette-Séguin on Monday afternoon. “As we write this email, we are still waiting for a reply from them.
“Also, the city is still interested in acquiring the windmill, which, according to our municipal regulations, is part of the La pointe Claire heritage site,” she added.
But Andrew Swidzinski of the Pointe-Claire Heritage Preservation Society said the city should be doing more to prevent the signature windmill from decaying or falling prey to the elements.
“It needs major work on an urgent basis,” said Swidzinski, who pointed out that portions of the broken windmill blades were already rotted and the building’s masonry is crumbling in places.
“It’s classified as a protected heritage building by the Ministry of Culture. So there are certain requirements for the owner to maintain and preserve it and not allow it to decay significantly. The position we’ve always taken at the heritage society is that the city should be prepared to subsidize its maintenance and restoration.”
Swidzinski said it’s a shame that the civic symbol of Pointe-Claire is now in need of major structural repairs.
“It shows there’s a mixed sense of priorities( by the city). Not only have they spent probably millions of dollars posting this windmill logo all over city buildings, trucks, the water tower – my understanding is they even copyrighted the image of it so that candidates who tried to put it on their pamphlets on the last election were forbidden from doing so – yet they are not willing to invest any funds at all in trying to maintain or restore it.
“As we’ve seen with the Pioneer, we have a situation that in order to facilitate the construction of luxury condos the city is willing to do road work and bury electrical wires that go into the million of dollars, yet they are not willing to make a much smaller investment to restore the windmill.”
Swidzinzki said there are programs that allow subsidies to owners for the upkeep of their protected buildings, but he added, “that’s never been considered in this instance by the city.”
“And in the past, they refused any potential intervention on that file. They might not be able to buy it from the Catholic Diocese or the church, but they could certainly come up with a (type of) lease agreement where they could just lease it from the Diocese or the church and they’d be in a position to do the repair that needs to be done.”
He said the heritage society first recommended repair work on the windmill some 20 years ago. ”The wood was already in the process of rotting because the blade and trunk was already like that,” he said.
Officials from the St-Joachim Church could not be reached for comment.