By Michael Bennett
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Ridgetown Independent News
If you have been or plan on going to an event at the Mary Webb Centre, you will notice the historical concert hall is a little darker than usual.
That is because the stained glass dome is out for repairs.
Workers used the utmost caution to remove the dome from the ceiling of the historic hall in Highgate in July.
Scaffolding was set up as workers precariously climbed through the small openings to remove the dome in eight sections, each containing three panels.
The dome is now at Magnolia Stained Glass Works in Blenheim, where Jeff Cofell has the task of cleaning and restoring the historic dome.
It is the first time the dome has been removed since the building was built in 1917.
“It was getting pretty dirty, and we were worried it was going to crack,” said Paul Brown, a Mary Webb Centre’s marketing team member.
“It’s the crowning glory of the whole concert hall, but it reached the stage where we were concerned that it might start to fall,” added Sandi Kearney.
David Van Damme submitted an application to the Ontario Trillium Foundation in August 2022, requesting $139,600 to clean and restore the stained glass dome and replace the carpeting in the concert hall.
Last November, the Mary Webb Centre board of directors learned their application was accepted and they received a grant of $141,000 in May.
Dan Faas from the Carpet Showroom removed the old carpeting, put in a new wooden stabilizing floor base and installed new carpeting. The carpet is installed in small squares, so if a spill or stain can’t be cleaned, it can easily be replaced with a new square.
As is the case in most projects these days, the final cost of restoring the dome and replacing the carpet came in much higher than the estimated expense.
“We need to raise another $20,000 to $30,000 to cover the cost,” said Kearney, noting that the centre will announce fundraising plans and donation opportunities shortly.
The Mary Webb Centre paid off an $800,000 expansion project that included new washrooms and a much-needed elevator.
The project started in 2016 with a $250,000 Grant from the Canadian Heritage Department and $100,000 provided by the centre, as funds continued to be raised after its 2018 completion.
The centre was originally the Highgate United Church, which was built in the early 20th century and served the community until dwindling attendance forced its closure in June 2009.
With rumours of the church being torn down, a group of local residents purchased the building with the goal of revitalizing the 102-year-old building into a performance centre, art gallery, social hub and reception hall.
The building was named the Mary Webb Centre.