ACO London Today
Formed in 1966 in response to the threatened destruction of London’s original financial district on Ridout Street, the London Region branch of Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO), is a charitable organization dedicated to promoting, conserving and interpreting the architectural heritage of the London area.
The mandate of ACO and its 25 branches is to protect the best examples of Ontario’s architectural heritage and to protect its places of natural beauty.
In 2016 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of ACO London, which has worked tirelessly for over half a century to conserve London’s priceless built heritage. The movement to conserve and protect London’s heritage has seen victories, losses and sometimes results in between. We have been a visible and leading player in promoting awareness and appreciation of the London area’s heritage and fighting to conserve our shared past and has, in the process, significantly influenced the built landscape of the city.
ACO London has encouraged and actively participated in the drive to designate outstanding heritage properties – starting with Eldon House in 1977. Since then, we helped to compile the City’s first Inventory of Heritage Resources which is continually being updated. ACO London also actively advocated for the seven Heritage Conservation Districts designated so far. The branch has produced five publications to date – and we participate in the research, recording and archival conservation of the area’s architectural heritage resources.
ACO London continually monitors developments, acts to avert threats to the region’s heritage architecture, and informs the community on its potential to act and conserve our architectural resources whenever possible!
In an ongoing effort to make the community and visitors aware of the rich history contained in the buildings of the London area:
We organize events throughout the year including tours, speaker nights, and workshops, as well as our signature annual fundraiser, the Geranium Heritage House Tour, and our annual Heritage Awards gala presented in partnership with Heritage London Foundation.
We influence public policy at municipal and provincial levels to help conserve heritage structures. We partner with other community groups in programming and advocacy on built-heritage related issues such as sustainable development, smart city-building, homelessness and affordable housing.
We encourage young people’s interest in heritage conservation through the ACO London Heritage Scholarship, and we provide small grants to owners of heritage properties to help with their restorations.
You can play an important role!
We need your help to continue this important work. There are a number of great ways that you can get involved with ACO London.
Who We Are
ACO LONDON BRANCH COUNCIL
President - Jennifer Grainger
Vice-President – Kelley McKeating
Treasurer – Heather Dundas
Recording Secretary – Dorothy Palmer
Membership Secretary - Sharon Lunau
Past President - Mike Bloxam (Urban League)
MEMBERS AT LARGE
Sandra Miller (Communications)
Maggie Whalley (LACH)
Kyle Gonyou (Ex officio)
Geranium Heritage House Tour - Dorothy Palmer
Heritage Awards - Marlyn Loft
Policy - Jennifer Grainger
Program - Arthur McClelland
Restoration Grant - Don Menard
Scholarship - Kyle Gonyou
50 Years of Advocacy
Potential of London as a Heritage City
By the middle of the 20th century Victorian era architecture had acquired a reputation as old fashioned and stodgy. Many buildings during this period met their demise at the wrecking ball, such as New York’s Beaux-Arts Penn Station in 1963. Conservationists in London expressed their concern that some of London’s Victorian buildings could meet a similar fate. Londoners knew the city had a unique stock of quality Victorian architecture that could be saved for future generations. The Forest City had the potential to become a veritable treasure trove of Victorian architecture and many looked to the buildings along Ridout Street as especially significant--representing one of the earliest commercial and financial ‘nodes’ of our city.
Betty Spicer and The University Women’s Club
Elizabeth “Betty” Spicer (1917-2008) was a driving force behind the founding of ACO London. A graduate of The University of Western Ontario and University of Toronto Library School, she was a member of London’s University Women’s Club. Spicer was a founding member of ACO London and served as President for some time.
She was also the founder of the London Public Library’s London Room which started in the 1970s as a small room in the main library. Her honours in the heritage community included a citation from the London and Middlesex Historical Society, the Ontario Genealogical Society London and Middlesex Region, member of the Diocese of Huron Archives Committee and was archivist for the Church of St. John the Evangelist.
Founding of Architectural Conservancy Ontario - London Region
In 1965 the fate of the Ridout Street Complex was of concern to conservation-minded citizens. The buildings--over 100 years old by the 1960s--had been poorly maintained. A restoration project was championed by the Reverend Orlo Miller, a respected local historian who inspired the University Women’s Club of London to become involved in built heritage. They obliged by making an inventory of London’s heritage buildings and were also especially interested in the historic core of the city along the Thames. As interest in the project grew, the University Women’s Club invited Professor William Goulding of the University of Toronto’s architecture faculty to deliver a speech. He suggested that London form a branch of Architectural Conservancy Ontario. Shirley and Godfrey Sprague, who belonged to ACO Toronto previously, along with Ian and Anne McKillop, drove to ACO’s head office in Toronto to ask for assistance and support in forming the London Region branch.
The London Region branch--which was the second to be formed in the province--was founded on a hot summer evening on July 14, 1966. The first meeting was held at the Middlesex Court House and included members of the London & Middlesex Historical Society, city planners, the Public Utilities Commission, architects, academics, the University Women’s Club and more. Elizabeth Spicer served as acting chair of the first meeting and the first elected officers were R.E. McKillop (President), G.W. Bartram (Vice President), Derek Newton (Treasurer), and Spicer as Secretary. She emphasized the branch’s activities would not be limited to just London, but the Middlesex region in general. The newly formed branch set about to advocate for London’s heritage through public engagement, sponsored projects, books, walking tours, and collaboration with other heritage groups in the city.
Help us write our next chapter.
You can be a part of our ongoing mission to encourage the conservation and re-use of structures, districts and landscapes of architectural, historic and cultural significance by making a financial contribution or by becoming a member of ACO.