It's late April and the 2015 Ontario Heritage Conference is coming up fast. This year, it's Niagara-on-the-Lake's turn to host. I was asked to put together an article about it for the local paper, the Niagara Advance.

In writing about Architectural Conservancy Ontario (ACO), as it's now known, which with Community Heritage Ontario first started the Ontario Heritage Conference in 2004, I knew I had to mention Peter John Stokes, who had a very long and close association with both ACO and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

For his passion for the place, its architecture and history, Peter has been called the "soul" of Niagara-on-the-Lake. He and his wife Ann only moved away -- to Port Hope, another place they adored -- within the last years of his life, and I fear this was partly owing to, in their view, unfortunate changes to their beloved town wrought by insensitive development.

Peter died in 2013, the same year that ACO marked its eightieth anniversary. Led by Kayla Jonas, an editorial team of which I was part put together a book to commemorate this milestone. 80 for 80: Celebrating 80 years of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario was the result. The book captures the stories of eighty properties from across the province that ACO has saved or helped to save. It was dedicated to Peter Stokes and I had the honour of writing the dedication:

Dedicated to the memory of Peter John Stokes (1926 - 2013), Ontario’s pre-eminent restoration architect, early champion of the preservation of our heritage buildings, ACO stalwart, master and mentor.

The last time I saw Peter was at the banquet at the Ontario Heritage Conference in Cobourg in 2011. He was 85 or so at the time but in good form. I was wearing a favourite heritage button, given to me by a young colleague, which said "I (heart) old shit." It was discreetly sized -- small -- and one had to get fairly close to make it out. Peter spotted it and asked what it was. I moved right up to him so he could read it. He peered at it for a minute, laughed and said, "Oh, at first I thought it said 'I love old shits!'."

Peter, you old shit, we'll think of you in Niagara-on-the-Lake next weekend!

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About Dan Schneider

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Dan Schneider is a heritage enthusiast, policy wonk, writer and professional heritage consultant. Formerly senior policy advisor with the provincial culture ministry, Dan has much experience with the Ontario Heritage Act and heritage policy issues. A lawyer by training, he was lead policy expert on major changes to the Ontario Heritage Act in 2005 and 2006. His advice is frequently sought on questions related to Ontario's legislative and policy framework for heritage. Based in St. Marys, Ontario, Dan is Principal of Dan Schneider Heritage Consulting. He can be reached at