Chester Playhouse Theatre on list of familiar local landmarks impacted by fire


  • <p>TWITTER VIDEO, @Hooberbloob </p><p>Screen grab of video posted on Twitter showing firefighters tackling the blaze at the Chester Playhouse June 11.</p>

Communities that witnessed heart-breaking destruction of built heritage in the past are seeing similarities in overall reactions and responses to the Chester Playhouse theatre fire.

"I just remember being in shock, so that takes a while to wear off, especially if you continue to drive past it," David Mitchell, Bridgewater's mayor, told LighthouseNOW via phone. Mitchell was a town councillor at the time the town's historical Fairview Inn was destroyed by fire in June 2011.

The Queens Street hotel, circa early 1900s, was one of the longest running inns in the province at the time. The location hosted many social events and weddings. After the fire it was never rebuilt.

Just as the Fairview was revered as a community gathering spot, Mitchell said, the playhouse is a huge part of of Chester's identity.

The village's 80-plus-year-old iconic arts and culture hub was severely damaged in a June 11 blaze just as it was on the verge of re-opening after a $1 million renovation. Nearly eight dozen firefighters, from close to 20 volunteers departments worked the Pleasant Street incident. As of June 22, the Nova Scotia's Office of the Fire Marshal said the investigation into the fire is ongoing.

"We all have a lot of questions and those will, perhaps frustratingly, take time," Andrew Chandler, the playhouse's executive director, said in a video message posted online. Chandler said officials hope to have a clearer sense of what can be salvaged as the probe goes on.

The community is rallying around the playhouse as it works to secure temporary venues, and offering support through fundraising.

Eric Hustvedt sees importance in including the public as part of the process.

"People want to help, they want to see it back," he told LighthouseNOW via phone.

Hustvedt was a member of a volunteer fire department that worked the 2008 fire that ravaged his employer, Covey Island Boatworks in Petite Riviere. And he represented the area as a civic politician in 2019 when the community's general store was devastated by fire that year. The business re-located, while the store, located across the road, was re-established.

Whether it be Queens County's recovery from the White Point resort fire in 2011 or Lunenburg bouncing back from the blaze that levelled St. John's Anglican Church in 2001, there are many examples of resiliency in the wake of destruction. Both the church and the resort rebuilt.

Mitchell said in Chester they are also keeping positive and taking the position of "it will rise again."

Thank you for printing this article from lighthousenow.ca. Subscribe today for access to all articles, including our archives!