WESTMOUNT – The city of Westmount has had to shut down its much-beloved conservatory for safety reasons.
Several weeks ago, a pane of glass fell from the ceiling, narrowly missing an elderly man.
“This is one of the reasons why we closed down all the greenhouses, for safety reasons,” said Westmount Mayor Peter Trent.
Ten buildings comprise the Westmount greenhouses. Plants are grown in most of the buildings that are then used throughout the city.
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The Palm Court, or conservatory connected to the library, is reserved for the public. Thousands of panes of glass make up the ceiling of the 88-year-old greenhouse structures. Two of the 10 buildings have since been reopened. But the conservatory will remain closed indefinitely.
It has left Westmounters young and old disappointed the popular building is closed.
“It’s really too bad for the little kids because for those who aren’t in school yet it’s a really nice part of their day to come and see the greenhouse,” said Anthea Dawson. Her two-year-old daughter Maggie visits the greenhouse once a week.
“It’s so calm and peaceful and it’s a great spot to go and have a snack and warm up from the cold.”
Petronella Beran often takes elderly friends to the conservatory.
“I think it is a big loss because you have to go the Botantical Gardens to see another greenhouse in the winter,” she said.
Fixing the greenhouse is no easy task. The company that built its wooden frame is no longer in Canada.
“We need a consultant to tell us how to replace it with something that is irreplaceable,” said Trent. “We may need to be in contact with people in England because there are so few of these greenhouses in North America.”
The city spent $1 million fixing the greenhouse 10 years ago. Trent says those repairs were done while he wasn’t mayor, so he needs to study that report.
He says the city is waiting for an engineering report on the structure and safety of the building next week. From there, the city will open a bid for tenders to fix the building.
He admits the conservatory could remain closed for months while it is repaired.
Meanwhile, as the city studies the problem, concerned residents worry the plants inside are dying.
“I was more surprised there seemed to be no plan to keep the plants alive and keep them watered while the problem gets resolved,” said Paul Marriott, of the Westmount Municipal Association.
The mayor says plants can be replaced, and human lives are the city’s focus.