By Jeff Dornan
The Peterborough Examiner
“If these walls could talk” is a familiar adage and if it were true a small and unassuming wooden building located just east of Norwood’s downtown would have some stories to tell.
Built in 1836, it is likely Norwood’s oldest building still in use. However one of the most interesting parts about this buildings history is the fact that it has the well-earned distinction of also being the most travelled building in town — having been lifted and moved no less than three times in its 184 years.
While the building is completely unrecognizable now from its original self, the bones were constructed in 1836 as Norwood’s first Methodist church. Its original location was the northeast corner of Highways 45 and 7 where the present-day United Church is.
In 1854 the congregation decided a new larger church building was needed and rather than raze the old church they decided to retain it for use as a meeting hall and Sunday school classroom. However, the old wooden framed building was located right where the new church was to be built so the menfolk of the congregation along with several teams of horses and a number of wooden rollers moved the building for the first time by “shifting it over to the east” a couple of hundred feet to make room for their new church.
Moving ahead 35 years to 1889, the congregation had grown considerably and plans for a much larger church were formed, threatening the little building once again.
The building was saved by the Norwood branch of the Loyal Orange Lodge who had been using it as a meeting place for several years. The lodge purchased and agreed to relocate the building. The building’s second move was a bit more arduous, involving more horses, more timbers and a few heavy wagons, as this time the building was lifted from its foundation, turned 180 degrees and moved east down Highway 7 to a lot on the south side of the road between Victoria and Elm Streets.
It remained at this location for nearly 90 years until 1975, when the widening of Highway 7 threatened the future of the building again. Not wishing to lose their old and familiar meeting place and considering they had already moved it once before, the Orange Lodge decided to do it again. For the building’s third move it was hoisted from its foundation with the aid of large trucks and heavy equipment, moved down Highway 7, spun back around 180 degrees and placed on the north side of the highway. Its official address is 4306 Highway 7.
By the 1990s membership of the Orange Order had declined to the point where maintaining the lodge was no longer feasible, so the few remaining members transferred to neighbouring lodges and the building was put up for sale.
It was shuttered and unused until the early 2000s, when new owner Harold Tibbits set to work transforming it. The roofline was altered to include dormers, allowing light into the upper floor; two comfortable apartments were fashioned in the space.
The main floor became a storefront with the addition of a set of ground-level doors at the front of the building. Over the years, the storefront had some short-lived businesses, including a gym and a pet food store.
A few years ago the building changed hands again, this time to Norwood native Bradley Maybee who realized the basement area would be good spot to operate his graphic design and printing business, b-designed.
While its travelling days are likely over now, this proud little building continues to endure the changing times, reinventing itself to stay viable and fulfil a need in the community.