The industrial collapse and economic instability of the late twentieth century drastically changed the way many North American towns and cities function. Galt, Ontario is an example of a town that has experienced many changes in the way its buildings are valued, based on these external forces. During the 19th-Century it was a prosperous place of business, prominent in both agriculture and industry. The citizens of Galt invested heavily in their buildings, some of which still stand today. However, regarded as obsolete, many of the factories and commercial buildings that packed the downtown core and spoke of Galt's success were demolished. Galt was forced to amalgamate with its neighbouring towns to form the new City of Cambridge, further exacerbating the loss of its identity. In response, the City has commissioned many plans and design guidelines that analyze and propose strategies to protect what is left of Galt's past, and create a new identity for its future.
The identification of what ought to be protected is part of an ongoing debate within the field of heritage conservation. This discussion has broad implications, for once elements of the built environment are identified as significant and irreplaceable, their conservation often poses challenges for revitalization efforts that meet the needs of the 21st Century. The relationship between an assigned value and the conservation method employed, is explored here through studies on varying building typologies in the downtown core of Galt. These analyses demonstrate how buildings change over time in both use and value, and how their reuse can influence the experience of a place. Heritage plans and policies tend to place more importance on an ideal aesthetic when identifying what has heritage value, which often contradicts the significance of the place itself. An understanding of the affect these values have on the places they create can help inform how conservation practice can recognize, enhance, and add to the value of a place, rather than limit it.