Richard and Anke Lex

We salute your vision for heritage, arts, culture and for our great town of Collingwood

Richard and Anke Lex have transformed a troubled section of our downtown into a thriving arts and entertainment district.

In fact, while they are modest people and probably won’t like what I’m about to say, they can pretty much take all of the credit for investing in Collingwood to create the wonderful arts and culture district that has grown along Huron Street between Ste. Marie and St. Paul Streets.

The transformation of this all but forgotten neighbourhood began when the Lex’s purchased and redeveloped the Tremont Hotel property, transforming the abandoned hotel into a major showpiece of Collingwood’s Downtown Heritage District. The Tremont now is a hub of activity and home to artist studios and a restaurant. It plays host to many special events throughout the year.

But the transformation of the Tremont was to be only the beginning of their fine work. The Lex’s also transformed the former Enterprise Bulletin building at the corner of Ste. Marie and Huron Streets into a gallery, performing venue, artist studios and retail space.

There was to be more.

Between the former newspaper building and the Tremont sat an abandoned duplex at 77-79 Simcoe Street that was in need of major repair. It came as no surprise to learn that Richard and Anke had purchased the property with the desire to restore the structure and expand the growing arts and culture district. Richard said this was one of the oldest brick dwellings in the downtown core, dating back to the 1800’s, and it posed an interesting challenge.

Richard said many of the building’s original elements were in place, even though the structure had been neglected for many years.

“We were very excited about the potential of the building. It had been boarded up for about five years, was vacant and in terrible condition inside. But the nice thing was that it was all very original both on the inside and outside. Having been built around the time of confederation it is pretty much the oldest brick building remaining in the downtown.”

Richard said the challenges of renovating 77-79 Simcoe Street centred around the condition of the building. While it was still very structurally sound he said everything inside needed to be redone.

Anke Lex creates maiolica pottery, tile murals and functional stoneware in her studio gallery. She said the east side of 77-79 Simcoe Street is still very original with four small bedrooms that have been transformed into artists studios.

“The upstairs bedrooms and hallway really did lend themselves for artist studios. They were the perfect size and have beautiful light coming in.”

The renovation of The Tremont Annex has allowed more artists to move into the district.

“We did run out of studio space across the street … there is a waiting list for studio space at The Tremont so there were the four perfect size rooms upstairs that became available as artist studios”

The Tremont Hotel restoration was the first project in the newly created arts and culture district to receive a Heritage Award from the Town of Collingwood. The restoration of the Tremont Annex also received a Town of Collingwood Heritage Award for which Richard is grateful.

“Many hours of work went into the building. We had a lot of great craftsmen who worked on this building who did the detail work and restoration work including the brick repair and brick cleaning and restoring the windows … a lot of time went in to that, so it was nice for them and for us that the work was recognized.”

The awards stand as a tribute to the fine work of Richard and Anke Lex.

Of more importance is the public admiration and respect for the couple’s tireless efforts to make Collingwood a better place to be.

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