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Leamington's Big Tomato to be restored

Leamington council has approved the restoration of the Big Tomato, which sits at the corner of Talbot and Mill Streets. (Submitted by the Municipality of Leamington - image credit)
Leamington council has approved the restoration of the Big Tomato, which sits at the corner of Talbot and Mill Streets. (Submitted by the Municipality of Leamington - image credit)

An iconic landmark is Leamington is getting a full restoration ahead of the town's 150th anniversary this summer.

This week, Leamington council approved the restoration of the Big Tomato, which has been a fixture of the town since 1961. The tomato operated as a tourist information booth for decades until its closure in 2019.

"For over 60 years, the structure has faced natural degradation, including deterioration of materials and water damage," the municipality said in a media release. "However, a recent condition analysis confirmed that the Big Tomato is suitable for rehabilitation.

"The project will involve the removal of surrounding shrubs, not only aiding the renovation process but also paving the way for enhanced landscaping and aesthetic improvements."

The Big Tomato was originally built as a partnership between Leamington and the HJ Heinz Company of Canada.

A report to council states $50,000 has been budgeted for the restoration, which includes a donation of about $2,000 made by the friends and family of the late Bill Chaplin, a former Leamington councillor.

The report states Chaplin wished that any donations made in his name be dedicated to the restoration of the Big Tomato.

The town began investigation the condition and possible restoration of the Big Tomato in the fall. At the time, staff identified a leaking roof and damage to the paint and parging of the tomato as issues.

"The Big Tomato is not just an architectural piece; it's a cherished emblem of Leamington's heritage and community identity," said Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald in a statement. "This restoration is a step toward preserving our history while adapting it to serve our current and future generations.

"We're excited to see the Big Tomato flourish once again as a vibrant hub for events and community engagement."