Winner – New Business of the Year

The historically significant land overlooks the river, right on the Rotary Trail. Photo: Roderick Benns.

Council eyes tear-down of east-side historical properties to allow for apartment building

in Community/Just in Time/Municipal/Opinion by

It’s a property with a now well-documented past but an uncertain future. There are competing interests and City Council and its Planning Advisory Committee have some decisions to make.

You can see the property for yourself if you turn off King Street onto St. David, towards Logie Road. Number 3 St. David, one of the property’s two houses, will be on your right. It’s a large red-brick, gable-front Victorian with a wrap-around porch, set back from the road on a well-treed lot (there’s a towering walnut, some maples and others).

Take the first right onto the extension of Riverview and past a line of mature pine trees you’ll find 4 Riverview, the second, smaller house — a typical Ontario Gothic cottage.

The 0.65 hectare block of land on which they sit is on a height of land above the Rotary Trail and the Scugog River. In winter, once leaves have dropped, you would be able to see the river as it curves around Pumpkin Hollow.

On May 1 the City’s Planning Advisory Committee had a public meeting and received a report prepared by one of the City’s Planners, David Harding. A request for a zoning bylaw amendment to permit construction of a four-storey, 40-unit apartment building had come from the owner of the houses and land (identified only as 2523609 Ontario Inc). (The existing zoning is R2, so allows only single-family dwellings.)

The application was sent back to staff for further review.

Then, on Sept. 10 a recommendation for historical designation of the two houses under the Ontario Heritage Act came to Council at a Committee of the Whole meeting in a report prepared on behalf of the Municipal Heritage Committee by Emily Turner, Economic Development Officer— Heritage Planning. The reason given for the recommendation was the “historical associations” of each house.

The City staff recommendation was a little different: that staff be authorized to address the preservation of 3 St. David St. and 4 Riverview Rd. through the redevelopment process. This might mean, the report says, ”integration of the buildings within the development, moving the buildings within the site, or removal of the buildings to another lot.” So, development and preservation.

No decisions are made at Committee of the Whole meetings, but Councillor O’Reilly made a motion that will come to Council at its September 24 Regular Council meeting: that Council not endorse the Municipal Heritage Committee’s recommendation to designate the two houses and that staff not be authorized to proceed with the process to designate.

But there is a strong case for the heritage designation.

The Case for Heritage Designation

The subject property was granted to William Purdy in 1829 after his previous mill in Vaughan township had been destroyed by fire. Purdy constructed a mill on the Scugog River and built a community on his land ahead of the development of the neighbouring property: land designated for the village of Lindsay. The Purdy tract stretched from Lindsay Street to Highway 36, and from Queen Street to what is now both Durham Street East and Parkside Drive. It was home to some of the area’s earliest settlers: the Purdy family, and those who came to work at the mill. This little group grew to incorporate needed services, such as a blacksmith and general store, long before a single tree had been felled to clear the streets of Lindsay.

Eventually the Purdy family moved away, selling their land to Hiram Bigelow in 1844. Bigelow seemed to enjoy purchasing properties, but failed to find a financial balance and wound up bankrupt with the property ending up in the hands of the bank.

At this time Lindsay was experiencing a problem with bankrupt landowners as Cheeseman Moe’s land tract was also in the hands of the bank, so when Lindsay was set to incorporate, the government insisted the town expand to include both tracts of land. Once this was done, the former Purdy tract was surveyed into town lots, and development of the East Ward should have begun. Unfortunately, tragedy struck the town of Lindsay.

The 1861 fire gutted most of the downtown core and businesses, leaving the area without stores and hundreds of people without homes. Fresh buildings rose up from the ashes, constructed of brick at the insistence of the town; the formerly common wood-frame construction was too much of a risk, so the work of a mason was needed. James Growden heard the call and is the man credited with having rebuilt most of Lindsay after the fire. His work can be seen in St. Mary’s Catholic School, Queen Victoria Public School, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church — and in his own home at 4 Riverview Road. He was a true hometown hero. After his passing, this home stayed in his family for over 100 years.

One of the casualties of the 1861 fire was Purdy’s original mill. When Walker Needler arrived in Lindsay in 1862, he purchased the ruined mill site and rebuilt both the grist mill and lumber mill, and gave over the management of these mills to his son, William Walker Needler, and his son-in-law, Thomas Sadler. William Walker Needler also owned steamboats and the house at 3 St. David Street.

He was known for driving around Lindsay in the first automobile for the area, and for hosting parties at his home — the lights could be seen for miles. A co-founder and large shareholder of the Light, Heat & Power Co. of Lindsay, he was known to have a quiet disposition and a large circle of friends — a true beacon of light for the town. After his death, this home was passed on to his wife and children, and remained in the family for nearly 100 years, until it was purchased by the La Mantia family.

Traditionally in Kawartha Lakes, the process of heritage designation leans heavily on valuing buildings for their architectural features. According to the City of Kawartha Lakes website, “A property can be designated and added to the Heritage Property Register if it meets at least one of the criteria for heritage designation. Entire districts can be designated if they are historically significant.”

Each of the subject properties meet several of the criteria required for designation, but the main criteria to be considered here is that the property has historical value because it has direct associations with a theme, event, belief or person that is significant to the community and that the property has contextual value because it is important in defining or supporting the character of the area and is historically linked to its surroundings.

The two buildings on the subject property may not be architecturally significant, they may be merely typical examples of a period farmhouse and an Ontario cottage, but the context of these examples changes when we take into account the surrounding neighbourhood.

Sure, other examples of an Ontario cottage can be found in Lindsay, such as Cheeseman Moe’s house, but how many on the east side of the Scugog River? How many in the area that was once populated by the families of the French lumberjacks, who were left behind in Lindsay while the men went north working to make the land habitable? How many heritage buildings have been designated east of the river? The answer is only one: the Captain Crandell house at 4 Colborne Street East, so designated for its Queen Anne architecture.

Would the houses on the subject properties be slated for destruction if they were located on the west side of the river? Why is the heritage of the east side not as worthy of preserving as the west side?

Another “heritage district” to consider is that surrounding the Scugog River. Purdy’s dam had a dramatic impact on the area and what began as a meandering stream became a navigable highway through the dense wilderness. Purdy supported the construction of the Trent Canal in 1836. Needler ran steamboats along that highway from Lindsay to Sturgeon Lake.

These days the Trent-Severn Waterway is considered a historic site of Canada and the subject properties, lush with century old trees, sit next to the river, overlooking the ruins of the Needler-Sadler mill. The history of the river is also worth preserving.

The destruction of these properties is a blow against the community of the East Ward, suggesting the history of some people does not deserve to be preserved and that hometown heroes should be forgotten.

*Heritage research and content courtesy of Sara Walker-Howe

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Jamie is a retired teacher and serves on the Kawartha Lakes Library Board and the City’s Environmental Advisory Committee. For The Lindsay Advocate he has revived the 'Friends & Neighbours' column he once wrote for the Lindsay Post. Sara Walker-Howe is an author and also acts as Project Manager for the Olde Gaol Museum.

5 Comments

  1. Need to grow tax base to support the social programs this paper supports. Shutting down prime development opportunities to save some local history is ridiculous, we are not talking about a historic church that was the only surviving building after an air strike or 4000 year old pyramids.

  2. If the owner wanted to build a community funded warehouse for drug addicted criminals who want to live close to their spouses in the correction centre I expect the opinions in this publication would be full steam ahead and in favour of destroying the proud heritage of capitalist fat cats from the past.

  3. Perhaps a natural question would be…where else could we put this apartment building, since there is no doubt the City needs more housing? We will certainly be covering other angles about this topic in the days ahead — the heritage focus simply has a lens on it right now with the Heritage Committee reporting back to Council.

  4. True history and beauty to be kicked aside for what real reason?

    Disrupt a neighborhood and use of the trail for a 40 unit complex, short sighted as usual Lindsay.

    Creating eyesores and inconveniencing residents is a bad habit .

    There are two places that are screaming for buildings yet have none.
    The gates that lead no where (former home if the train) and the huge waiting area across from Wilson fields.

    As for tax base growth…get some industry and commercial businesses to attract workers and keep the workers we have in CKL.

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