I am delighted that our 2019-22 council has adopted its Strategic Plan for Centre Wellington’s growth. It is encouraging that the message of our hardworking Save Our Water group has been taken to heart throughout the document.
I’m concerned, however, that the initiatives listed under We will support the heritage of our community, actually offer no heritage building protection. Did incoming councillors discuss their role in preserving early streetscapes and rural architecture?
On June 17 they approved the demolition of an 1887 yellow brick farmhouse that had been in the ownership of, and painstakingly maintained by, one locally active family for 118 years. This new council ignored the recommendation of the township’s planning staff as well as their own dedicated heritage committee — that this historic gem be designated under the Heritage Act and preserved for posterity.
In her report township senior planner Mariana Iglesias is absolutely clear: this property is architecturally significant, of great historic value to TCW, and unique because it is an intact farmstead, almost in its original state. She describes the work of the 19th century builder, Jack Hughes, as exceptional, “great care was taken to build and maintain this home.” Photos show the spruce-lined driveway, typical of its time, which Iglesias points out, completes the contextual landscape value.
After discussion turned to the magnificent driveway and the observation that it hides the house from the road, bizarrely, heritage designation was denied. Then things turned truly tragic; council went on to approve demolition of this irreplaceable property.
Our architectural inheritance is an enviable feature of this community. A preservation statement in the Strategic Plan, backed by both the municipal and county Official Plans, could reassure incoming ‘settlers’ that the history they are buying into is secure and supported. It would also warn off prospective purchasers who would distain or (as in this case) destroy it.
Surely an officially-documented commitment to protect significant buildings for future generations would empower councillors to save our built heritage before it is decimated.