The road to ruin has been a long one for a property on Byron Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The owners of 177 Byron St. have received a permit to demolish it almost two years after first applying for it.
“We need to take more preventative action so that structures don’t end up looking like this,” said Rita Trudeau, a member of the town’s heritage committee when the application was brought to the committee last fall.
The property is owned by Lais Hotel Properties Limited, which also owns the Queen’s Landing Hotel next to it.
It has been empty since 2004, according to a report made on behalf of the owners, and has been slowly declining ever since.
“It’s called demolition by neglect. I’ve been watching this house deteriorate for 15 years,” said Drew Chapman, the outgoing committee chair.
It is on the town’s list of heritage properties but does not have a heritage designation.
While it is not entitled to full protections under the Ontario Heritage Act, the owners were still required to provide the town with 60 days notice before demolishing it.
President of Lais Hotel Properties, Robert Jackson notified the town of the company’s plans to demolish in a letter to the town dated June 2021.
With the letter, the owners also provided a heritage assessment of the building conducted by ERA, an architecture firm, in 2015.
“The residence at 177 Byron St. is in fair to poor condition although it appears to be structurally sound,” the assessment says.
The report also cast doubt on whether the property is associated with the historical Niagara Harbour and Dock Company, noting it is “relatively isolated” from that area.
It is true that the property was once owned by company secretary “Frederick Nash,” but the report argues there is no guarantee that he lived there.
It did confirm that the property was once owned by the Malloys, a prominent NOTL family.
The heritage committee decided the owner’s application for a demolition permit was incomplete. Their decision was endorsed by staff and adoptedd by council.
The committee requested the owner complete an assessment of the building’s condition, conduct an archeological assessment and prepare a strategy for commemorating the building’s history.
Dan Currie, a heritage consultant representing the hotel company, provided updates on these three items to the municipal heritage committee on Nov. 8. 2022.
“The house at 177 Byron has some serious structural problems,” says a new building assessment that Currie provided to the committee.
The report lists several problems, including moisture damage, a failed roof and rot damage to the floors and rafters.
“It is neither practical nor economically feasible to retain the building,” the report says.
Currie told the committee that his clients had completed three stages of an archelogical assessment and he presented plans to commemorate the property with a plaque and salvaged foundation stones.
The heritage committee went against staff recommendations and withheld permit approval at its last meeting.
“It’s made to look like it’s nothing special. Well, it is something special,” Chapman said at the Nov. 8 meeting of the heritage committee.
Members requested additional information on the proposed plaque, comments on the feasibility of moving the building, and asked that demolition be delayed until the government’s heritage ministry confirmed it had read the final stage of the archeological assessment.
The ERA assessment conducted in 2015 reported that moving the building would compromise any remaining heritage features in the building.
That report also said while the property once had some unique architectural features, many of these had been damaged or removed by previous owners and replaced with modern additions.
The new report brought to council in November restates these claims.
Staff recommended councillors approve the demolition permit under two conditions and they do it by Jan. 3, at which point the permit would be approved with no conditions in accordance with the Ontario Heritage Act.
After all the to and fro on the issue, at its Dec. 20 meeting council voted unanimously to approve the demolition permit.