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Saturday, December 2, 2023
‘Stewarts’ of the land: Old St. Davids church to be remade as family home
Mark Stewart says residents need to take care of the heritage of their neighbourhoods, but thinks designating the old Presbyterian Church in St. Davids is unnecessary. EVAN LOREE

The old Presbyterian church in St. Davids is getting a facelift.

The town is reviewing a development application from its owners, Mark and Brenda Stewart, who are looking to renovate the former church into a single-family house.

“We’re stewards of the land. I was taught that by my father and my grandfather,” Mark Stewart told the town’s heritage committee on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

But Stewart also hopes to use the building as his family’s primary home.

He plans to build a deck on the west-facing side of the building and an extension on the back. 

Currently, the church is on a single lot with the adjacent 1442 York Rd., which the Stewarts also own.

At the Wednesday night meeting, Stewart said the region rejected his request to build separate driveways for the two properties.

Normally, the town would handle Stewart’s request for the driveway but York Road, which the church faces, is owned by the region. 

After a short discussion, the heritage committee decided to write a letter to the region requesting it reconsider its decision not to support a separate driveway for the church.

Stewart said he could better preserve and protect it if the property has a separate driveway. 

The church was first built in 1888 and is 135 years old. 

The former Presbyterian congregation closed up shop in 2018, which is when the Stewarts decided to get involved.

The church is a non-designated property on the town’s register of heritage buildings.

While designating it under the Ontario Heritage Act would provide the building with more protection from demolition, Stewart told both the heritage committee and town council this is unnecessary.

He told the heritage committee he might designate the property after building the additions for his family.

In addition to presenting before the heritage committee, he also spoke on the project to council on Oct. 3 during a public meeting on the project.

The Stewart family, he told council, has “deep roots” in the community: they’ve been living in the area 100 years longer than the church has existed. 

“I’m trying to protect the church,” he said, adding he is not interested in putting in a “mega mansion” on the property.

For Stewart, the remaining heritage features of St. Davids exist in “small pockets” around the community, the church being one of them.

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