Fight to save historic Oshawa home ends as building gets demolished
Watch the video above: Historic Oshawa home gets demolished. Mark McAllister reports
TORONTO – Years of fighting to save an old stone house ended Friday as a crew began smashing away at the walls of the Oshawa home.
The home sits at the corner of Simcoe Street North and Britannia Avenue and was built in 1918 by George McLaughlin who helped transform Oshawa into an automotive powerhouse by bringing General Motors to the southern Ontario town.
Though the home was built by a man integral to Oshawa`s history, it was not designated a heritage property. Robert Bell, a member of Heritage Oshawa, watched the demolition begin Friday and said he was “sad” to see the building taken down.
“This is a really top-quality building. The stonework isn’t just professional it’s also artistic, there (are) designs in it, it’s just incredible,” he said. “It’s a real shame.”
The fight to save the building stretches back almost two years when The Minto Group – a development company – purchased the property. At the time, Heritage Oshawa and the city signed off on the sale and demolition according to Oshawa mayor John Henry.
Since then, members of the community have been trying to have it preserved. Cathy Clarke was one of the Oshawa residents fighting to preserve the building and met with Minto officials on numerous occasions.
The development team, as part of a compromise, put the building up for sale for $25,000 on the condition that whoever bought it would pay for it to be moved.
But no one purchased it.
“There [were] promises made to do things and things like saying ‘well you could move the house’ but really, really this house should have been left where it was built,” Clarke said. “I think it’s shameful that as a large corporation they don’t take more care in the communities they built in.”
Clarke’s goal was to have the home preserved and incorporated into the development.
“They’ve done it in other communities, they’ve done it in Ottawa, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have done it now,” she said, pointing out another historically important home nearby that had been incorporated into a different development.
The Minto Group refused to comment on this story.
Clarke also criticized city officials for not stopping the demolition.
“I think it’s shameful that the city of Oshawa didn’t stop them from doing that. They Didn’t actually take the value of this house into consideration for the community and it’s a community loss. It’s a beautiful building and when you tear down a heritage building like this it’s like destroying a Group of Seven painting.”
But Henry noted the city did not own the building and Heritage Oshawa signed off on the demolition.
Though Henry claimed to be “sorry to see” the building demolished, he suggested it was a small part of the city’s “evolution.”
“You can see that there’s some new homes but you can see that a there’s a new university built up there as well,” he said. “It’s an exciting time in Oshawa, we’ve had just an amazing year for development.”
And some of the building is being saved; Habitat for Humanity is taking the windows for one of their homes and the cornerstones have been kept aside for a heritage feature on the property to be determined at a later date.
– With files from Mark McAllister