There are a lot of questions after a historic limestone building in Kingston, Ont. collapsed early Christmas morning — in particular, about recent excavation work to the building site.
“It is very disturbing,” says Kingston city councilor Jim Neill of the collapse of the former Karnosfski Bakery.
“What was here was a beautiful heritage building.”
Built in the 1840s at the corner of Princess and Victoria street, the former Karnosfski Bakery was a fixture of Kingston’s Williamsville neighbourhood.
In the early morning hours of Christmas Day, the heritage-protected limestone building collapsed.
Now, questions have been raised about recent work to the structure.
The new property owners signed a strict heritage easement to protect and incorporate the historic building into the new modern condominium project, located behind the stone structure.
“Which meant they were responsible for maintaining that building,” says Neill. “Its collapse brings into question how seriously they were attempting to maintain that heritage site.”
“It would seem that it wasn’t a wise decision to go in there and start excavating, when you knew that the foundations were not very solid,” says Isaac Dawson.
Dawson, the owner of the Yellow Deli, has been observing the restoration work from across the street and says he spoke to the site engineer Christmas morning.
“It looked like they were doing a very good job (on the restoration), up until recently”, says Dawson, “They started removing the rafters and the floor joists.
“And when I came here and learned that they had broken the back wall down completely and were excavating in there … I became a little bit more concerned.”
According to Darryl Firsten, president of IN8 Developments, the property owner, heavy rain on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day was the cause of the collapse.
“It appears the issue happened with the foundation,” says Firsten. “The walls were okay, but the foundation was virtually just sand.
“And it was so decayed.”
The heavy water runoff, according to Firsten, washed away the ground below the foundations.
“Which in turn caused structural damage to the west-facing wall,” he says, “which was still standing when we got there on site, about 8:00 in the morning (Christmas Day).”
An investigation into the collapse is underway by the City of Kingston, and Councillor Neill, as well as many other Kingston residents on social media, seem determined to hold the developers to account.
For them, that means honouring the strict requirements of the heritage contract.
The restoration of the old bakery was budgeted to be well over $1,000,000.
Occupancy of the new condo building and ground level shops is expected to begin in September, 2021.