(Above: Barn at the Bradley-Craig farm. Photo by Steve Garecke.)
There was bad news and there was good news for heritage buildings in Stittsville in 2016.
First, the bad. In January, I took part in a multi-hour marathon in front of Planning Committee at City Hall where residents and community groups tried to convince councillors to stop the demolition and relocation of the Bradley-Craig barn to Munster. The debate was so long that councillors ordered in pizza, and one fell asleep. In the end, the committee and City Council voted to allow the barn’s owner, Richcraft, to dismantle the building piece-by-piece and move it to Saunders Farm. A new development, probably big box stores or a strip mall, will be built in its place.
Councillor Tobi Nussbaum, chair of the City’s heritage committee, called the decision “a disappointing loss” for our city: “In light of the homogeny of much of the new retail and commercial plazas sprouting from the very fields where farmers once toiled, the importance – and the opportunity – of protecting outstanding examples of our rural heritage becomes that much greater. Today, Ottawa irrevocably lost a piece of its history in time and place.”
The barn still stands on Hazeldean Road, until the City approves a plan from Richcraft and Saunders Farm for how it will be dismantled, protected and reconstructed at the new location. The brick farmhouse will remain on Hazeldean Road with heritage designation.
(A sad post-script to the story: Eldon Craig passed away at age 91 at the end of November. Along with his wife Norma (nee Bradley), they worked the farm together on Hazeldean Road for 58 years.)
Once a heritage building gets demolished, it quickly fades from our collective memory. This year I wrote about two buildings that were lost in the 1980s, to two very different sets of circumstances.
In “Oops! We tore down your heritage farmhouse”, I looked into the history of McCurdy House, located adjacent to what’s now Iber Road. In February 1985, a backhoe operator mistakenly tore down the 153-year-old house. There’s only one feature of the McCurdy farm that survives to this day: a small maple bush near the corner of Iber and Abbott.
I also wrote a story called “They paved paradise, put up a Mattress Mart”, about a lost building at the corner of Hazeldean and Terry Fox. It was torn down in 1988, a bitter end to a two-year community effort to save the stone mansion built in 1881 by William T. Hodgins, a Member of Parliament. It made way for a shopping plaza, and if you walk behind it you can still find some of the old stones left behind from the demolition.
Another piece pulled from the archives: an article from the Ottawa Citizen in February 1960 called “Stittsville Goes Zoom”. It’s a fascinating look back at how the community struggled with many of the same issues we continue to deal with today: “The almost explosive growth of this once tiny hamlet 18 miles west of Ottawa has been so fantastic that major steps are being taken to cope with the resultant problems,” reported Fred Inglis. “New subdivisions have created problems of new streets, drainage and street lights.”
I did say there was good news this year.
In January, City Council approved heritage designation for Boyd House at 173 Huntmar. It will be incorporated into a new development, probably as professional offices or a restaurant.
City Council also approved heritage designation for the 19th-century Flewellyn-Jones House at Fernbank and Shea. Although the owners opposed the designation because they thought it would lower its resale value, councillors disagreed. New owners have purchased the house and property and plan to turn it into a medical clinic.
Two 19th century buildings went up for sale on Stittsville Main Street. One is the Hudson’s Insurance building at Abbott Street, the only officially designated heritage building left on Stittsville Main. Built in 1894, the three-story brick building was originally known as Butler House, and later as Green’s Hotel. It was built in 1875 by John Cummings, who also built the Bradley-Craig barn. It can still be yours for $1.4-million.
Across the street, the Lytle family has put their 2-story brick home up for sale at 1495 Stittsville Main. Cathy Lytle told reporter Devyn Barrie that the house dates back to at least 1900 and has been in her family for 64 years. “It was built in 1900 from a bachelor and it was sold four years later to a young couple… he was a tinkerer and they raised their daughter, Evelyn. She took cancer and died and then the father died of old age and the mother died after she sold the house to my parents… she lived with my parents for five years, she had herself written into the deed, for one bedroom and three meals a day and they got along fine, until she passed away.”
Some great news: I just heard today that the Lytle home has been purchased by a local interior designer Jennifer McGahan, who plans to restore and convert it into a showroom and office for her business. I’m very happy to hear that this charming piece of our village history will get the attention and care it deserves. Here’s what she wrote today on Facebook: “I am thrilled to announce the next big step for Jennifer McGahan Interiors Inc. We are relocating the office to our new Stittsville Main Street location. We plan to restore this important heritage building to its original, and rightful beauty in the heart of the village. We plan to be respectful and true to the bones of the building, while improving the streetscape by adding our modern design touch. Opening April 2017!”
(This post is part of our end-of-year 2016 Rewind series. Read more here…)