OHS Bulletin: The Newsletter of the Ontario Historical Society, Issue 194, April 2015

BY Glengarry Fencibles Trust: Brenda Baxter and Allan Macdonell    info@bishopshouse.ca

On April 21st, the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall submitted an application to the Township of South Glengarry for demolition of The Bishop’s House ( 1808 ) in St. Raphael’s, Ontario. A group of concerned citizens, incorporated in 2010 as the Glengarry Fencibles Trust (GFT) through affiliation with the OHS, have been working to acquire ownership of this property. With the guidance of the Ontario Heritage Trust, GFT has developed a business plan and has gathered community partners to fundraise for the building’s restoration and reuse.

The Bishop’s House National Historic Site - both the building and cultural landscape - located in St. Raphael’s (Township of South Glengarry), Ontario, is designated for architectural features and for its historical significance under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Bishop’s House National Historic Site – both the building and cultural landscape – located in St. Raphael’s (Township of South Glengarry), Ontario, is designated for architectural features and for its historical significance under the Ontario Heritage Act. Photo Robertson Martin Architects Inc. for ACO, 2005

The diocese (owners of the house) and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (owners of the cultural landscape) have refused to transfer the property to our community group without substantial funds to cover liability (guarantee the title). The school board plans to use the 1812 Military Parade Grounds as part of a new septic system for a nearby school, on a 60-acre piece of property owned by the board.

This property has multiple heritage designations. For 25 years it served as the home and office of Rev. Alexander Macdonell, Ontario’s first bishop. Rev. Macdonell established the first college of Ontario in St. Raphael’s, constructed numerous schools and churches throughout the province, and was a mentor to Ontario’s first Premier, who was born and raised in St. Raphael’s. His parish was the whole of Upper Canada. Macdonell worked with Sir John Galt and promoted immigration to Canada. He raised the first Glengarry Fencibles in Scotland and the second Glengarry Fencibles in Canada. He accompanied the soldiers in battle in the War of 1812. He is Glengarry County’s one and only National Historic Person of Canada. His house and cultural landscape has been designated as a Level 1 heritage element of the National Historic Site at St. Raphael’s (Parks Canada, 1999), and is recognized in Ontario’s top 1% in terms of heritage (Ontario Heritage Trust, 2011).

Photo Cheryl Rogers, 2015

National Historic Site, constructed in 1806, has already been boarded up. Photo Cheryl Rogers, 2015

Under the previous Mayor, Jim McDonell (now MPP for this riding), the Township designated The Bishop’s House Property and Cultural Heritage Landscape in 2011 under the Ontario Heritage Act.

South Glengarry Township Council must vote on this request to demolish within 90 days. The Diocese is now boarding up the building. We urgently need your support to stop the demolition.

For further information, please contact Cheryl Rogers or Brenda Baxter at info@bishopshouse.ca

Reprinted from the OHS Bulletin, Issue 194, April 2015 published by The Ontario Historical Society.

A Monumental Struggle
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