OHS Bulletin: The Newsletter of the Ontario Historical Society, Issue 195, Summer 2015
Photo Cheryl Rogers, 2015

An application to demolish The Bishop’s House National Historic Site, was submitted in April to the Township of South Glengarry. The Township Council has voted unanimously to retain the building’s heritage designation. Photo Cheryl Rogers, 2015

By Brenda Baxter, Glengarry Fencibles Trust

Readers will recall reading “Demolition Planned for Historic Building in St. Raphael’s” in the April OHS Bulletin (194), which detailed the threat of demolition for the Bishop’s House.

We are pleased to report that the danger has now passed.

Recently, the South Glengarry Township Council, led by Mayor Ian McLeod, voted unanimously to retain the heritage designation on the building, thus preventing its demolition. Furthermore, the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall chose not to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.

In July, the Glengarry Fencibles Trust, a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization that incorporated through affiliation with the OHS in 2010, entered into negotiations with the Diocese to acquire ownership of the building and its cultural landscape, which includes a heritage lilac garden bordered by a stone-wall built in 1826.

Although these negotiations are proceeding, many complex questions remain, as some of the land is owned by a third party, the local Catholic school board.

Since the original article was printed in the April OHS Bulletin, the Fencibles have received much support – both emotional and financial – from OHS members across Ontario, including such places as St. Catharines, Goderich, Wolfe Island, and Toronto. They remain most appreciative for this help and look forward to continued support as the restoration begins.

The building was once home to Alexander Macdonell, who was the first Catholic chaplain in the British army (during the Napoleonic War) since the Reformation. Later, all of Upper Canada became his parish when he was named Vicar General of Upper Canada in 1807. He would preside over local Presbyterian services in Glengarry County when his colleague Rev. John Bethune had to be away, and Bethune would do the same for Macdonell.

A charismatic leader admired by many, Macdonell in time became known as “the Big Bishop” or “the Warrior Bishop” not only because of his role in the Irish rebellion of 1798, but also because of his chaplaincy of the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles during the War of 1812.

To learn more, visit www.bishopshouse.ca, or contact:

Brenda Baxter, Director, info@bishopshouse.ca
Cheryl Rogers, Director, info@bishopshouse.ca

Glengarry Fencibles Trust, 4162 Military Road, P.O. Box 230, Green Valley, ON  K0C 1L0

Reprinted from the OHS Bulletin, Issue 195, Summer 2015 published by The Ontario Historical Society.

A Monumental Struggle
Historic Preservation: Saving Bishop’s House a victory
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