UPDATE: April 1st, 2016 – The dinner is now sold out! Thank you for your wonderful support.
Saving historic Bishop’s House
BY TODD HAMBLETON Standard-Freeholder
Members of the Glengarry Fencibles Trust will be holding a special fundraising dinner this spring for the historic Bishop’s House.
The event will be held at the Char-Lan banquet room, upstairs at the arena in Williamstown, on Apr. 16.
The event’s guest speaker will be David Anderson, an acknowledged authority on Glengarry history. And, Flora Dumouchel will hold a special auction to benefit the house.
The Bishop’s House is the former home of the first Ontario diocese bishop, Alexander Macdonell, and last summer the residence in St. Raphael’s was on the verge of being demolished by its property owner, the Catholic Diocese of Alexandria–Cornwall Diocese.
But an agreement was reached to turn over the Bishop’s House to the Glengarry Fencibles Trust, a group of residents trying to find ways of preserving the historic structure that dates back to 1808.
The deal came after more than a decade of campaigning and negotiating by the non-profit Fencibles citizens’ group to ensure the preservation and renovation of the three-story stone house, built by Rev. Macdonell, parish priest of St. Raphael’s, in the early 1800s, and later the first bishop of Ontario.
The group immediately embarked on plans to upgrade and restore the house, following two decades of neglect.
Just like when the Ruins of St. Raphael’s church were preserved, the group was hoping the community would rally behind revitalization efforts for the Bishop’s House.
Said Fencibles treasurer Dane Lanken when the agreement was reached, “the church was remarkable, but so is the house – that’s where the bishop planned (the building of) that church, from (his) house, which is even older and not a ruin.”
The Fencibles paid a nominal $2 to acquire the building and a strip of land that adjoins it to County Road 18. Possession took place last December. [Fencibles Trust correction: Possession will take place March 31st, 2016]
The house has its original 1808 structure, as well as two larger additions built in 1924.
In addition to being the bishop’s home, it was also the first seminary of education in pre-Confederation Canada, and it later served for several decades as a school for girls run by the Holy Cross sisters.
The diocese said it didn’t have the financial resources to make the house serviceable again, and last spring it asked council to remove its heritage designation, a mandatory step before demolition, but the request was rejected by South Glengarry council.
© Cornwall Standard Freeholder, February 20, 2016
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Fencibles Trust addendum: Tickets for the Gala Dinner go on sale at Auld Kirktown in South Lancaster on Wednesday, February 24th, 2016. 160 tickets are available, and they cost $60 each.