Waiting for the approvals
ALAN S. HALE
August 23, 2018
STANDARD-FREEHOLDER, Page A3
Glengarry Fencibles Trust to demo additions to Bishop’s House as part of restoration
ST. RAPHAEL’S — The historic Bishop’s House, which is part of the St. Raphael’s Ruins in South Glengarry, is going to be returned to its original appearance this year after sections that have been added on to it over the decades are demolished.
Veranda reconstruction going on at the Bishop’s House in St. Raphael’s. The group that owns the building is waiting on approval to demolish certain portions of the building that have become too dilapidated to save.
All in all, 260 square metres (2,800 square feet) will be removed from the building.
The mansion’s veranda is being completely rebuilt this month using new wood, but will look identical to the badly deteriorating original. The organization that owns the property, Glengarry Fencibles Trust, is also awaiting permission from the township to tear down several additions to the original structure.
Because the Bishop’s House is a heritage building, Glengarry Fencibles Trust is required by law to get permission from the municipality before filing for a demolition permit. At the South Glengarry council meeting on Aug. 7, trust president Brenda Baxter explained the plans to councillors.
“We have hired a wonderful architect, and we are trying to follow all the protocols,” said Baxter who also appreciates how understanding and supportive the councillors were. “They have been very kind. One councillor asked if it was possible for them to give us permission that evening because they trust us, and there were nodding heads around the table.
“It was a very nice feeling that he would suggest that, but we don’t want to take anything for granted, and we are removing 2,800 square feet.”
It was determined the Ontario Heritage Act requires the township’s heritage committee to consider the requested changes, which it did and is supporting the request.
The committee even moved its meeting up so that its recommendation could be sent back to council in time for its Sept. 4 meeting, instead of October.
The stone mansion was built in 1808 to be the home of Rev. Alexander Macdonell, who was the parish priest of St. Raphel’s from 1804-15 and is across the road from the ruins of the impressive church, which burned down in 1970 and is now a National Historic Site.
The Bishop’s House has had many uses over the years including a school and even a rehabilitation centre, and additions were made to the building to accommodate them.
The original portions of the house are shaped like an H, but in 1939, a narrow cement-block section was built stretching out behind the middle of the house between the original wings.
“It’s two stories tall and the sisters’ bedrooms were in the top floor and the downstairs was composed of two kitchens and two little bathrooms on either side,” explained Baxter. “It’s in very poor condition.”
While the building was a rehab centre in the 1980s, the main floor was needed for counselling areas and offices, so they built a new dining room spanning from the west wing to the kitchen addition. This room functioned well enough at the time, but it was constructed without a foundation and relies on the 1939 kitchen to support it. It will be torn down as well.
Another 1980s addition that will be demolished is a section with aluminum siding that contains the house’s electrical panels. Those panels will be relocated into the basement.
There have been concerns about all these add-ons to the building for many years, with the Glengarry Fencibles Trust noting they are “dilapidated, poorly designed,” and of “little heritage value.” These problems were first noted in an architectural brief about the Bishop’s House that was done for the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario in 2005.
The firm that did the evaluation recommended the add-ons be removed “to regain relationships with site and grounds.”
“What an architect means when they say that is that it’s going to be much more green back there again,” explained Baxter. So if all these problems have been known since 2005, why has it taken 13 years to address them? Part of the reason is that Glengarry Fencibles Trust only came into possession of the Bishop’s House in 2016 and has spent the past two years doing what restoration work it could afford and fundraising for the renovations which are about to begin. In that time it has raised about $450,000 for the work.
“What we did with the first money we raised was put a new roof on the original ‘H’ of the building,” said Baxter.
If the council gives final approval, which seems likely, the demolition work should begin this fall.
© Standard-Freeholder, Thursday, August 23, 2018. Page A3
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