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UPDATED: Architect asks court to stay demolition of historical houses at Sandbanks

UPDATE JUNE 3: Legal proceedings made in attempt to save two historic homes at Sandbanks Provincial Park were withdrawn May 11.

UPDATE MARCH 10: The parties before Judge David Corbett agreed on a timetable for a judicial review examining whether the province followed proper procedure, prior to beginning demolition activity. It is to be begin Sept 15.

Rowse said this is great news that the houses will remain intact, however he noted a judicial review is costly.

UPDATE MARCH 9: Edwin Rowse reports the case management meeting to be held Tuesday, was rescheduled for Wednesday, March 10.

The Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee’s request for a second letter of support was struck from the sumary of motions to be approved at council’s meeting Tuesday night.

Several councillors agreed with Mayor Steve Ferguson that the municipality’s position is clear from its first letter of support a year ago, and that the County should not interfere with an issue now before the courts.

“This evolved very quickly last week and I feel it’s inappropriate to send anything to the ministry while this is unfolding,” stated Ferguson.

Councillor Ernie Margetson, a member of the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee noted the situation is now at “a different stage of complexity due to the legal proceedings” and agreed council had made its position clear in its letter of support sent last year.

UPDATE MARCH 7: A case management meeting is be held Tuesday, March 9 and Edwin Rowse has also been informed that his lawyer Eric Gillespie has received confirmation in writing from the Office of the Attorney General that no demolition will take place during this coming week.

Rowse, a County resident and heritage architect, commenced a legal action to stay demolition, with the hope of creating an opportunity for consideration of an alternative development approach – a conservation measure described in the Ontario Heritage Tool Kit.

Rowse notes the meeting is to be heard before Judge David Corbett.

“He is the same judge who recently ruled that the province must halt demolition of the Dominion Foundry Building in Toronto and enter into discussions with a neighbourhood association and the City of Toronto to find a solution.

“The MacDonald and Hyatt houses will still be standing when council meets Tuesday night,” adds Rowse.

As the houses are two 1800s culturally significant homes, the Prince Edward County Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC) wants them maintained, as promised in the Sandbanks Provincial Park Management Plan of 1993. As they are on provincial land, there are no municipal policies or bylaws to protect them.

Council is receiving a PEHAC recommendation Tuesday that council direct the mayor to again urgently contact Ontario Parks and the Ministry of the Environment to pause the demolition, allowing a heritage architect a reasonable amount of time to prepare a feasibility study for rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of the houses that would ensure the conservation of their cultural heritage value and would address Ontario Parks’ concerns regarding health and safety.

PEHAC also asks that the municipality reject commemoration as an acceptable mitigation for demolishing the historic farmhouses.

Those wishing to provide comment to council can email

Wednesday morning a local resident took the attached photo a tree service company clearing trees from the Hyatt House property.

By Sue Capon
MARCH 4: Heritage architect Edwin Rowse filed a legal proceedings Thursday seeking a stay of the demolition of the Hyatt and MacDonald historic houses at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Rowse noted it was just this week he was able to review the one-year-old final heritage impact assessments (HIAs) for the houses released Monday, March 1 to the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee.

“Serious concerns about the final HIAs remain,” he said. “The release of the final HIAs comes after the decision to demolish the buildings was posted on the Environmental Registry on Feb. 22, 2021 by MECP.”

Rowse, through environmental lawyer Eric Gillespie, also seeks a declaration that the decision of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to demolish the houses “is of no force and effect”.

Gillespie’s grounds state concern the demolition appears to be imminent; the ministry decision fails to consider both necessary and relevant evidence and options for the homes and “that there are serious issues to be tried, the harm of the demolition will be irreparable and the balance of convenience clearly favors granting a stay.”

Wednesday, as tree clearing began at the site of one of the homes, Rowse also wrote Karla Barboza, requesting the Ministry of Heritage, Sports, Tourism and Culture urgently undertake a review of the file in light of “several serious problems” he also summarized to Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson, Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith, and copied to Greg Walsh at the MECP.

Walsh, Rowse states, responded to his March 2, email on the same day with further information regarding the HIA review process, but Rowse notes “statements that do not stand up to scrutiny”.

He said it is misleading for Walsh to claim Ontario Parks ensured that the consultant considered the Environmental Registry comments.

“Nowhere in the final HIAs – and importantly not in the section discussing the option of retention of the buildings – is there any evidence that the consultant considered the option of adaptive re-use by a third party. The omission is odd and troubling because the option to some sort of public/private partnership was strongly recommended by PEHAC and the mayor and also by me. The option of retention should be part of the hierarchy of possible conservation measures discussed by the consultant.”

The option, he notes, is especially important as Ontario Parks claims it does not have the financial resources to do any of the needed work (professional engineering and architecture studies, followed by rehabilitation).

Rowse states Walsh further claimed, without explanation, that the proposal made by heritage architect Philip Evans, of ERA Architects) to restore the buildings was not feasible.

“This claim is simply not credible,” said Rowse. “Governments commonly make such agreements… Mr. Evans brought forward his proposal on Oct. 7, 2020, before the end of the Notice of Completion period on Oct. 15 and presumably, before the HIAs (dated Oct. 2020) were finalized.

“The consultant did not discuss this real, potential conservation option or (also a possibility) Ontario Parks failed to bring the opportunity to the consultant’s attention. The final HIAs should offer an explanation of why this conservation option is not feasible. Only a feasibility study by the appropriate professionals (engineer, architect) can determine whether rehabilitation is feasible – not
Ontario Parks without qualified advice.”

The application for judicial review is to come at a hearing before Divisional Court, possibly Friday, at Osgood Hall in Toronto.

Rowse, a resident of both the County and Toronto, was co-founder of ERA Architects Inc in Toronto with more than 40 years experience in the field of historical architecture. In 2017 he received the Eric Arthur Lifetime Achievement Award by the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario “for his broad depth of knowledge of conservation science, longstanding commitment to the field of heritage architecture, and mentorship of a new generation of architects.”

Concerns can be emailed to Greg Walsh, Parks Operations Manager Southeast Zone Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks and Bay of Quinte MP Todd Smith

The two buildings are culturally significant heritage homes the Prince Edward County Heritage Advisory Committee wants maintained. As they are on provincial land, there are no municipal policies or bylaws to protect them.

In the Sandbanks Provincial Park Management Plan of 1993, the government commits to preserving the MacDonald (1869) and Hyatt (aka Gray) (1878) houses. In 2012, an engineering report found both buildings stable, except for one wing. On Dec. 6, 2019 a posting appeared on the Environmental Registry of Ontario by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to change the park’s management plan to allow for the demolition of the houses “to help ensure the health and safety of park visitors.”

The Hyatt House was built in 1869 by James MacDonald Hyatt (1831-1919) and became the Lakeview Lodge, or Gray House and was popular with visitors throughout much of the 20th century. The main building could accommodate 20 guests, with six housekeeping cottages added later Bought by the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1972, it was used for some years as a residence for Park student employees.

The MacDonald Farm offers insights into historical agricultural uses of park lands. It dates back to the time of United Empire Loyalist settlement and illustrates the historical themes of agriculture and resort development unique to this area of the province. The cultural heritage features within this zone include the MacDonald House, dating back to 1878, the barns and outbuildings, the remnants of the Lakeland Lodge and the historic MacDonald/Hyatt
wharf. The latter structure was most popular in the late 1800s.

See previous stories for background information:

Tree clearing at historic homes heightens demolition fears; year-old ministry report still not public

Province to demolish historic homes, despite offer to save them

Also interesting: With the end of Barley Days, the MacDonald-Hyatt wharf and grain sheds were removed to make way in 1929 for Lakeland Lodge. Lakeland was open from 1930 to 1974 and featured a two-storey building with 12 cottages that could accommodate 80 guests. A one-week stay in 1973 cost $30.

In 2015, a 200-pound anchor believed to be from the Schooner Enterprise, which went ashore at West Point on Nov. 24, 1882, was restored to the MacDonald’s former Lakeland Lodge property at Sandbanks Provincial Park, along with plaques honouring the history. Story here:


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  1. JennyD says:

    To name a few:
    Rose House (Museum)
    Macaulay House (a host for interactive community events)
    Moses Hudgin Log House on the Hudgin-Rose Nature Reserve
    Picton Court House on Union St

    The Hyatt and MacDonald properties should be preserved and utilized in the same manner as other historic properties. The provincial government must be held accountable for the terms agreed to. This is an important part of our culture and heritage.

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