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County attempting to save two historic homes at Sandbanks from demolition

On the advice of the County’s Heritage Advisory Committee, the municipality will attempt to stop demolition of two cultural heritage homes at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, council approved sending a letter to Jeff Yurek, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“This correspondence is intended to reinforce the position of the Heritage Advisory Committee, and strongly encourage the review of alternate options to demolition of two heritage buildings within the park,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson. The letter also seeks a path to respecting the Sandbanks Provincial Park Management Plan, which originally recognized the heritage value of the buildings proposed to be demolished.

The Hyatt and MacDonald Houses at Sandbanks Provincial Park, March 2020. – Sue Capon photos

The MacDonald and Hyatt (Gray) houses are identified in the management plan, and the park needs an amendment to that plan from the ministry to demolish the long abandoned homes.

A posting was made to the Environmental Registry of Ontario on Dec. 6 stated the change to the management plan to allow for the demolition of the two buildings “will help to ensure the health and safety of park visitors.”

The letter from the municipality asks that any amendment be postponed until further study, public consultation and alternative options to demolition have been evaluated.

The Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC) met Dec. 12 to discuss the environmental registry posting and expressed significant concern over its timing so near the holiday season. It also questioned the inability to access the Heritage Impact Assessment report alluded to in the posting. PEHAC wants that report posted on the environmental registry, and public comments to be extended to 45 days from its posting.

Members of the committee also visited the homes with the Sandbanks Park superintendent to inspect them before drafting a response to the registry posting.

In its comments, PEHAC states the 1993 Managment Plan for Sandbanks committed to preserving buildings within the historical zone, stating: “With respect to the MacDonald and Hyatt (Gray) houses in particular, the Plan’s stated policy at Section 5.2.2 includes: ‘… the preservation of the MacDonald House and the barns, as well as the MacDonald / Hyatt wharf site and the site of the Lakeland Hotel. Any deterioration will be arrested, and potential for restoration, adaptive reuse and interpretation of the structures will be examined as part of the cultural resources management plan … The Gray (Hyatt) House operated as the Lakeview Lodge soon after its construction in 1869 by the Hyatt family. The house is in good condition and it will not be allowed to deteriorate further.’

“In the over 25 years since this commitment to preserve was made, there is still no cultural resources management plan in place and, due to lack of maintenance and attention, Hyatt House and MacDonald House – buildings that date back to 1869/1878, respectively – are now in an advanced (but not irreversible) state of disrepair and Ontario Parks is proposing demolition,” the PEHAC comments state.

The Heritage Committee submission suggests the MacDonald and Hyatt properties present a unique opportunity to restore and repurpose heritage assets and points to other projects in the County taken on by individuals, including the Royal Hotel and former Legion, both in Picton.

Further to postponing a decision, PEHAC also recommends immediate steps to prevent water infiltration into the MacDonald house by using sheet metal to close the hole in the roof and install fencing around each building to prevent access.

It also suggests a review of the Cultural Heritage Resource Reports (CHERs) and Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) by a qualified heritage architect and structural engineer and public consultation with stakeholders on the future retention and use of all heritage assets in the park.

PEHAC wants to see a Cultural Heritage Plan for the park and to seek the creation of a public/private partnership to restore and repurpose the MacDonald and Hyatt properties as commercially viable accommodations for park visitors.

The mayor’s letter reinforces that demolishing the homes shows disregard for this community’s steadfast and consistent commitment to heritage.

“Prince Edward County is recognized for its valuable heritage assets, and both the municipality and the private sector are dedicated to heritage preservation and restoration in our community,” he states.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Peter Spencer says:

    Inside the macdonald house is in pretty good shape. Gutted and ready for reno. I imagine it would not be a cheap rental.

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