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Demolition has begun for two Sandbanks heritage homes

Prince Edward County historian Peter Lockyer documents the demolition of the Hyatt House, one of two heritage homes at Sandbanks Provincial Park, that were demolished Sept. 9, 2021 despite public efforts to save them. – Sue Capon photo

By Sue Capon
The two heritage homes at Sandbanks Provincial Park are being ripped apart to rubble today as a handful of citizens watch.

“Despite repeated requests from the citizens group, Save Heritage Sandbanks Homes (SHSH), the PEC Heritage Advisory Committee and the mayor and council, the demolition of the Hyatt House at Sandbanks Park is now underway,” said Prince Edward County historian Peter Lockyer, as he was recording the demolition. “We all tried everything we could right up to the last minutes and were met with silence and no discussion by the ministry and no input from our MPP. It’s truly a sad day.”

The SHSH had notified Parks Canada and others it was in the process of filing further court documents to save the buildings.

A letter last week from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to SHSHs confirmed demolition of the Hyatt and MacDonald homes built in 1869 and 1878 would move forward. The ministry stated the homes were not worth saving despite reports from local heritage architects that the homes of distinct historic value, and able to be restored without incurring taxpayer dollars.

The ministry had countered that even if private funding were to be secured, “Ontario Parks would still incur annual costs for operating and maintaining the buildings.”

Liz Driver, spokesperson for SHSH, stated the third-party (private not-for-profit) proposal would have paid to restore, operate and maintain the buildings.

Driver says it is unfortunate the ministry is choosing demolition “based on a faulty misinterpretation of its own reports, and a deeply-flawed public process; that it is disregarding the views of the community – as the Prince Edward County Heritage Advisory Committee, municipal council and other groups such as the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, have all strongly opposed the Park’s demolition plan over the last year.

“Their consultants actually found that both homes qualify as significant properties under the Ontario Heritage Act. This means both merit designation and protection.”

At top left, a raccoon scampered up the Hyatt House rooftop to observe what was destroying his home. – Sue Capon photo

Ontario Parks initiated the process to demolish the buildings in 2017 and the homes escaped demolition three times because of community engagement.

The MacDonald House Sept. 9, 2021. – Sue Capon photo

The properties are the last two remaining homes in the Sandbanks area that represent the birth of the tourism industry in Prince Edward County. Located on West Point, Lakeshore Lodge, Lakeview Lodge, Lakeland Lodge and the Evergreen were destinations for international visitors from North America and Europe, setting a standard for experiential tourism in the County.

“Lakeshore Lodge is another example of a property that could have been saved, but wasn’t,” said Lockyer.

Hyatt House from the back, as observed from the Lakeshore Trail vantage point. – Sue Capon photo

A man who noted he has lived nearby for the past 60 years, and “partied many times at that house” stated “It’s about time it came down.”

Shortly after, a woman approached Lockyer and asked “Why couldn’t the home be saved? Did anybody even try?”

The sound of destruction of the Hyatt House on Sept. 9, 2021.

Video below by Peter Lockyer, of History Lives Here.  describes the historical significance of the buildings and the effort to save them.

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  1. angela says:

    “Tragic” is when someone is severely injured or dies as the result of an accident or a home burns to the ground. It is not the demolition of two old derelict houses. Those homes were no more historic than many other buildings in the county. Lakeshore Lodge and Evergreen House were historic testaments to early tourism in the county.
    What about the county churches i.e. Glenora United and Mountain View that have been sold and will lose much of their original character? What about the removal of the stained glass dedication windows from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Picton and the gutting of its sanctuary?
    The houses at the park were sold years ago and allowed to become derelict. No one seemed concerned until the eleventh hour.
    It is unfortunate, not tragic that those homes were demolished if there was a practical way to preserve them at no cost to the taxpayer. The park bought them and there was no concern at the time as to their ultimate fate. The sellers pocketed the money and life went on. Far sadder that the Fraleigh house in Bloomfield was gutted by fire yesterday, It was nearly 200 years old.

  2. Walt says:

    Those two houses would have made great rental accommodations at Sandbanks Park. Fully restored as a park rental, it would have generated tons of money for its upkeep. Alas, they are gone for good. A opportunity of a lifetime missed.

  3. Dee says:

    County Proud – The salvage of “valuable materials” requires a specific protocol. Interior millwork, doors etc must be removed before the big claw of the high hoe comes in and tears the homes down. Bricks ( exterior are the valuable ones) cannot be torn down and driven over and then “preserved” There is a protocol for salvaging them Needless to say if you look close enough, the pictures published show interior doors and millwork still in place in the interior, and bricks mixed in the rubble. Photos show the rubble being loaded into dump trucks. You can’t salvage “valuable Materials” after being ripped, torn, dumped from a land fill. And yes the ministry should answer to that.

  4. The loss of these two heritage properties is tragic, unnecessary and unforgivable. Park officials refused many respectful invitations to discuss creative alternatives to demolition with the community, and to re-imagine the properties to meet a wide range of visitor and resident needs. It was also a missed opportunity to establish a new – and better – relationship between the park and the community.
    We now need to harness the community resolve to bring about profound, systemic change in the relationship, in ensuring that park and ministry officials follow their own standards and guidelines, and that we undertake key steps to ensure we are prepared to directly address the many issues associated with heritage in The County as volunteers age, there is local donor fatigue from so many competing campaigns for worthy causes, and increasing development. We need a thoughtful heritage strategy and practical plan. Some of us have been working in the heritage field for a long time. We’re working on it stay tuned.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    I find it interesting that a group of Toronto residents, with the support of their City Council, successfully challenged the Ontario Government in court to save two historical factory sites (Dominion Foundries). The Province wanted to sell the sites to a developer. These factories were not as old as these two PEC homestead sites. Once again, our history has been ignored – where are our elected people to help us?

  6. CountyProud says:

    So what happened to the bricks from these homes? Or doors or inside trim or other pieces of usable architectural treasures – did it all end up in a dumpster and hauled off to a landfill? Please tell me that is not what happened because if it is, the Province has some explaining to do.

  7. Dee says:

    Don’t assume that just because people are speaking out about one issue important to them, that they are not passionate about others. Our lives are not one dimensional nor are our philanthropic activities.

  8. Teena says:

    Adam… it’s narrow-minded of you to believe that just because a passion is for heritage buildings, that we neglect food insecurity, hospital donations or anything else most of us hold dear in this County of ours. This particular forum concerns only one aspect of importance . Best to voice concerns where it will get the audience it needs.

  9. Fred says:

    What’s to remember? The Conservatives,Liberals and the NDP all held power and all allowed the destruction by neglect to occur.

  10. Chris Keen says:

    Be sure to remember this when the next provincial election comes around!

  11. adam says:

    It’s too bad some here aren’t as passionate about things like food insecurity and affordable housing as they are trying to save decrepit buildings that have been left to rot for half a century.

  12. Becky Williams says:

    Another piece of history is gone! Forever!
    Again a pure and total disregard for our heritage.
    Shame on all the political and parks people who
    Are the biggest cowards in our latest saga of
    Public disregard. I’m not surprised. Just angry that it
    Continues. Very disappointed with Todd Smith. The parks
    Supervisor is just another paid servant paid to keep
    His mouth shut I guess. Hope they are all
    Happy with what they have achieved and can live and
    Tell their grandchildren all about their secret roles in this
    Grand demolition!!

  13. kb says:

    Once again, the government is not being held accountable; there is no internal overseer to ensure they follow through on their contractual responsibilities. They breached the original agreement and should not have assumed they could carry on with their demolition. Absolutely disgraceful, and worse, is the the government’s response.

  14. Dennis Fox says:

    This demolition is a disgrace. While government bean counters debate the merits of our history, the more we lose. They have no concept of what the real issue is here – the preservation of two homes that directly related to the beginnings of this County. You would never see this kind of callous disregard towards a community’s desires in any European country – they value their history and their buildings. Our provincial government needs to give their heads a shake.

  15. gilles says:

    one word: DISGUSTED.

  16. Susan says:

    Numerous governments have contravened their own legislation The Heritage Act. It is against the law to destroy heritage buildings through neglect.

  17. CountyProud says:

    I had to stop watching the video – it was literally heart breaking.

    I’m left to ponder just what is it we hold dear here in the County if not our heritage. While our Council appeared supportive, and for this I’m thankful, I think their support and their voice was too little too late. Guess we will all have to watch and see just what the Ontario Government thinks should go on this land to replace these historic homes – any bets on trailer and camp sites?

  18. Dee says:

    I have been following this issue very closely over the summer. Amazing MECP/Ont Parks is such a rush. Government’s own consultants stated they were to salvage the heritage materials for sale, but I guess Ontario Parks would much rather throw it in landfill just in order to get the houses knocked down before the court filing got before a judge today.

    Bulleying from the time they forced sale of properties, broke commitments of maintaining and repurposing and NOT adhering to their own regulations in the decision to demolish, this Ministry and Ontario Parks have treated Prince Edward County with total indifference on so many levels while raking in the money to build the Parks fund to support all Ontario Parks – with no regard to the impact it has on the Park’s neighbours and local community. How Parks management can walk within our community and expect civility, patience and support is criminal.

    And where was MPP Todd Smith during this time? He never met with the group trying to save the homes, he subbed his S.W.A.T. team for that meeting. Not surprised….its the backroom dealing that has resulted in the Ford Dynasty omnibus bills that have gutted the Endangered Species Act, amended the Planning Act, changed the Heritage Act all so that the public is more and more muzzled, restricted and made impotent. for what? Someone else’s vision of who and what we are should be…development, big business and upward mobility in political careers.

    This destruction of a marker of our identity, part of our heritage, which identifies where we have come from is systemic of how our government leaders are ignoring the very people they were elected to represent.

    Minister could not be reached …he’s on vacation – Todd Smith – he has been unavailable for the last 8 weeks and more… he obviously knew to take cover. Totally disgusted with all of them.

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