The Port Dalhousie Conservancy
Committed to the Preservation and Enhancement of Port Dalhousie's Cultural, Natural and Built Heritage
History of the Ontario Municipal Board Hearing
HERITAGE BUILDINGS IN GRAVE DANGER
Following a very open and democratic process that included extensive input from the community, the City of St. Catharines passed By-Law No. 2002-80 in June 2002 designating most of Old Port Dalhousie’s residential area, and all of the Commercial Core area, as a Heritage Conservation District under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act. The City then successfully defended its By-Law before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) which found that: "..the process followed by the City has been a full public process and all requirements of the Province have been complied with." and "… the designation of the subject area as a Heritage Conservation District represents good planning." The By-Law became effective in December, 2003.
Council approved a Heritage Assessment Report and specific Heritage Guidelines for the new District which were developed with input from the community and from specialized outside consultants. The Conservation Priorities in the Assessment Report include: "encouraging the current vitality of the commercial area by promoting its unique architecture and contemporary adaptive reuse as well as continuing to protect its distinctive heritage fabric." The Conservation Intent under the Guidelines "…seeks to ensure that when change is considered heritage buildings and their defining features and/or materials are protected as part of that process of change and development."
Regrettably, only months after the designation became effective, a developer named the Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corporation (PDVC) submitted an application to Amend the City’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Law (hereinafter referred to as "the application" or "PDVC's Application"). This application proposed drastic changes to a large portion of the commercial core of the new Heritage District. If approved by City Council, the application, which clearly violates Council-approved Heritage Guidelines, would have led to the destruction of a number of heritage buildings owned by PDVC and replacement by new, unsympathetic construction –including a 328ft (equivalent to a 33 storey height) glass-clad condo tower. One of the few remaining, largely intact, 19th century canal village streetscapes (see below) would be lost forever.
The Port Dalhousie Conservancy (then known as PROUD Port Dalhousie) strongly urged our Councillors to reject this application and request that PDVC submit a revised application that respects and preserves individual heritage buildings and the unique streetscape. As stated in a letter by Dr. Roberta Styran, then President of the Canadian Canal Society : "PROUD and its supporters are quite correct in claiming that the proposals of the PDVC (below) not only destroy much of Port’s heritage (whether Victorian or 20th century), but also impose a structure that is totally alien-in scale, material and general ambience."
In late October, 2005, literally at the 11th hour before a scheduled public Council meeting, PDVC withdrew its first tower application. They then hired a new architect, Mr. Michael Kirkland, who introduced a second tower proposal in February of 2006 (see below). The second tower proposal was very similar to the first one with the major difference being that the tower is now 207 ft. high instead of 326 ft. Please see Are Tower Proposals Different? The ensuing discussion of individual heritage buildings relates to the second proposal which is also totally unacceptable but was eventually approved by the Ontario Municipal Board.
EVERYONE in Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines, the Niagara Region and all of Canada should be aware of what PDVC’s latest Application will do to Port’s unique heritage. The Port Dalhousie Heritage Conservation District is bound by Port Dalhousie Harbour to the east, Lake Ontario and Martindale Pond on the north and south, and Shelley and Corbett Avenues on the west. The developer's comments always focus on two properties - the historic Jail and the Lakeside Hotel- as having been previously individually designated and, therefore, having heritage significance. The reality is that as part of the Heritage District (see Heritage District map below) every property owned by PDVC is currently subject to Council-approved Heritage Guidelines that should be respected.
Boundaries of Port Dalhousie Heritage Conservation District (From City of St. Catharines’ Heritage Guidelines for Port Dalhousie)
"It is the façade facing Lock Street that PDVC recognizes as a distinguishing feature and, with great effort, will continue to preserve. The facade ...will be incorporated into the new buildings and, appropriately, the upper floors of the preserved facade will enclose a new hotel." (From PDVC Application: Page 36 of the Planning Report).
The historic Lakeside Hotel at 16 Lock Street dates from 1896 and replaced the McNulty Hotel that operated as early as 1871. Previously, the Astor Hotel, which was even smaller than the McNulty, may have been found here. The Austin House Hotel replaced the McNulty in 1896 and was renamed in 1977 after the famous steamer Lakeside and Lakeside Park (Port Dalhousie Heritage Resource Inventory).
It would appear PDVC’s proposal would see most of the historic structure destroyed and save only the façade –which could easily come crashing down during construction. However, on page 37of the Planning Report they also mention that their Heritage architect Spencer Higgins recommends "that the entire fabric of the Lakeside Hotel be preserved, not just its facade." and that "The developer and architect have committed themselves (to this recommendation)." This would have to be clarified for the City and the Heritage Committee. They would also add a fourth storey and carry a uniform four-storey new building to the corner at Main Street that DOES NOT appear to closely emulate the Lakeside. NOTE: "The practice of façadism, or partial retention, is not a recommended heritage conservation solution and can rapidly lead to a 'movie set' depreciation of a district and the loss of irreplaceable heritage buildings." (January 27, 2005 letter from The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, Chairman, Ontario Heritage Foundation, to Mayor Rigby and St. Catharines City Council).
SEASIDE CONVENIENCE, DAIRY BAR AND SCULLER’S
"Will be removed" (From PDVC Application: Page 36 of the Planning Report)
These buildings are located on Lock Street between the Lakeside Hotel and Main Street to the north. According to the St. Catharines Heritage Committee's Heritage Resource Inventory, the building housing the current Dairy Bar was built in 1913 by Frank Scott (formerly of Murphy and Scott). However, input from residents and PROUD's Research Committee now indicates the 1913 structure was likely replaced around 1950.
The Convenience store building was built in the late 1940’s or early 1950's to house Erskine’s pharmacy. The single-storey, square plan building is typical of the “boomtown” style common in the early 1900’s (Port Dalhousie Heritage Resource Inventory).
While these buildings are not as old as the Lakeside, they are part of the Heritage District and demolition is subject to, and controlled by, the District Plan and Guidelines. They are an integral part of the low-rise, multi-level streetscape and they should ideally be integrated into any new design. The proposed four-storey, one-level building that would replace them (see Lakeside Hotel) does not fit with the current streetscape.
LION HOTEL AND BANK BUILDING
Eric Moog, principal developer for PDVC was interviewed in the May 2004 issue of the Dalhousie Peer. On page 6 of the article it was reported: "Also scheduled for the wreckers ball are the Lion Hotel and the Old Bank building"
"When asked about the future of the bank building and the Lion Hotel -buildings that concerned the Heritage Committee- Mr. Moog responded that...both were slated for demolition and redevelopment." (Email from Mr. Frank Caplan, Chair of the St. Catharines Heritage Committee, recounting a telephone discussion with Mr. Moog on October 25, 2004).
NOTE: Two PDVC principals have since stated in private conversations that they are "now not sure what they are going to do with these buildings." However, there has been no public undertaking to retain or restore these historic buildings.
This building, at 15 Lock Street, is one of the most historic buildings in Port Dalhousie. It opened as the Wellington House Hotel in 1877. The Wellington House was originally a saloon but later expanded to include hotel rooms in 1902. When prohibition came into effect in 1916, The Wellington was turned into an ice cream parlour with a back pool room. Since 1957 it has been known as the Lion Hotel (Port Dalhousie Heritage Resource Inventory).
NOTE: PDVC's proposal identifies it as possibly having been built in the 1840’s.
Nathan Pawling owned the land at 9 Lock Steet until 1871 when it was sold to Edward Griffin, a blacksmith. He sold it to Edward Murphy in 1900 who sold it to the Sterling Bank of Canada in 1907. The original Sterling Bank of Canada building dates from 1907 and is the first and only bank building in Port Dalhousie (Port Dalhousie Heritage Resource Inventory).
Contrary to PDVC’s claim at their public meeting on November 17, 2004 that they are not included, both of these buildings were identified in their first Application to the City. When asked earlier about future plans for these historic buildings, a PDVC spokesperson said, "the developer will submit a separate application that does not require re-zoning."
NOTE: If the buildings were demolished, a new 3-storey retail building would NOT require re-zoning.
The PDVC application includes a structural assessment that states that the Lion Hotel is "generally not in good condition." This is not justification for demolition. As part of conserving our historic structures, restoring the Lion should be a high priority.
The Lion Hotel and the Old Bank building were identified as "Retail" in the PDVC Location Plan included with their first application.
These buildings were also clearly shown as new buildings in their first Application. They were shown as one combined modern building with an addition at the back and a circular glass window on top (PDVC's first Application, Appendix A, Architectural Plans, Exhibit AZ06- VIEW FROM SOUTH) Under Part 2, the GROSS AREA SUMMARY of the Formal Application identifies the "Building at Lock and Canal Street" (the site of the Lion and the Old Bank) as three floors of retail space totalling 24,614 square feet.
While these buildings are not mentioned in PDVC's second application, it has been previously stated by Mr. Moog that PDVC intends to demolish these historic buildings. The community would welcome their commitment to the City to retain and restore these buildings.
It is recommended that Hogan’s Alley be closed to vehicular traffic" (From PDVC Application: Page 38 of the Planning Report)
Though it is not remembered who, when or why Hogan’s Alley received its name, it is known that the alley was created as a service laneway for the stores and shops on Front Street (now Lakeport). In the mid 1800’s, the alley was lined with outdoor toilets used by the taverns and saloons. It also provided access to a large stable located at the centre of the block (now the Lakeside Hotel Patio). From Port Dalhousie Heritage Resource Inventory.
The alley provides pedestrian access and a view of the lake which will be lost if PDVC’s Application is approved.
"...that the facade footprint of the Port Mansion along Lakeport Road be preserved, and their Lakeport Road facade and verandahs be rebuilt to their early 20th Century appearance." Will also be removed" (From PDVC Application: Page 37 of the Planning Report).
In other words, no part of this historic building would be saved and a phony facade will be incorporated in the proposed new construction.
The historic Port Hotel at 12 Lakeport Road dates back to 1860 and was initially two separate hotels owned by Bernard McGrath (southern half) and Squire Nathan Pawling (northern half). The Union House was operated by Pawling who ran a provisionary from the same location. The McGrath, later known as the Murray House, remained as a boarding house throughout the late 1880’s, also serving as the location of McGrath’s tug operation. The two hotels were combined in 1936 and in 1953 the structure was renamed the Port Hotel. Extensive renovations took place in 1985 and the name was changed to the Old Port Mansion (Port Dalhousie Heritage Resource Inventory).
PDVC’s application claims that, because it has been extensively renovated, it is okay to demolish this historic building (from PDVC Application: Page 36 of the Planning Report).
"A new enclosure for the carousel is proposed. The elegant restored carousel would benefit friom a greater degree of transparency, allowing views of the park, beach and lake for those inside; and views of the historic carousel's interior for those outside." (PDVC Application: Page 17 of Planning Report).
The carousel is housed in an octagonal brick building in Lakeside Park which is topped by a unique bellcast roof that descends inrto a square hipped roof, mimicking the carousel. This wooden carousel was made by the I. D. Looff Company of Riverside Rhode Island in 1898. Prior to being dismantled and brought to Port Dalhousie by boat in 1921, the carousel was used at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island (1913-1921). Originally, the carousel was located closer to the lake but, after frequent storms, it was decided to move the structure to its present location. In 1969,owner Sid Brookston wanted to sell the carousel but the "Save the Carousel" Association", a local group, collected enough money to purchase it. It was later turned over to the City with the understanding it would be maintained and operated at five cents a ride in perpetuity (Port Dalhousie Heritage Resource Inventory).
Everyone agrees the Carousel is a jewel and should be in a position of prominence. However, enclosing the Carousel in a glass building could potentially lead to sun damage and more vandalism. This expensive change is to be paid for by taxpayers by "dedicating" taxes from new development.