July 13, 2014

Chocolatier’s mansion granted heritage status

Residents cheer as historic Wells Hill Avenue site is saved

Casa Loma Residents Association member Brian Barron at the Neilson house

Casa Loma Residents Association member Brian Barron at the Neilson house

The fate of a historic house at 72 Wells Hill Ave. seemed grim in October when it was approved for demolition. But after months of working with the Casa Loma Residents Association (CLRA), the City of Toronto Heritage Preservation Services (HPS) declared the house worthy of heritage designation.

The house, near St. Clair West and Bathurst, was once owned by famed Canadian chocolatier Charles Neilson. Neilson lived in the home with his family for more than 40 years.

The CLRA were pleasantly surprised with the speed of HPS’s decision. “They’re quite overloaded with the amount of work they’ve got to do right now,” said Brian Barron of CLRA. “Because of that, a lot of this stuff has to be dealt with on sort of a crisis basis when demolition applications come in.”

The house, one of the first on the street, will now have many of its features protected from demolition.

“A lot of this stuff has to be dealt with on sort of a crisis basis.”

“The house has historical merits, not just in terms of who lived in the house, but architectural features and age,” said Lucia LeGuen, a tenant of the house. She believes that the owner will come to see this designation as a blessing in disguise. “I think the house will gain more prestige and be more desireable.”

Coun. Joe Mihevc wants to assure that such last-minute scrambling does not occur the next time a historic property is in danger. “People only started to be concerned when they were aware that a demolition permit was being issued here,” said Mihevc. Because of this, he requested a review for the whole area, to consider designating it as a heritage preservation community.

“[The city] has the money for that, and that work will start in 2014.”

In past interviews, Joel Farber, legal representative for the house’s purchaser, stated that his client did not agree that the home has associative value. Farber could not be reached for comment on the latest developments.