Locals seek heritage status for landmark
Private owner defends right to demolish her dilapidated home
Councillor Lynn Foster opposes the demolition of 14 Richmond St.
A disagreement over the heritage value of a home located at 14 Richmond St. has left the fate of the 1800s landmark uncertain and Heritage Richmond Hill (HRH) has prepared an unusal report contradicting those of Town of Richmond Hill staff.
The HRH and town staff reports will be presented at council Sept. 4.
The owner of the Abraham Law Rental House intends to demolish it, but HRH is pushing to officially preserve it as a heritage site before a demolition permit is approved.
Three town staff reports since 2009 concluded the home does not meet Ontario Heritage Act criteria, including being sufficiently connected to a prominent historical figure, said the owner’s representative.
“They will want, worst-case, a steel and glass building.”
Meagan Swan, an associate at Fogler, Rubinoff LLP Barristers & Solicitors, said Abraham Law owned much of Richmond Hill in the 1800s. “If there were any associative value to Mr. Law, then most houses in downtown Richmond Hill would be up for designation.”
The most recent report, prepared by Burt Architects, concludes Law never lived at the location, and its contextual and physical value has suffered. The crumbling building is now bounded by offices and is not a unique example of its time period, the report says.
Ward 4 councillor Lynn Foster alleged allowing possible heritage homes to deteriorate is a ploy to strengthen arguments for demolition.
HRH, of which Foster is part, formed a property designation subcommittee to create its own report attesting to the home’s uniqueness and associating it with Law by ownership. According to Foster, some concerned locals feel the house is key to preserving the theatre district. “Without that building there to anchor an architectural style, we could be in a big fight with these folks because they will come eventually and want, in a worst-case scenario, a steel and glass building,” she said.
If the home is not designated, the owner must present as-of-yet undisclosed plans for the lot prior to receiving a demolition permit.