The Town of Newmarket’s stewardship of historic properties has been truly deplorable.
If residents don’t kick up a fuss then historically important buildings can be lost forever. Concerns put to senior Town staff appear to go in one ear and out the other.
Seriously incorrect information has been given to councillors by so-called “experts” such as Wayne Morgan commissioned by developers who want to demolish historic properties that stand in the way of redevelopment.
Take the infamous example of Bogart House on Leslie Street – reputedly the first two storey dwelling north of Toronto, dating from the early 1800s, possibly as early as 1811 and certainly no later than the 1820s or 1830s.
Bogart House was designated by the Town in 1987 under the Ontario Heritage Act as a building of historic significance.
However, scandalously, in recent years it was allowed to become derelict, falling into rack and ruin. Who allowed this to happen? And who is going to take responsibility for this unconscionable failure to act? The only sound I hear is silence. Why does no-one check on designated buildings that are empty and at risk? What systems are in place to keep a watchful eye on heritage properties?
Forest Green Homes who own the old cemetery lands in Leslie Street have been planning a new housing development for the past few years and Bogart House inconveniently is in the way. They first submitted a planning application to the Town in 2012 and again in 2015, 2017 and this year. They have the brass neck to tell us Bogart House should be demolished and replaced with a plaque, commemorating its former existence.
They brought in an “expert” - Wayne Morgan - to argue the case for demolition and, in almost every particular, the facts he put forward have proved to be bogus.
He told us the old house was extensively remodelled and rebuilt in the 1870s with very little of the early structure remaining. This is simply untrue. Morgan says:
“The Bogart / Johnston House was designated because it was an early (1811) extant structure in the community and because of its association with a pioneer, John Bogart Senior. However, the structure has been greatly altered over the years, with very little of the early structure remaining. As discussed below, the House has a low to moderate level of heritage integrity on both the exterior and interior…”
“Wayne Morgan’s research has established that a house was built on the site at 16920 Leslie Street by John Bogart in 1811 and that circumstantially the house may have been very extensively rebuilt or remodeled in the 1870s.
From our site investigation to date, there is ample evidence that the framed house on the site is very old, dating at the latest from the 1820s or 30s.
The fabric of the house is remarkably original and authentic to this early period. We can definitively say that the house was not extensively rebuilt or remodeled in the 1870s… The extensive evidence of surviving architectural detail that dates the house to this period includes numerous features such as…” (list given). My underlining for emphasis.
Credit goes to those elected officials – John Taylor primarily - who called for that second opinion. The retiring Ward 4 councillor, Tom Hempen, who sits on the Heritage Advisory Committee, was adamant the old house should not be pulled down.
On Wednesday (26 September 2018) at the candidates’ debate at Newmarket Theatre, the man who wants to be our Regional Councillor, Tom Vegh, tells us the Town had done a “fantastic job” on heritage. He believes it is something the Town takes very seriously. He says the Town has demonstrated tremendous success in preserving the Town’s heritage.
Which planet is Tom Vegh living on?
Why was Bogart House allowed to get into its present ruinous state?
And would he like to comment on the long-simmering scandal of the Union Hotel at the junction of Davis and Main, within spitting distance of the Town’s self-congratulatory triumphal arch which welcomes us into the historic downtown?
If the Town seriously wants to protect our built heritage it shouldn’t wait until structures are falling down before intervening.