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Heritage review seals fate of old home slated for demolition

Home Hardware intends to demolish the century home on 39 Henry St. following a heritage evaluation of the St. Jacobs property. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

The fate of an old house adjacent to the Home Hardware head office in St. Jacobs is sealed following a heritage review that clears the way for demolition plans.

Woolwich had placed the request on hold pending an investigation into the historical value of the century-home at 39 Henry St.

“We have worked with heritage consultants who have determined that it is not listed as a heritage property of interest nor is it a heritage-designated property,” Home Hardware spokesperson Jessica Kueper said Wednesday. “Due to the lack of safety structurally to the building, we believe it is the wisest decision to remove the building.”

The home was built in 1917. A Mr. Sauder lived there for 40 years, and more recently, Earl Feick, who made use of it as the original farmhouse on the five-acre property. It was eventually sold to Home Hardware, with the company noting significant damage on the inside of the structure, which has not been used since 2008.

The company’s health and safety committee advised extensive renovations, and the installation of fire escapes in order to make the structure usable again, and Home Hardware decided the building was not worth the cost. That in turn lead to plans for demolishing the house, which raised some red flags at the township.

“When we received that demolition permit, we immediately had some concerns,” said Dan Kennaley, Woolwich’s director of engineering and planning services. “Because we’ve seen the building, at least at a quick glance, would have some heritage significance.”

Despite the outward appearance, the home does not have historical value. A past owner conducted major renovations within the home in the 1980’s, so any internal structures such as moulding that were original to the 1917 structure were removed in the process before Home Hardware obtained possession of the property in 2001.

“It came with the building purchase, and that point was determined that it was unsafe,” said Kuepfer. “But it’s just such a beautiful property that we’ve maintained – at least the outside, for the time being. We made sure that the lawns were manicured and that it looked beautiful, but Home Hardware has never used it as a property.

“Unfortunately, the exterior of the building is a bit misleading – it does not reflect the structural damage inside.”

Although the building is being heated, the roof has leaked and caused damaged to all three floors, the foundation is crumbling, and the basement is showing signs of age. The inside of the house, as well as the porch, appears to have been refurbished at some point; the exact extent of the damage is unknown.

The property itself is five acres, and the garden approximately one-acre. Home Hardware representatives were also concerned with potential rodent problems and continued maintenance costs.

“While Home Hardware ensures that the exterior is kept as visually appealing as possible, there is no hydro or water in the house,” said Kuepfer. “We have definitely looked at different ways to use it in the past, but because it’s not space for public use, we are currently not using it for any purposes.”

The Township of Woolwich has no particular need for the building either, according to Kennaley.

“We’re always concerned about asset management and acquiring new assets that are going to be a financial drain on the municipality,” said Kennaley. “Of course, Home Hardware is concerned about the building being a drain on their financial resources. We [were] exploring other possible opportunities like severing it and selling it to a third party.”

Other alternative ideas included selling the home to the highest bidder, considered for a high-tech incubator business location, or sold to a local Mennonite family to purchase for their extended family, or another adaptive reuse of the dwelling.

The timeline for the demolition has yet to be determined.

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