'Sad day for built heritage': Richmond Cottage set for demolition

The historic Richmond Cottage in west end St. John's is slated for demolition now that the city's one year reprieve to find a new buyer is up.

Coun. Dave Lane says no buyer found to restore historic St. John's property by deadline

Coun. Dave Lane says it's a daunting task to find the person who has the right expertise and money to restore a heritage property, like Richmond Cottage, pictured in the background. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Time is up for the historic Richmond Cottage off Shaw Street in the west end of St. John's. 

After a year-long reprieve for the city to find a new buyer to restore the home, built in 1848, Coun. Dave Lane says the May 1 deadline came with no salvation for the structure.

"This is a pretty sad day for built heritage," Lane said Monday.

'It's a daunting task'

When the property's owner, Wrightland Development Corporation, said it wanted to demolish the structure last year because it couldn't be restored, the city disagreed.

"Our belief from experts was that this can be restored," said Lane. They made a deal to find a new buyer within a year, or else approve the developer's request for demolition. 

Wrightland Development Corporation's rendition of its original plan to develop Richmond Cottage. The company has said it will outline plans for the property in the coming weeks. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"That time has passed, we had about a dozen individual parties ... but it just didn't hit the criteria," said Lane, chair of the Richmond Cottage Committee set up to help save the once stately home.  

He said the owner can submit an application to demolish, which council will vote on, now that the year has gone by without any takers. 

"It is a daunting task and finding that person with the funds and the expertise and the willingness to do so is very challenging," he said. 

Lane said the home was listed for $350,000 and restoration was estimated at another $1.2 million. 

'Proactive approach' moving forward

Lane's work to save Richmond Cottage may be done, but he said the city has been working on taking a more "proactive approach" to built heritage. 

"We've had a number of significant properties lost in the recent past ... However, I think we're making strides in the right direction," he said, referencing a new bylaw that's in the works that would clarify issues related to heritage preservation and development.

A 130-year-old home on Winter Avenue in St. John's was torn down in 2015 in about half an hour. Coun. Dave Lane says the City of St. John's is now taking a more 'proactive approach' when it comes to heritage properties. (Krissy Holmes/CBC)

Lane said the City of St. John's now has a list of heritage homes, with nine designated in the past six months and seven ready to be designated. There is also new municipal and provincial money available for eligible heritage homes and homeowners.

Richmond Cottage's interior has been documented in the past year, and Lane said some pieces of its "beautiful architecture and ornaments" will be salvaged. 

"So that people can continue the story of Richmond Cottage and of our city."

As for its future incarnation, Paul Fowler, co-owner of Wrightland Development Corporation, said in an email that the company will release its plans for the property "in the coming weeks."  

About the Author

Meghan McCabe

Reporter

Meghan McCabe is a journalist who works with CBC News in St. John's.