Halifax mulling fate of Public Gardens cottage after $1.3M in renovations
Former superintendent's cottage, built between 1902 and 1903, called 'a gem for the city'
Halifax is trying to decide what to do with a historic property near the Public Gardens that it spent $1.3 million restoring after it let the building fall into disrepair.
Renovations to the 113-year-old former superintendent's cottage — a job that included dealing with a beetle infestation and a basement floor that gave out midway through the project — took three times longer than expected, but were completed under the nearly $1.7-million budget approved by City Hall.
"We'll look at municipal uses. Possibly a not-for-profit or some other leased tenant," said John MacPherson, a senior project manager for the Halifax Regional Municipality.
MacPherson said the project encountered a series of surprises once brick workers at Masontech, and other contractors, started peeling back the layers in 2014.
Rot inside the wooden posts and beams was far more extensive than workers thought, due to widespread leaks. There was also an unexpected beetle infestation, in addition to mould, asbestos and a deteriorating foundation.
Then the basement floor sank.
Building 'far worse' than anticipated
"It actually sunk while work was going on in the area — a section of the floor," MacPherson told CBC News.
The entire foundation has been replaced.
What was expected to be a four-month project stretched into 12 months under tarp and scaffolding.
Today, the elegant two-storey brick building at corner of Bell Road and Sackville Street is a gleaming, copper trimmed showcase of the work of Halifax architect Charles Dumaresq.
But Kellie McIvor of McIvor Conservation, who was responsible for maintaining the building's historic character, remains shocked by what was found inside.
"It was far worse than, I think, any of us had anticipated," McIvor told CBC News.
"The shell of it looked intact but as you started investigating those layers further back, the true extent of it became clear."
'A gem for the city'
The poking revealed another surprise — the use of black mortar by the original builders, which has been used in the restoration. The team made exact patterns of the metal trim used in 1903, but replaced it with long lasting copper.
"Over the years, there had been at least three versions of the metal trim. We tried to stay to the design — sometimes made improvements with the materials for the longevity," McIvor said.
Carpenters removed and restored the windows and hardware.
"It's a gem for the city," said MacPherson. The cottage was once deemed the worst property in the Halifax Regional Municipality's inventory.
Still a year away
It may be another year before the building is occupied. The city will finish the interior after it decides who will move in and what it wants to do with the property.
The Friends of the Public Gardens once had a room for its operations. The non-profit society started in 1984 to help maintain the 6.5-hectare Victorian gardens next door.
"What the Friends would like is to recover a little bit of space," says Colin Stuttard, a former chair of the group.
Stuttard said the group is willing to donate money toward the installation of a wheelchair lift.