An historic lockmaster's house in St. Peter's, Cape Breton, may have to be demolished because it contains dangerous chemical compounds including formaldehyde and asbestos.

People in the community say the house is a vital piece of the village's story, but Parks Canada said the building has structural and environmental problems.

The house, built in 1876, is just up the road from the historic locks in St. Peter's, which made it convenient for the lockmaster to be on hand day and night to let vessels through the locks.

The house is boarded up, having stood empty for more than 20 years. 

Judy Madden, the curator of the Nicolas Denys Museum in St. Peter’s, said it would be a shame to see it gone.

Rough shape

"The house has been here a long time, and it’s part of our history, and I think we really don’t want to lose that," she said.

Before the lockmaster’s house was built there, the property was also the site of a trading post dating to the 1600s.

Parks Canada says that despite its historical significance, the lockmaster's house is in rough shape.

"The lockmaster’s house contains hazardous materials, including lead and asbestos and formaldehyde, and there are also some serious structural issues," said Maria O’Hearn, speaking for Parks Canada. "The property is often prone to vandalism."

O'Hearn said Parks Canada hasn't made any decisions on the building's future, but said demolition is a possibility if they can't find any viable options.

She said Parks Canada would like to hear from anyone in the community who has an interest in preserving it. 

Madden said she hopes a solution can be found.

St. Peter's, N.S.

The house, built in 1876, is just up the road from the historic locks in St. Peter's, N.S. (Google)