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City OK's plan to save 'haunted' Hermitage

City councillors have backed a $600,000 plan to dismantle and rebuild the Hermitage ruins in Ancaster.

City councillors have backed a $600,000 plan to dismantle and rebuild the Hermitage ruins in Ancaster.

The city will contribute $200,000 to take down the walls of the 19th-century mansion and rebuild them brick by brick, with the rest coming from other sources. The move will preserve the remnants of the manor house for an estimated 100 more years.

Located near Mineral Springs Road, the Hermitage manor was built by the Leith family in 1855. During a luncheon on Oct. 10, 1934, guests noticed the second floor on fire. The blaze mostly destroyed the home in the Dundas Valley, leaving only some of the exterior walls.

Since then, the Hermitage has become a popular destination for local ghost hunters, photographers and heritage lovers. But each month, the crumbling walls become more of a safety hazard.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority originally planned to spend $200,000 to lower the walls to as low as five feet in some spots. With the new plan, the community will fundraise $200,000, the authority will spend $200,000 and the city will spend $200,000 from a strategic capital reserve.

The community has already raised $100,000, and engineering costs have been donated, said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster.

The Hermitage has been a “difficult issue” for the conservation authority since it’s a significant site, but capital dollars are tight, said Coun. Brian McHattie of Ward 1, who chairs the authority board.

This move, he said, is “a win-win solution.”

One councillor questioned spending the money though. Coun. Terry Whitehead of Ward 8 on the Mountain wanted to know how much it would deplete the reserve.

“I want to keep an eye on that strategic fund because it has to serve 15 wards,” he said.

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