Guelph's Petrie Building restoration to start soon

The Petrie Building has been an iconic part of Guelph's downtown streetscape for over century. Now it will be getting a restoration.
The Petrie Building on Wyndham Street in downtown Guelph. (Google Street View)

The Petrie Building is an iconic part of Guelph's downtown streetscape, but its upper floors have been vacant for almost 100 years and it needs some fixing.

Now, local company Tyrcathlen Partners has reached an agreement to buy and restore the building. 
The Petrie Building in Guelph is just 20 feet wide, but four stories tall. (A.B. Petrie Heritage Education Trust)

"It's probably more sound than a building built in Guelph in the last 10 years," said Kirk Roberts, a principal at Tyrcathlen Partners, in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Tuesday. 

The Petrie Building is one of three recorded buildings in the country built before 1890 with a full sheet metal facade. In 2014, it was put on Heritage Canada National Trust's list of Canada's Top 10 Most Endangered Places. 

Now, it will be getting a facelift on the outside, and a renovation on the inside. 

"We'd love to find some sort of contemporary restaurant, eatery, brasserie for the basement," said Roberts. Currently the Apollo Eleven restaurant is on the ground floor, but the owners are retiring once they've sold the building to Tyrcathlen.

Roberts says there are no plans to turn the building into condos, though there may be some residential space. He says they would prefer to put in commercial space, to keep the building close to its original condition. 

Tyrcathlen hopes to have tenants in the building possibly as soon as the end of 2015.

Only one coat of paint on walls

The building was built in 1882 by A.B. Petrie, who had a pharmacy on the ground floor and an office on the second floor. He sold the building in the 1920s. 

"The third floor used to contain the inner sanctum of the International Order of Odd Fellows, that had its main hall in the adjoining building. So there's all these doors with peepholes coming through into more and more inner areas. We think after Petrie left, the upper floor was boarded up and the building was empty for a period of time." said Roberts.

It then became a Tamblyn's Pharmacy, an Ontario pharmacy chain created by Belwood-born Gordon Tamblyn. Next it became a Rexall pharmacy, but the upper floors stayed vacant. 

"Because there was no heat, no electricity, no water upstairs, nobody took the time to put it back together and make it useful again," said Roberts.  

Roberts has been on the upper floors and says it's not pretty — lots of dirt, plaster, brick bits and pigeon droppings on the floors but he says underneath the mess, the building is in decent shape. Since most of the building has been vacant for so long, it hasn't been subjected to damaging renovations. Roberts says there's only a single coat of paint and single layer of wallpaper on the walls and the floor joists are three inches thick and in good shape.

Restoring the facade

Perhaps the harder job will be restoring the metal facade on the outside of the building, part of what makes the Petrie Building so unique.

"It's clad with the only intact remaining stamped galvanized metal facade in Canada," said Roberts.The Petrie Building's facade came from Bakewell & Mullins in Ohio, which ran a mail-order business that allowed customers to create the facade that best suited their plans.

Robert says the facade actually hangs on the building, though parts of it have fallen off and gone missing. According to a release from Tyrcanthlen, one of the upper corner facade had been missing for 50 years but was recently found in the attic. 

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