Ottawa

Review supports demolition of Lester B. Pearson's former home

An independent engineer the city hired to take another look at the home where former prime minister Lester B. Pearson lived when he received the Nobel Peace Prize has come to the same conclusion as the building's owner: it should be torn down.

Building, owned by Ugandan government, was home to Pearson when he won Nobel Peace Prize

Former prime minister Lester B. Pearson once lived in this building on Cobourg Street in Sandy Hill. City staff is recommending the building, which is in a state of serious disrepair, be demolished.

An independent engineer the city hired to take another look at the home where former prime minister Lester B. Pearson lived when he received the Nobel Peace Prize has come to the same conclusion as the building's owner: it should be torn down.

The city's heritage staff had recommended the building at 231 Cobourg St. be demolished.

The building, owned by the Ugandan government and used as its high commission since the 1980s, is now in a dilapidated state with serious foundation problems and mould resulting from water damage.

The Ugandan government moved its workers out of the building in 2014 because it did not consider it safe. They wanted to demolish it and build a new development at the location.

However, the city's built heritage subcommittee in February ordered an independent review of the state of the building, saying they were not convinced demolition was the only option.

The review from John G. Cooke and Associates Limited, published online in advance of next week's subcommittee meeting, found the damage to the building was "significant" and related primarily to settlement associated with moisture depletion of the underlying clay soils.

Pearson's time in house was short, city staff say 

"The Heritage Value of asset [sic] must be weighed with the costs of rehabilitation …based on this and the significant effort to undertake stabilization, we support recommendations for demolition," they wrote.

Based on that report, city staff is again recommending the building be demolished and is approving a new development.

Pearson lived there in 1957, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize, but city staff said his time there was short and that "there is no indication that the house was critical in the decision-making process that lead to the development of the UN's peacekeeping force, his major foreign affairs accomplishment at the time."

The two-storey brick building was built in the mid-1940s for use as an apartment building, but was converted to offices for the Ugandan High Commission in 1985.

The structure, while not individually designated as a heritage site, is officially designated under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act as part of the Wilbrod/Laurier Heritage Conservation District.

With files from Joanne Chianello

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