Heritage buildings can’t mean preserve at all costs: Aylmer’s Place des Pionniers and 24 Sussex Drive
The plea from R. Gladys, to keep Place des Pionniers standing as a heritage building (Bulletin letters, February 13) prompts me to give my opinion on the strength and value of heritage designations. My immediate response to the demolition of Aylmer’s last city hall is, so be it, bring it down. This may seem callous but I think it important that the future need not be encumbered by the past. Some buildings merit heritage designation but how strictly we manage these buildings’ maintenance must be weighed against safety, utility, and historical reality. I bring this opinion to the fore now because we Canadians must soon come to a decision as to the future of 24 Sussex Drive.
I am puzzled by those who promote saving this Prime Ministers’ residence and want to see it renovated. In my opinion, this house is beyond saving and has only a passing interest when it comes to its 34 rooms. As Margaret Trudeau noted, 24 Sussex is a “large, cold, grey mansion,” the “crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system.”
This house was built between 1866-68 by lumber baron Joseph Currier and in 1901 was sold to another lumber baron, William Edwards, who made substantial renovations in 1907-08. In 1943, the federal Crown-in-Council used its power of expropriation to divest Gordon Edwards, nephew of William, of his title to the house. Gordon Edwards fought the action, but eventually lost the dispute with the Canadian government in 1946 and he died at the house later that year. A grisly way to come into possession of this house. It was redesigned once again and designated as the official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada in 1950. In 1951, Louis St-Laurent became the first PM to move in. Of our 23 PM’s only 10 have lived at 24 Sussex.
To pour tens of millions of dollars into a house that has no positive construction aspects and is totally unfit for habitation would be a waste of money. Money better spent creating a Canadian showpiece of technical merit and utility.
I hope reason will lead the debate on the future of 24 Sussex. Reason makes it clear that a new residence, purpose built, is the logical path to provide a home to future Prime Ministers, a home Canadians can be proud of.