A Heritage Designation Primer

The following article caught the eye of the Ranger and brought up many questions on how and why we should strive to save our historic buildings in Ontario. Lakefield Ontario, excerpts from a recent news media article shows how the Historic Designation process works. When the town citizens heard of a possible demolition of an 1860’s stone mill house at 44 Bridge Street, it caught them unaware of this news, they quickly formed a citizens action group to prevent this from happening. A fundraising campaign to to raise the $1 million needed to purchase the property has been launched in partnership with the Kawartha Land Trust to purchase this property to save it from the wrecking ball and strip mall/apartment complex development. The stone mill house is one of only two stone buildings in this village in Selwyn Township and was built by the owner of the original grist mill on the west side of the Otonabee River at the time of the founding of the village. The property should have been listed on the Townships Registry which would have provided the 60 day notice required before demolition. As there was no listing, the owner of the building was issued a legal permit to do so. In an attempt to save the building there have been pickets in the street and coverage in the local media. Lets hope this story has a successful ending.  (See post:  Port Hope’s Little railway Station)

What is a Historical Designation to a property: A process under the Ontario Heritage Act that gives a property special status that is registered on the Title of Property. It recognizes a prominent architectural builder, a notable person of the community, an important historic event and the unique qualities of the building. Preservation of the architectural history, cultural and historical aspects of the building and is a positive means of increasing the value of the property. Research by Dr. Robert Shipley (Shipley 2000) concluded that the rate of sales of many individual heritage properties was equal to or greater than the general rate of sales within a community. This is also a means of recognizing heritage architecture that does not require an owner to restore a property to its original condition or appearance.  The following picture is of Port Hope’s “Little Station” after its successful move and restoration. 

Under the Ontario Heritage Act, Municipalities can pass bylaws to formally designate properties of cultural, historic or heritage value or interest. Heritage Designation is a way to publicly acknowledge a property’s heritage to a community and helps ensure the conservation of these important places for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. The major steps in the designation process: identifying the property as a candidate for designation; assembling the proper information and evaluating the property; serving Notice to Designate, with an opportunity for objection; passing and registering the designation bylaw; listing the property on the Municipal Registry and listing the property on the Provincial Registry. Sometimes it is only when a property is threatened that a community recognizes its value, The Municipality councils can use the Notice of Intention to Designate as a way of of preventing the demolition or alteration of a Heritage property. This gives council an opportunity to consider if there are any alternatives to its demolition.

Specific limitations of the Heritage Act establishes the responsibility of governments to identify and conserve our built heritage. This act reviews property designations, assists in the designation process, liaises with experts regarding maintenance and restoration of older buildings, works with other heritage organizations such as the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO), Community Heritage Ontario (CHO) and the National Trust of Canada. They also review applications for exterior additions or alterations, recommend, Certificates of Commendation for the restoration and preservation of properties as well as reviewing applications for newer buildings adjacent to designated properties.

Insurance and designated properties: Premiums should not necessarily rise with a designated property. A variety of reasons can cause an insurance company to increase premiums for older buildings if there is a higher level of risk such as outdated wiring, old heating systems etc. Some companies will not insure buildings over a certain age. Designation itself does not place additional requirements on the insurer and therefore should not affect premiums. Some tips for potential heritage home buyers: tour the house with a contractor who has the same feel and passion for older homes that you do to help you understand how much renovation and construction is likely to cost, and a designer aid you to visualize what the house could look like. Check to see if the home is designated or on a list to be considered for a heritage designation. See if Municipal programs are available to aid in rehabilitation costs. There are no restrictions on buying or selling a heritage home, the designation is registered on the Title of Property.

Some critical components of restoration include the appropriate colour of the building to recognize the era and style. Many paint manufacturers now produce paint palettes for selecting appropriate colours for heritage properties. Historic wood windows are critical to overall architectural buildings. Original windows do not need to be replaced and will last indefinitely if properly puttied, repaired, painted and weather stripped. Often wooden windows have been covered by exterior metal storms in an attempt to improve energy efficiency. Careful weather stripping of wood frame windows can dramatically improve their efficiency. Research has proven that historic windows used in conjunction with a quality storm window will outperform a new double-glazed metal window which does not have thermal breaks and wood has a better insulation value than metal. Before submitting an application you may be required to attend a Pre-consultation meeting with staff members of the Planning Division and other agencies. There is no fee for pre-consulation meetings. The purpose of these meetings are to ensure that both the applicant and the Municipality have a clear understanding of the purpose of the proposed application, the type of application required and where necessary, the appropriate studies, information and materials needed to support the application. 

Pre-consultation also provides an opportunity to gain an understanding of the planning process in the Municipality. Prior to applying for a building permit, Planning is required to review your proposal, there is no fee for the planning review of accessory structures which are defined as any detached structure or buildings which includes a shed, detached garage, barn or pool. there is no fee for a review of a deck or porch. A deck is defined as an uncovered and unenclosed structure that is an accessory to residential use and used for an outdoor living area, with a foundation holding it erect, and a floor that is above the finished grade but does not include a landing or a stair. A porch is defined as a structure with a roof and at least one side open.  (See post: What Is The Fate of Rose’s Cottage?)    The following picture is of the great move of Rose’s Cottage to its new home.

A recent Port hope heritage success story was made possible by Stephen Henderson of Henderson Construction. Henderson purchased the Rose Cottage, also know as Rose’s Cottage for one dollar provided it could be stored on King’s Field, a nearby town park temporarily until a new home could be found . The Port Hope Architectural Society generously contributed $15,000 to help with the cost of the move. By December, 2019 Rose Cottage was relocated to a new home on Pine Street North. Henderson was recently instrumental in the Farley Mowat memorial move from its original location to the Town Park as well as the relocation and revival of the “Little Station” from the town harbour to a location on the Lent’s Lane walk way. Henderson is a recent nominee of the 2020 Architectural Conservancy NextGen Award for his quick actions to save Rose Cottage. Thank you Stephen, Port Hope and its citizens are grateful.

Regards, Ranger.


  1. Thought you might like to join us. Register in advance for this webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eDPuuxXGRaeNN8Oqkv6Pfg


    1. Carla, thanks for the invitation. I am really interested in the story of this heritage building, I will be closely following it in the news media, hope it has a happy ending for the people of Lakefield.


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