Oshawa going ahead with Heritage Designation for McLaughlin House despite owner’s desire for demolition

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Published September 12, 2023 at 12:31 pm

The former home of one of Oshawa’s founding industrialists has taken a beating in recent years but, much like the city, is still standing and will likely stay that way after Oshawa’s Economic and Development Services Committee voted to go ahead with a Heritage Designation for the 136 year-old Robert McLaughlin House.

Built in 1887 in the ‘Classical Revival’ style, the Simcoe Street house was the home of the founder of the McLaughlin Carriage Works (at one time the largest producer of horse-drawn buggies and sleighs in the British Empire), his third wife Eleanor and their servant Elizabeth Welles between 1901 and 1919. It was one of four homes McLaughlin lived in and the only one still standing.

McLaughlin, who also served a stint as Mayor of Oshawa, switched to making automobiles in 1907 on the advice of sons Sam (who would later launch General Motors of Canada) and George.

Former Oshawa Mayor RH James lived there for a time as well and the house was converted to professional offices in the 1960s.

The home has suffered from “rot by neglect” since current owners Nantuck Investment bought the property. Five years ago the building suffered severe damage when a man who had barricaded himself inside from police set it on fire and earlier this year the walls witnessed a murder and double stabbing next door.

Since then the property has remained vacant with the roof slowly caving in and Nantuck has made several attempts to demolish it to make way for a new development.

On February 2, 2021, Nantuck Investments announced their intention to tear down the property, prompting the City to task staff with starting the process to have the building designated as a Heritage Property. That happened on March 29, 2021 and the City issued public notice of such action three days later.

On April 30 Nantuck filed an objection to the designation, a matter that went before the Conservation Review Board (now the Ontario Land Tribunal), with the City revising its request for designation that November.

In March of this year Nantuck again filed for demolition, a request denied by Oshawa Council on June 26.

Two month later Nantuck withdrew their objection to the designation but told Oshawa staff they still intend to proceed with an appeal allowing them to demolish the house.

Nantuck initially promised to preserve the front façade if their application for demolition was approved but later amended that statement, with company representative Gagan Hajatri saying the fire damage would make it “unfeasible” to preserve the entire façade.

Nantuck wants to rebuild with two commercial units and six residential units.

Oshawa will now forward the notice to the Ontario Heritage Trust in accordance with the Ontario Heritage Act regulations.

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