Demolished downtown Paris properties hadn’t retained historical context

Three properties in downtown Paris are undergoing an extensive redevelopment process.

Demolition began at 5, 7 and 9 Grand River St. N. last week, as part of a 12- to 15-month project that will replace the aging structures that hold a mix of commercial and residential units. The buildings are on the east side of the street, just before the bridge over the Nith River.

In March, Northern Rudder Holdings Inc. submitted a demolition permit application to the county, although owner Henry Stolp announced his intentions to apply for it at a council meeting back in July 2021.

“The buildings were in total state of disrepair and something needed to happen,” said Stolp, who acquired them around 2004.

Stolp’s initial intent was to renovate what was then the Runner’s Den. “Then we found out that a portion of the wall just wasn’t there between two units,” Stolp said.

Stolp said there was evidence of a fire many years before, “And the people we bought it from had built a false wall in front of an exterior wall which had been damaged many years ago and was partially nonexistent,” Stolp said, “So we didn’t realize there was no support there, but there wasn’t for a while.”

As a result, the project is a full rebuild, aside from one retained foundation wall, but Stolp said the new builds will keep the same number of residential units on the top two floors, with commercial space on the ground floor.

The properties are registered in the County of Brant heritage inventory, but a historical analysis of the site — made with the assistance of the Paris Museum and Archives — and a site visit by members of the heritage committee determined no designation of the structure was necessary.

The evaluation looked at factors like building age, architectural merit, alterations and landmark value to come up with a score out of 100. These properties received an evaluation of only 36, largely owing to the fact the buildings were already significantly altered over the years and, as a result, hadn’t retained much of their heritage context.

The committee did note, however, that the historical value of the site is worth recognizing and their report outlined the particularly interesting historical context of 7 Grand River St. N. — at one time called the Paris Mechanics’ Institute.

Built in 1858 on a lot purchased from Hiram Capron — founder of the Town of Paris — it became the site of the first public library in the county. It ran out of that location for 46 years until the Paris Public Library was built on William Street with a grant from the Carnegie Foundation.

In the ensuing years, a variety of businesses operated out of 7 Grand River St. N., including Chittenden’s Confectionary and Bakery, Paris Cycle and Sports and the Runner’s Den.

Stolp has already made improvements on additional properties he owns in this block. Northern Rudder Holdings Inc. received grants through the County of Brant’s downtown Paris community improvement program (CIP) to update the façade and signage at Pinevest Homes Inc. in 2021 and Arepa Love in 2022.

An updated project rendering is expected to be available within the next few weeks. “The overall feel of it with the yellow bricks and the design of it will be in keeping with the rest of the storefronts in Paris,” Stolp said, “I think it’ll look great.”

Celeste Percy-Beauregard’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about Brant County.

Celeste Percy-Beauregard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator