Heritage foundation looks to stop loss of more buildings like Richmond Cottage

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St. John's council approves demolition of Richmond Cottage, Belvedere Orphanage

St. John's council approves demolition of Richmond Cottage, Belvedere Orphanage

All attempts have been exhausted to try and save the Richmond Cottage in St. John's, and the executive director of the province's heritage foundation says it's time to look at different ways to save those kind of historic properties.

The deadline to find a buyer for the home passed Monday, which means property owner Wrightland Development Corporation can now apply for a permit to demolish the 170-year-old structure.

The Richmond Cottage was on the market for about a year, with nobody coming forward to make an acceptable offer on it.

Executive Director of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador Gerry Dick said he and others tried to work with partners to find different ways to package the house and see what financial assistance was available for restoration, but there was little to no interest in buying it.

Efforts were fruitless, he said, because an 8,000-square foot house is not really in high demand, but the large piece of land that it's on — on Shaw Street in the west end of the city  — is highly sought after by developers.

"You are actually quite limited in a residential area for the kinds of things you could do with the property," Dick told the St. John's Morning Show. 

Salvage potential

Now that the property can be demolished, the only hope of protecting the history of Richmond Cottage is by allowing people to buy parts of the home before it is torn down.

Dick said the owners have agreed to allow salvage, and he is hopeful that contractors, antique dealers and other interested parties will come forward to make offers.

Hardwood doors, decorative plaster and stained glass windows are just some aspects of the home that Dick thinks could potentially sell.

Protecting future heritage properties

The Richmond Cottage is just one of several properties that have been lost, or are about to be lost, in the St. John's area.

Waterford Manor, the Bryn Mawr home, and the recently burned Belvedere orphanage are just some of the recent examples.

"We see how quickly we can start to lose some of these significant buildings," Dick warned.

To prevent more historic buildings from disappearing, Dick said the heritage foundation is planning a forum this week.

It wants to hear ideas on how to get the ball moving to save historic properties — before it gets to the point that people are protesting just before a demolition, when it's too late.

"Is there a better way we can do this, in terms of fully examining the potential of these buildings and having less of an antagonistic kind of relationship?" he said.