Porter/McKinley Block

Credit: Sean Marshall

A CASE OF DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT

This designated privately owned heritage building—home to one of the last remaining intact opera houses in Ontario—is decaying due to years of neglect. Unchecked water infiltration could soon begin to compromise the late 19th-century building’s structure.

A solid structure that anchors a corner of the downtown, the building is a potential asset to the revitalization efforts underway in this rural town. But with owners intent on selling without investing in repairs, and property standards not being enforced, the building’s future is at risk.

Why it matters

Built in 1878, this magnificent commercial building anchors a prominent corner of Ridgetown’s Main Street. The brick exterior and detailed cornice remain largely intact as does the interior of the two upper floors, which are vacant.

The third floor is home to one of the last remaining opera houses in Ontario. This rare and significant architectural survivor features its original high ceilings and double-curved corners that were instrumental in projecting rich operatic sounds. The stage, drops, woodwork and paint remain; only the seating has been removed.

The building is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Why it’s endangered

Privately owned by a Michigan-based couple, the Porter/McKinley Block has been for sale for some time. Although structurally sound, it has fallen into disrepair from years of neglect. A leading heritage restoration consultant has urged roof replacement within the year. Currently, plastic sheeting on the third floor is temporarily preventing water seeping deeper into the building. Rubble and plaster are covering sections of the floor.

The owners are set on selling and unwilling to invest in repairs, and the municipality is not imposing the maintenance of property standards.

Where it stands

Heritage advocates have had the roof examined by a leading roof restoration firm and an application has been made to the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario’s Heritage Works Program for assistance with further architectural analysis. A business plan is under development to form a not-for-profit organization to fundraise and purchase the building. But these initiatives will take time and money—limited commodities in the case of the Porter/McKinley Block.  The municipality needs to do more than mount a heritage plaque on the building; it needs to start enforcing property standards.

The Porter/McKinley Block was nominated by Heritage Chatham-Kent.

 

Location: Chatham-Kent, Ontario

Top 10 Endangered Places List: 2010

Status: Saved

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