Linda–Does anyone know anything about the little yellow house on Bridge Street? It has been empty for years, overgrown, but no matter what time of day you go past, 2 am, 3pm, all the lights in the house are always on.
“The History as we know it so far..”
The “little yellow house” at 274 Bridge Street in Carleton Place is known locally as the “Abner Nichols House”. It was once designated as a municipal heritage building, and it is still on the 2015 list. According to a Conservation Review Board affidavit- in 1991, then owner, Judith Hughes requested it be removed as a protected building under the Heritage Act. At the same time she was requesting another property she owned at 222 William Street to be repealed also.
Abner Nichols once owned a saw mill along the Mississippi River at the bottom of Flora street. Nichols was also in the timber business and owned a planning mill on the corner or Lake Ave and Moore Street in 1896. The Nichols home was the first home of a family that produced three mayors of Carleton Place over three generations. Nichols was also Carleton Place’s first Reeve, and served as Mayor in 1894 and in 1899. Later the house served as the rectory for St.James Anglican church.
It doesn’t take much to notice the building has gone into disrepair over the years. I have no idea why the present owner (name withheld) continues to hold the property and not occupy it. Then owner, Ms. Hughes was initially upset over the aesthetics of the building that was built next door. Joann Voyce said the apartment building that sits partially in front of the old Miller home was once the John Deere dealership.
I have to agree, and wonder who approved that decision. The two buildings side by side do not complement each other, and while I’m sure both structures are on legal property lines–it is a definite eyesore. If there was a dispute about 18 parking spots for St. James Anglican Church/ Manitoulin Chocolate Works– how did this sneak by at one point in time? Okay, maybe a horse of a different breed and colour- but it’s “planning”. Hughes also argued at the time about the personal economic cost of attempting to sell a property that was designated heritage. So for now, only the lights remain on in the “little yellow house.”
The Carleton Place property standards does require the present owner to do repairs. But, if an order is given under property standards, the owner only has to do the minimum requirements to meet the request. I, like everyone else, would like this house to be restored to it former glory, but owners of properties can and do decide the level of property maintenance as long as basics requirements are met. Last winter the top door facing Bridge Street blew open and the town of Carleton Place had to go and close it. I have been also told the roof is in need of immediate attention. There is no doubt the full restoration of the Nichols house could become quite expensive at this point and time.
The same thing is presently happening in Windsor, Ontario. A Windsor couple wants the city to remove a heritage designation from their Riverside Drive home, so that potential buyers won’t be dissuaded from considering its purchase. Similar to the Hughes 1991 case the homeowners asked the city to designate it as a heritage property in 1999. But now the couple want the status reversed so they can sell their home.
The Easton’s have asked for a repeal of the heritage designation, but city staff recommended that the request be turned down. Now that the couple is selling the home, Bruck Easton said he and his wife have found that when they tell a buyer the house is a heritage property, “you can sort of watch the buyers just turn around and walk out.” The city’s planning, heritage and economic development standing committee dealt with the application at a meeting last week.The committee said there was nothing they could do. The Eastons are upset and plan to take the issue before city council soon.
Many people seek out heritage homes when making a purchasing decision. Should the heritage designations stay? Things don’t stop being heritage just because someone wants to sell them. I think it is an issue that the right buyer needs to come along– more than the heritage issue. In the case of the Nichols home its fate appears quite bleak. I hope someone saves the little yellow house before it’s too late—or is it already just a matter of fact.
Photos- Linda Seccaspina and the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum
John Armour–This is a picture of Abner Nichols, (very early 1900’s) from my late Grandfather Walter Armour’s collection. Abner Nichols married Eliza McNeely (daughter of 2nd generation James McNeely).
My Great Grandfather, Robert Armour married Jessie McNeely (daughter of 2nd generation McNeely, Thomas Moore)