What is Heritage? — The Old Hotel in Almonte



1970s skateboarders’ park has been given special protected status Wednesday by the government agency responsible for England’s ancient castles and stately homes. Dating only back to 1978, the Rom skate park in suburban London was built using pressurized concrete. It was inspired by prototypes in California where the trend began.

English Heritage, whose properties include Stonehenge, said it wanted to protect the 86,000 sq ft park to “preserve the legacy of one of the most distinctive and enduring strands of modern British youth culture.” The skate park in Hornchurch, east London, will have Grade II status, meaning it is “of special interest warranting every effort to preserve it” in the future, the agency announced. “It gives the whole idea of heritage an extra twist,” English Heritage designation director Roger Bowdler said. After this decision, what do we now deem heritage?


In April 2005, our government passed a new legislation strengthening the Ontario Heritage Act.  Of course there are no rules etc. that determine what is, and what is not, a heritage building. Everyone thinks of heritage as something old– but the word “Heritage”, should be best understood when joined to another word, such as conservation. But there is a growing awareness that even fairly recent structures, such as those built in the post-war era of the 1950’s and 1960’s, are already vulnerable to unsympathetic renovations or even demolition. But a skateboard park?


In 1985 they began to tear down a 120 year old building in Almonte. To most of us it was known as the Co-Op on Queen Street.  Once upon a time in history it used to be a glamourous hotel in the height of the 1860’s called Reilly’s hotel.




As the years progressed it became a deteriorating eyesore. Carleton Place resident Judith Hughes approached the Almonte council asking for the deadline of to be postponed until April 1 of that year allowing her time to buy the building for renovation. She wanted to construct an apartment building with an added dining lounge. The owner of the building declined Hughes purchase and decided to proceed with the demolition. 


“It breaks my heart to tear it down, but I can’t eat heritage” said Alex Milosek co-owner of BAMP. The building price was $59,000, or demolish it to allow other developments. Unfortunately Hughes offer was made hours before the demolition and came with a list of conditions as long as Milosek’s arm. He considered most of them unworkable. Milosek also attempted to find outside businesses, but the structure was too large to be economically viable in a town the size of Almonte.


The proposed conclusion was to build a smaller building on the property to use as a convenience store or for professional offices. The above photo shows exactly what stands in that very spot today. So does one value the building as a rundown place, or praise it for architectural and historic value?  LACAC recommended the building be designated as a heritage property, but the Almonte town council said it was beyond repair. Like the Findlay home in Carleton Place–in less that one week it was gone.

So what do we save? Do we need to define what constitutes a threat to heritage? Do we think not just of bricks and mortar, but the impact of development on the visual environment? What are we saying when we put a huge tower over a building of historic significance? Are we saying that articular project more important? Is this the message we really want to be sending? I’m wondering if sometimes we miss the  point. My fear is wondering what will future generations do.

Photos from Almonte.com



This was actually Reilly’s Hotel, also known as the Windsor House at one point I believe. It was built by Pat Reilly, who had previously operated the British Hotel. The Almonte House hotel was in the building currently occupied by Subway on Mill Street, and was originally Daniel Shipman’s home. The Almonte Hotel (also Hotel Almonte at one time) was at the corner of High and Bridge Streets. The building survives though no longer a hotel of course.


D Christopher Vaughan I remember it as the Co-Op, where Arnold Shane worked. Got my first brand new bicycle there too! Golden yellow, with a banana seat, high handle bars with tassles hanging from them. I had to go and pick up a “parcel”, and was mad that I had to walk to pick it up. What a great surprise when I got there. Couldn’t believe it was for me. Thanks Mom.

When “Building Assetics” Go Wrong!

The Day The Moose in Carleton Place Burned Down

Rescuing the Money Pits —The Dunlop Homes

The Carleton Place House That Disappeared

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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