Should You Ever Stop “Burning Down the House” About Things that Matter?

This week someone asked me if ‘complaining’ about things like the town of Carleton Place was a new thing to me.
I began to laugh and had to think to where it all began. I was barely 13 years old when I ran away from my Grandparents home outside of Seattle, Washington on Mercer Island in the 60s to the Haight Ashbury district San Francisco to join ‘my kind’ as I called them.
I saw how things happened in small towns with the cronyism etc., even way back then in the prehistoric era.:)  I began to try and fight the town hall (well my Dad was an alderman) at age 14 about heritage homes being taken down because nothing seem to matter to the town council in my small rural town in the Eastern Townships.
I remember standing outside Sir George Williams University (Concordia) protesting the professors when students took over the building at age 16. Then it went on to protesting the Vietnam War when I lost a friend who was barely 18– the fake desks one of my late friends had to get Vietnam War deserters into Canada. Then there was the FLQ issue in Montreal and living right downtown on Pine Avenue and oh my, the list continues– even fighting the city of Ottawa about building art.
I might not have won some of the fights, but I tried to make a difference. Too many people just turn their back thinking they won’t make a difference– but you can. Stand up for what’s right and what you think is wrong. Even if you don’t win– you tried. You can at least say that. Don’t let people make your decisions that matter without your input.
Here is the story about lost Heritage Homes
Last week a simple photo of one of Cowansville’s first homesteads popped up on the Facebook blog thanks to Paul Cournoyer and originally posted by Kenny Bay Hall.  From a lone picture of a simple sod/log home, a discussion about the disappearance of heritage houses in the 60’s and 70’s got a lot of people’s dandruff up. The founding homes of Cowansville seemed to vanish one by one overnight and no one seemed to stand up and fight the architectural decisions being made.
 Comments from the former students of Cowansville High School

Claudia Forster Allen– Is this one of the first homesteads in Cowansville?

Paul Cournoyer– ‎Margaret Clay Jacob, could this house have been in your husband’s familly?

Paul Cournoyer- The picture was taken around 1930-1940

Kendall Damant- Where was that house exactly? Do you know?

Claudia Forster Allen- Perhaps the Ville de Cowansville Facebook page could answer this question.

Paul Cournoyer- I think it was on the left hand side of River St. as you left Cowansville going toward Farnham Ctre.

Bob Bromby What is the location?

Decker Way- Kenny posted that pic earlier & gave the location as Beadeville

Paul Cournoyer- Margaret Clay Jacob, could probably tell us more as her husband is Donald Jacob and this house belonged to the Jacob familly.

Bob Bromby- Beadeville..aha….across the road and a bit further east from that stone house that we were all trying to esatblish a location for earlier. The Pages (Bob,Terry,Steve) also lived next door until they moved to the relocated school house overlooking the pond a bit further west.

Margaret Clay Jacob- Paul, Donald says that his Dad built his home in 1950 and it’s not this house. The other house beside it was built by his uncle after that and was then habited by his grandmother after she was expopriated to build Albany Felt. That house was taken down in 1996-7. Donald does not remember this house at all by memories or family pictures.

Margaret Clay Jacob- None of the houses had a second floor except the Butler home which was a very nice home. Donald says that possibly this is the small house that has been rebuilt now beside the place that sells the flowers up the road accrss the road from Fordyce Road.

And then it began-


Paul Cournoyer- When Roland Desourdy was mayor of Cowansville 1955-74 many beautiful buildings on Main Street were destroyed to build the shopping centre, that is now just a white elephant. Back in the early 60’s nobody said anything because they were afraid of the town hall. Today, people would speak up and not let a town be destroyed like that. When they built the shopping centre, that was the beginning of the slow death of the merchants on Main Street.

Linda Knight Seccaspina– My father Arthur J Knight was an alderman when Desourdy was mayor and we argued constantly about the demolition of the homes. As father and daughter we never agreed on anything but he supported Mr. Desourdy 100%.  I am shocked they did not move former premier Jean Jacques Bertrand out and destroy his house.

Paul Cournoyer- Well Linda, nice to see that someone other than me knows what went on back then.

Linda Knight Seccaspina– I know full well; my father would talk about it all the time. To me it was nothing but the devastation of Cowansville. Yet, he sat on that council, approved those homes coming down and agreed to have that lake built. I do not wish to speak ill of the dead especially when it’s family- but what went on there was wrong.




Before and after. I remember my Grandfather George Crittenden’s home when I was a child and it was beautiful and amazing.. How they let it get to this I have no idea.

Linda Knight Seccaspina– Like the Cowan house you used to live in Paul that my Grandfather Crittenden owned for decades on Albert Street. Who destroys the founder of the towns house?  No one but idiots!

Paul Cournoyer- You are right, but everyone was afraid of  the council back then, if they didn’t agree they would be put aside.

Linda Knight Seccaspina– If I sound peeved it is because historical architecture is a passion of mine. My home in Carleton Place was built in 1867 and even after a fire ripped it apart it went back piece by piece the way it was. I just get mad at the lack of respect for old homes.

Roland Desourdy, served as mayor of Cowansville for nineteen years and founded Bromont as a “model town” in the early 1960s. Roland’s brother, Germain Desourdy, also served a mayor Bromont in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the younger Desourdy oversaw family interests such as a ski resort and golf course. He served as mayor of Bromont from 1996 until 1998, when he was defeated by Pauline Quinlan.


Paul Cournoyer- That was one house that should have never been touched; it was part of our heritage.

Linda Knight Seccaspina– So who called the shots on the Cowan house?Dions Lumber would never sell it.

Paul Cournoyer- Rona Hardware bought the old Dion place, the house and the land was sold to unknowns.

Paul Cournoyer– Today where Dion’s was rests an auto parts store and the rest is a vacant lot.

Linda Knight Seccaspina- I knew that Rona bought it, but seriously the town should have taken it over.

Paul Cournoyer– The town seem’s to be going in the right direction now; they don’t let people tear down buildings just because they feel like it.

Linda Knight Seccaspina- Thats a good thing but too bad it did not happen way back then.My father’s response to tearing down homes?  “They were old!”

Well heck.. I am old too but no one is going to tear me down.

Linda Knight Seccaspina- My Dad was an alderman for years and he was also the campaign manager for Jean Jacques Bertrand until he was premier. Were they all together?  Was it like the bloody Canadian Illuminati— one has to wonder some times what went on in their heads. But, too late now.


Jonathan Reid-Sévigny: ” I was drawing a lot of heritage homes, small-towny bungalows and dépanneurs from my hometown of Cowansville Québec (you haven’t heard of it) and it all culminated in a little book called Prologue. Ever since I can remember I always daydreamed about familiar structures and spaces (for example, the mini-mall in front of my dad’s house) being overtaken by otherworldly, eerie-like or even disastrous events.” 

Jonathan Reid Sévigny was born and raised in Cowansville, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, a culture so unique and full of rare and local treasures that become significant to those who grew up there but perhaps seem completely foreign and often tacky to outsiders



Did Mr. Reid-Sevigny have it right? Was Cowansville overtaken?

In all my research there was nothing about the demolition of Cowansville’s heritage homes- but there was lots about Desourdy’s legacy. One has to ask themselves if they were all ‘burning down the house”?




 From the fundraising book done in 2013

Cowansville High School Misremembered


Those Darn Kids from Cowansville High School 

Facebook group

related reading

Words of Wisdom Carleton Place– It’s Called Planning


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.

2 responses »

  1. I vaguly remember when they demolished the beautiful homes and maple trees on the main street in Cowansville. I used to live on Montee Lebeau in Cowansville. Even as a child I didn’t like what they did. Now the bridge on main street is being demolished this coming week and the shopping male (white elephant) lol is old too expensive to rent and the roof leaks. So does this mean that all these houses were demolished in vain? I wonder! Sincerely

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for posting this.. I have not been home in years and this October I am passing though for the first time in many years.. People do not think and most times it is done without a care in the world. I lived on Albert Street for years next to Dion Lumberyard and my dad had the only electrical business for years on South Street across from Varins.. People will look at this in years to come and shake their heads as we are now.:(


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