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Small level of protection for McLaughlin House

City council has voted to place the McLaughlin House, located at 195 Simcoe Street North, onto the non-designated registry of heritage properties. While not a full designation under the Ontario Heritage Act, the move creates a 60-day buffer period following any demolition or development permit to allow for council to decide on full designation.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A home connected to one of Oshawa’s most famous families is about to get a small level of protection after a threat earlier this year could have seen it razed to the ground.

At council’s most recent meeting, councillors voted in favour of placing the McLaughlin House, located at 195 Simcoe Street North, on the city’s non-designated registry. While not bestowing a full heritage designation, the non-designated registry, which includes sites like Lakeview Park, Memorial Park, and the Oshawa Second Marsh, creates a 60-day grace period following any development or demolition permit to allow for the city to consider full designation.

The move follows an outpouring of support for the property from local residents after a demolition permit was filed for the house and three other nearby properties owned by Nantuck Investments Inc. in April 2017.

At a February meeting of the Development Services committee, members of council heard from Derek Grieve and Jane Clark, both of whom supported having the historic home designated, which was previously the home of Robert McLaughlin, the founder of the McLaughlin Carriage Works and father of Colonel R.S. McLaughlin.

For that reason, Heritage Oshawa moved forward with creating a report to analyze the merits of having the home designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. Under the act, the home would be protected from any developments that would alter or impact its heritage or cultural value.

After Heritage Oshawa’s request, a report was prepared outlining the historical aspects of the home and concluded there would be several acceptable reasons for bestowing a heritage designation upon the building. Currently, it’s classified as a Class A property in Oshawa’s system, meaning it has potential for designation but is currently not protected.

In particular, the report notes there are several architectural aspects of the home, built in 1887, that would qualify it for designation, including it is a “fine example” of early brick construction in Oshawa, and that it acts in an almost starring role for the surrounding neighbourhood.

“It is important in defining, maintaining and supporting the area in which it stands because it is one of the early homes constructed on Simcoe Street North which is reflective of Oshawa’s early settlers and the beginnings of development in this part of the city,” the heritage report reads.

However, the physical aspects pale in comparison to the home’s historical value and its linkages to the McLaughlin family legacy in Oshawa. In fact, McLaughlin’s former home, where he lived with his third wife for nearly 19 years, sits only a few short blocks away from the National Historic Site that is his son’s former home at Parkwood Estate.

Along with his role in the early auto industry, the elder McLaughlin also played a very active role in early Oshawa, including a stint as mayor in 1899, along with serving as a councillor and member of the town’s first board of health in 1884 and first board of water commissioners in 1904.

During the most recent meeting of the Development Services committee, Clark once again spoke of the property’s significance, slamming a letter received by council from the owner who offered reasons why there was little importance of saving the home, which Clark says showed “a serious misunderstanding of policies.” Clark said that in the hands of the right owner, the home could stand and be showcased as a vital piece of Oshawa’s heritage.

“It’s all about having the right owner,” she said. “Our heritage resources are our past and our future, they represent opportunity.”

At that meeting, councillors approved the move to place the home on the non-designated registry, while not opting for full designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. It was a stance that was then reaffirmed during council’s regular meeting on May 22 when the approval was given to add the home to the non-designated registry.