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March 5, 2010

Powassan Heritage Property Gone

The Windsor Hotel on Powassan’s Main Street was demolished recently for the redevelopment of the SW corner of Main and King Streets. The property was purchased from Roger George, who owned it from 1996, by a development company. The new owners spent time and money working on the Windsor’s restoration but several months ago changed their plans and left the building untouched for months. Apparently a new facility was decided upon and property on either side of the Windsor was also being purchased for a major development.

Demolition of the Windsor February 2010
J. Toeppner image

The windowless building which was an eyesore on Main Street was torn down on February 22nd. The next day a giant machine was fed the debris and turned it into chips for removal. Jamie Toeppner, a local history buff recorded the event and took the photos shown here of the demolition. For more photos on the event and other interesting material log on to www.toeppner.ca and look for the Windsor Hotel. There are also photos of the bricks being removed last fall online. It will be exciting to see the redevelopment but many regret the loss of an important heritage site.

Powassan Hotels

A Queen’s Hotel was built on Powassan’s Main Street (then King St.) in 1886 and soon burned. It was rebuilt and burned again in 1915 and in 1919 became the area’s “House of Refuge” for people needing support. In 1965 it became the Parry Sound District Home for the Aged and was soon replaced by the Eastholme Home for the Aged. The building then became a halfway house for Ontario Hospital clients. In 1985 it became Eide’s Residential Home and continues the job of housing needy individuals to the present day.

The Temperance House Hotel built in the 1880s burned a couple of times and eventually died. The site is the location of the Bank of Nova Scotia.

Old postcard showing the Windsor Hotel in the early 1900s

The recently demolished Windsor Hotel was not the first building on the site. The first was a general store built in 1887. It changed hands several times until a Mr. Desjardin built the Windsor. It appears that he may have just added to the original store. It was later owned by George Purdon whose name appears on the fascinating postcard shown here. The Hotel went through several owners until it was purchased by Harold and Carol Oswin. When Harold died in 1996 the building was sold to Roger George and his wife Rose. Roger George made extensive changes and had rooms for rent, a restaurant and a beverage room. It was an active and popular place in the community until it was sold to the current developer.

Heritage Preservation

Heritage preservation has become active in many larger communities and Municipal Heritage Committees have been formed across the province. These committees are formed by Municipal by-laws following the Guidelines of the Ontario Heritage Act. The committee becomes an advocate for heritage preservation. Some buildings are designated for heritage recognition, protection and conservation. The committee works with owners of the heritage facility and the municipal council.

The committee of interested individuals often gets behind the Doors Open program and other heritage activities. North Bay’s Heritage Committee during Heritage week earlier this month urged people in North Bay to tour heritage properties and enjoy their presence. A notice in the North Bay Nugget invited people to take the tour and provided a website where there is a catalogue of designated buildings. Google North Bay Municipal Heritage Committee to see the Terms of Reference. Check on the Illustrated Guide to see the excellent photos of the many heritage buildings.

The Key to Preservation

Early action on preservation is imperative. For example, Mattawa Heritage suffered recently when their old town hall and their old hospital were removed when a strong early position may have lessened the impact. Municipal Councils also have to have a sense of history and heritage and know that preservation is imperative for community health.

Goodbye to the Windsor

Many years ago when I first came to the Powassan area to build a recreational log house in the bush with two of my teenage children and their friends we ended up in the Windsor many times for burgers and fries and some rest. I met some remarkable oldtimers who lived there and had spent their life on local farms and in the bush. They inspired me to later begin to write some of their stories. More recently I made many visits to the Windsor for lunch and occasionally rented a room when I couldn’t get home in bad weather. Many community memories will prevail and we will wait to see what rises from the ashes.

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