No Friends of the William Wells House

At 14020 Leslie St. (near Leslie and Bloomington) sits a settlers home, and no it’s not the infamous “Petch” house.

Here is a photo I took of the William Wells house back in May for use as a visual in my appearance on The Auroran’s Our Town with Allison Collins-Mrakas:

Dsc_4336

Built in in the same clapboard construction as the Petch House, the William Wells house is older, built in 1841.

It also is of greater heritage significance to the town of Aurora as the home is viewed as the likely first permanent home of William Wells. 

The William Wells house’s very existence contradicts a 2000 report submitted by those “Friends of The Petch House” in partnership with an outfit named “McGillivray Architect”, which read:

“The Petch Log House is estimated to have been constructed in 1844 and may be the oldest house and onlyremaining log house in Aurora.”

Both the William Wells house, and I hear there is at least another building in our town covered in stucco that predates the Petch house, highlight how this statement misrepresents the facts when it comes to our town’s heritage. 

I suppose it’s not to surprising to find such large inconsistencies in this document as it includes a
disclaimer to say that the “report is an informal, visual, non-invasive assessment and not intended to be a comprehensive professional evaluation.”

With those exclusions made upfront what purpose it serves is beyond me, and frankly I don’t really know how we can trust the rest of what the Friends of the Petch House brings forward with reports like these.

Contrast that report to a 78 page comprehensive July 2007 report conducted by the Town of Aurora on the William Wells house where the building was found to be “a remarkable example of an 1840s settler’s house”.

The Heritage Advisory Committee’s recommendations at that time were to retain the east section of the William Wells House in any future development of the subject property and allow for the relocation and restoration of the building to a suitable location within the subject lands, and for appropriate adaptive re-use

You can read that report here:

wwells-oct2007.pdf
Download this file

Of particular interest was the following declaration found on pg 40 (25) item #6 :

“The final decisions with regard to the demolition, salvage, conservation, or protection of each property are that of the Town of Aurora.”

Fast forward over those 4 years of the past term of council and you will see that nothing was done with respect to this house.

Nothing!

While everyone’s panties got all twisted, and over $100,000 was allocated in the town’s budget for the Petch House, the Willam Well’s house sat and rot, and with it an integral part of Aurora’s heritage.

Like a baggy sweater the house is clad in asphalt shingling, hiding its clapboard construction and
authenticity as a settler’s home.  Its awkward visual appearance must be one of the reasons it wasn’t invited to be part of a Glee Club and failed to get as many friends as the “Petch” house.

When the Willaim Wells house came before committee and then council earlier this year the status of the building was grim:

“However, since that time, the house has been mostly vacant and its physical condition has deteriorated significantly. The opportunity for preservation is still possible but it might present a challenge.”

As it seems to be a systematic problem with how certainoutfits handle our town’s heritage, apathy and indecision win again.  It was too late to save.

Minutes from the Tuesday, May 17, 2011 meeting outlining the fate of the Willam Wells house can be read here:

williamwells.pdf
Download this file

 

Page 3 of 7
6. PL11-028 – Demolition Request for Listed Property on Aurora Register of Properties of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest
Lebovic Enterprises (Westhill)
14020 Leslie Street

THAT Council receive Report PL11-028; and
THAT Council not oppose demolition of the Listed Property at 14020 Leslie Street and its removal from the Register; and
THAT full measured architectural documentation of floor plans and elevations of the barn on 14020 Leslie Street be provided to the Town at the applicant’s expense.

First the 2006-2010 council stripped our town of it’s museum/Heritage Center , and now we learn that the town and its advisory committee allowed this to happen to such a prominent member of our town’s history.

You may have heard of William Wells as the town failed to save the school that bears his name.
To add insult to injury the town recently passed on buying it, even though it would have only cost $1.

WTF?

It’s amazing how much history can be erased, so quickly, and by so few.

To think Aurora was awarded a Prince of Wales prize is gut wrenching.

Those that were so eager to receive the honor and wear it like a badge, need to think about doing the right thing and return it, until our efforts are truly worthy.

 

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One thought on “No Friends of the William Wells House

  1. I do believe the Wells House has 3 strikes against it, and all of them have something to do with the fact that no descendants of Wells are Prominent Citizens of this fine community.

    Some buildings are more equal than others, just like the people of Aurora.

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