Aurora’s Heritage now in 2D?

Given all the attention the proposed South East Heritage Conservation District is generating I thought it best to investigate some of the registered and designated properties included in its proposed boundaries.

Two properties in the proposed district, designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, are making me see double.

They are #66 Wellington Street East and #68 Wellington Street East.

I’m perplexed how two separate houses, on two separate lots could be designated years apart (2007 & 2011) as “The John W. Knowles House”.

There are two houses, not one and two designations with the exact same name certainly negates the inclusion of “the” in both names.

I inquired with the chair of the Heritage Advisory Committee how this came to be.

This is what I received back:

It can be confirmed that The John W. Knowles House – 66 Wellington Street – By-law 4952-07.R and The John W. Knowles House – 68 Wellington Street – By-law 5375-11 are two separate designation By-laws related to buildings known as “the John W. Knowles House”.

According to our historic research, John W. Knowles purchased these two properties in the early 1900s (which, at the time, may have been one lot instead of two) and had plans to build two houses. Today, these are known as 66 and 68 Wellington Street East. Essentially, these two buildings are paired, built in the
same architectural style by the same person (John W. Knowles) at the same time. This may be the reason for designating the two properties with the same names.

I’m not satisfied that the reasoning outlined above justifies designating two different buildings with the same name.

They “may have” originally been one lot, but they are not currently. Nor have they been for some time as evidenced in their separate designations.

#66 Wellington Street East is designated under By-law 4952-07.R:
http://www.e-aurora.ca/app/wa/mediaEntry?mediaEntryId=59917

and

#68 Wellington Street East is designated under By-law 5375-11:
http://www.e-aurora.ca/app/wa/mediaEntry?mediaEntryId=59918

Silly me, I naturally assumed that common sense would dictate unique identifiers for separate designations but it appears that the Town of Aurora doesn’t agree.

The response also offered this:

To our knowledge, the Ontario Heritage Act does not prohibit using similar names or the same names for separate By-laws.

To be clear these 2 homes are not using “similar names” they are designated with the exact same name.

Perhaps the Ontario Heritage Act may not specifically prohibit using the same name in separate bylaws because they could never conceive it happening.

As this is no doubt a rare situation I contacted the Ministry of Culture and reviewed both bylaws with them.

In doing so it was confirmed that the Statement of Cultural Value for #66 Wellington Street East in By-law 4952-07.R is exceptionally thin. It lacks clarity as to the association John W. Knowles has to the house, and fails to list it’s date of construction.

Seems a little sparse given that the house was designated as “The” John W. Knowles House.

3 years later when #68 Wellington Street East was designated under By-law 5375-11 it appears slightly greater effort was taken in providing details under the Statement of Cultural Value section. A date of 1905 is provided.

All that can be derived from these designations is that John W. Knowles, a former Mayor of Aurora may have lived in one, or both houses.

No other distinguishing information with respect to John W. Knowles occupancy or ownership of either property is provided.

As it can be assumed Mr. Knowles did not live in 2 homes simultaneously I do not believe it unreasonable to seek a better appreciation of the association between the designation and the figure that both homes have been named after.

If we’re going to recognize our town’s History to the point we deem it worthy of designation, and then advance including it in some fanciful conservation district perhaps, just perhaps we should do those who actually made our town’s history the satisfaction of getting it right before we start the process of assigning names and then sitting back and patting ourselves on the back as to how wonderful we are for doing so.

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