between you, me and the fence post

If you stroll past 15372 Yonge Street, AKA Hillarity House ( ) you’ll notice the dilapidated and now broken fence that borders Younge Street.

Here are a couple photos:

The fence appears to be violation of section 5,5.1, subsections a) b) c) and e) the Town of Aurora’s Property standards Bylaw 4044-99-05.P :

The Town’s bylaw department has been notified and will be investigating shortly, but this issue has another layer.

The current fence, which was erected in 1975 was modeled after the original fence seen in this photo here:

​The “wood fence sheltering house from the street” is listed under CHARACTER-DEFINING ELEMENTS on the Historic Places website here:

It is well known that the property is designated a National Historic Site, and is protected under Part 4 of the Ontario Heritage act, but what is more interesting is its inclusion in Aurora’s North East Heritage Conservation District means it is protected under Part 5 of the Ontario Heritage act.

This protection means the property is subject to the recently adopted Town of Aurora’s Preservation of Heritage Buildings Bylaw 5489-13 and the fence appears to be in violation of section 5.15.1, subsections a)
and b) of that bylaw.

Fences are referenced multiple times in the North East HeritageConservation District plan:
specifically on:

– page 23 under Physical Features

– page 37 under section 4.6.3 – Fences

– page 97 under 9.2.11 – Fencing

On pages 64 and 97 the very fence is featured in two photos taken 10 years ago:

The condition of the fence has deteriorated significantly in the past 10 years, and the owners of Hillary House have done little to nothing to maintain its condition over that span.

Given that the site is included in the Town of Aurora’s Doors Open event next month I brought this to the attention of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Heritage Advisory Committee yesterday.

The matter was brought up for discussion under New Business and John Macintired, a member of the committee and president of the Aurora Historical Society dismissed responsibility for the issue. He told the committee that although a quote was prepared the fence was ultimately the responsibility of Parks Canada and when contacted was informed that there was no money available for repairs.


Hillary House is owned by the Historical Society, not Parks Canada.

If Parks Canada is not willing to repair the fence the Historical Society is bound under 2 separate bylaws to do so.

Crying poor and trying to pass the blame is despicable. Certainly not becoming of a town and society that continues to flaunt the Prince of Wales Prize.

Where any reasonable organization would have a contingency fund for repairs of this nature for some reason the Historical Society does not.

Curious, given the Aurora Historical Society received $70,000 from the town this year, and for the last 2 years they have run a Hillarity House Ball under the auspice of raising $ for the upkeep of the property.

It also seems incredibly hypocritical that board members of Aurora Historical Society were very vocal about supporting a Conservation District in the South East of Aurora where similar guidelines would be imposed on other property owners in the town when they are unwilling to adhere to their own.

On page 134 of the North East Conservation District the plan does not condone “diminishing the sense of pedestrian safety, and damaging the relation of the street to the buildings on it.”

Then on page 162 the plan also strives to avoid “creating an environment that is actively hostile to pedestrians.”

It is regretful that the owners of the property are unwilling to co-operate in bringing the fence back to code in the most expeditious manner and therefore would expect the Town of Aurora to follow the regulatory provisions of the Ontario Heritage Act, the Planning Act, the Building Code Act, and the Municipal Act as stated in section 8.4 Enforcement of the District Plan.

Of course there are rules for some, and rules for others.

How they are applied in Aurora depends which side of the fence you’re on.


2 thoughts on “between you, me and the fence post

  1. Hi Chris. You weren’t listening on Monday night. While the fence is the responsibility of Parks Canada and is located on Town property, the Aurora Historical Society has taken responsibility for its repair and repainting in the past and will find a way to do so again if the federal government does not live up to its responsibility for this National Historic Site. Yes, the Town has supported the work of the AHS and the preservation of Hillary House with a grant of $70,000 this year. This represents about half of what the AHS must raise to meet its costs. Hillary House and Sharon Temple (where I work as Director/Curator) are two of a very few National Historic Site museums which are not operated directly by a government agency. I feel very fortunate to work with the many dedicated volunteers who are part of the Aurora Historical Society and the Sharon Temple Museum Society who keep these places going, who work very hard and who have raised many hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. I also think it is a good thing that there are people like you who bring issues like the condition of the Hillary House fence to the fore and challenge us to do better. I do resent, however, the personal attack in your blog. Was “Macintired” really necessary?

    1. Hi John.

      How incredibly patronizing of you. I was listening on Monday night, to that issue in particular as I was the one who brought it to the attention of the committee’s chair and vice chair.

      What you have written just compounds the confusion. Why, if in the past “the Aurora Historical Society has taken responsibility for its repair and repainting” would it now shun the responsibility on Parks Canada?

      You claimed the damage was a result of snow. If so structural deficiencies should have been apparent during the spring, especially considering the large volunteer turn-out that contributes to tidy and repair efforts. Why did the AHS allow the fence to simply fall apart instead of pro-actively addressing the issue and matching resources accordingly? Why would the AHS knowingly operate in contravention of both the town’s bylaws and the North East Heritage Conservation District which they are required to by law?

      You state that the AHS will take responsibility “if the federal government doesn’t live up to its responsibility” yet on Monday night I heard you clearly state that they refused to do so citing a lack of $. So what exactly does the AHS plan to do and when? Hillary House is listed as a site for the Doors Open event next month. Will Aurora’s “gem” have an open door but a fence wrapped in caution tape?

      I have addressed the crying poor mantra of the AHS in several posts but seeing as you have provided a framework with respect to the town’s $70,000 grant “representing about half of what the AHS must raise to meet its costs.” we can extrapolate the AHS expenses to around $140,000 per year.

      It doesn’t take a math teacher to figure out that the society cannot continue to carry these large costs.

      I too applaud volunteers that raised many hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. Raising money is a good thing, pissing it away is not.

      Money was raised for a museum in the Church Street School. It never materialized.

      The Aurora Collection suffered from lack of proper care and handling, artifacts are unaccounted for even though the town paid tens of thousands of dollars a year for maintaining the collection.

      Hillary House is a money pit, without enough $ to repair something as simple as the fence it is now visible to not only the Town, but the Province and the Nation that the AHS is in over its head.

      Staff is being jettisoned, yet somehow holding an elitist $150/ticket fundraiser out of town where a greater % of funds raised go to the event than the cause is justified?

      The board of directors is responsible for approval of budgets and strategy, both of which have failed and at staggering costs.

      Hiding behind the guise of “volunteerism” does nothing to reverse course.

      As for your last two statements I will address those in a post all their own.

Watts on your mind?

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