514 Pearl recommended for heritage designation

514 Pearl StCity staff are recommending that council state its intention to designate the property at 514 Pearl Street, “The Hughes Cleaver House,” pursuant to Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, and refuse the request from the owners to remove the property from the Municipal Registry of heritage properties in order to demolish it.

The owners want to redevelop the property into a semi-detached house. Such use is not currently permitted on the property, so the proposal would require a Zoning bylaw amendment.

According to staff, the house meets all three criteria under Ontario Regulation 9/06 for designation which include Design or Physical Value, Historical or Associative Value, and Contextual Value. Only one criteria needs to be met under the act to proceed with designation. Further, the city’s Official Plan requires the city to “protect, improve and manage its cultural heritage resources…and set an example of leadership for the community in the conservation of cultural heritage.” The Plan further requires designation of individual heritage properties to achieve heritage conservation objectives.

Regarding design, “The Hughes Cleaver House” is a good example of a Craftsman Style Bungalow. Based on staff’s assessment, no alterations have been identified that diminish the architectural style of the house.

The property has significant associative or historical value as the house was built for Hughes Cleaver Jr., who had significant roles in Burlington society as lawyer, Reeve, Mayor, developer, business entrepreneur, and also, as an MP of Halton. Additionally, the house is said to be built by George Blair, who was a Master Builder, and constructed a number of residential homes in downtown Burlington.

Regarding contextual value, “The Hughes Cleaver” House is located on a prominent corner of Caroline Street and Pearl Street. The house has not been moved from its original location; and makes a strong contribution to the historic streetscape of Caroline Street. Hughes Cleaver Jr.’s development plan for this area (Plan 134, Crescent Survey, 1911) included Emerald Street and its wide boulevard which was the prototype of Rossmore Boulevard in his later Roseland Development. Cleaver later moved to 2085 Caroline across the street, which was designed in December 2015.

Additional background on the house is below.

According to Burlington’s Heritage Resource Inventory, the subject property was given an “A” grade when it was evaluated by Heritage Burlington (formerly LACAC) in 1997.

In 2014, Heritage Burlington retained a Heritage Consultant (ARA Ltd.) to conduct a review of all formerly graded “A” properties to determine if they still have the cultural heritage values and belong on the Municipal Register. This recent evaluation of 514 Pearl Street by the consultant has provided a grade of 80/100, based on Heritage Burlington’s newly created “Evaluation Criteria”; and it was recommended that the property should remain on the Municipal Register.

At its meeting March 8, Heritage Burlington voted to recommend that council approve the request to remove the home from the Municipal Registry to allow for demolition. Based on a meeting with the property owners, and their delegation to the HB meeting, designating the home would be against the owners wishes. HB will not as a rule endorse “forced” designations, unless a property is considered to be of such significant cultural value or interest and importance to the history of the city that a forced designation is warranted. In such a case, HB recommends some kind of negotiated financial settlement between the owner and the city.

After discussion, the committee felt that the theshhold of heritage significance was not high enough to warrant forced designation, for reasons that include: other examples of craftsman style bungalows exist in Burlington; Cleaver’s heritage is preserved in other ways in the city, including 2085 Caroline and the Pig and Whistle, both designated properties; and there have been some alterations to the home at the sides and back. The chair of HB will be sending a memo to council outlining their rationale. It is available here: Heritage Burlington Comments – 514 Pearl Street 15.03.16

The owners have indicated a willingness to allow the house to be moved. If council approves the demolition, the owners hope to reuse design elements of 514 Pearl in the new home, and erect a plaque to Cleaver’s importance to the neighbourhood.

Staff is of the opinion that the loss of this property will have a significant impact on the neighbourhood; and its demolition would further deplete the rich heritage character of the City of Burlington. Each heritage property that is lost, incrementally undermines the City’s ability to understand and celebrate its past through tangible physical resources.

Should Council accept staff’s recommendation to designate the property, Burlington and the Region’s Heritage Property Tax Rebate program would be available to the owners. They would also be eligible to apply to the Community Heritage Fund (CHF) for restoration works of 25% of eligible project costs to a maximum of $15,000.

The Development & Infrastructure Committee will consider the recommendation to designate the property March 22, followed immediately by a special council meeting. A decision must be rendered by March 24 to meet the 60-day timeline once a letter of intention to demolish has been received.

Council’s decision can be appealed to the Conservation Review Board; the Board then schedules a hearing. Following a hearing, the Board prepares a report for City Council, and Council’s decision will be the final decision.

My Take: This is a difficult decision, given that designation would be against the owners wishes. It is not a decision to be made lightly, and if it is pursued we must consider options to assist the owners financially, outlined below.

There are times when a building is worthy of designation, even against the owners wishes, and this is one of those times. I support the staff recommendation to designate the house for the reasons outlined in their report. Hughes Cleaver’s legacy would be diminished in Burlington if this part of his heritage is demolished; we would all lose a part of our history.

Though other craftsman style houses exist, they are not designated, thus not themselves protected from demolition. The house from the front remains unchanged; the alterations either don’t change the look of the house (example replacing wood with aluminum windows similar in look) or are at the side or back of the house, not the front. This house tells one part of the Cleaver story.

We cannot let this part of Burlington’s heritage, history and culture be demolished;  Once a heritage building is gone, it is gone forever. A plaque and design elements don’t replace the actual building, especially one of this significance that meets not one, but all three criteria for designation.

Should council pursue designation, I recommend that the city offer to assist the owners to sell the home, or alternatively offer to purchase the home, designate it, then put it back on the market for resale. Inhouse realty services could facilitate the sale, saving legal fees, and real estate commission on the purchase. Any difference between the purchase and sale price would be nominal – a minor investment with a major benefit of preserving a significant part of Burlington’s heritage.

The Hughes Cleaver House

The house is a one and a half storey structure clad with stretcher-bond brick on a rubble stone foundation; and an end-gabled roof with low shed dormer that extends to cover the wrap around verandah. The verandah is supported by Tuscan Capital Posts grouped in four on stone-topped brick piers at three corners, and two single posts at the entrance. The original low balustrade around the verandah has unusually grouped posts. The lower level windows have stone sills; and both windows and door at the lower level have segmental arches with radiating voussoirs.

In 1915, the subject property was purchased by Hughes Cleaver Jr., who was the eldest son of Ellis H. Cleaver Sr. Hughes Cleaver Jr. was a prominent lawyer like his father; and worked alongside his father E. H. Cleaver Sr. at the law firm “Cleaver and Cleaver”.

He was elected Reeve of Burlington in 1918-19; but he left the law practice and resigned as Reeve to enlist in the war effort overseas. He enlisted as private in a tank battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In 1920, H. Cleaver Jr. served as Mayor of Burlington. In 1929, stock market crash left H. Cleaver Jr. financially devastated; and he was disbarred by the Law Society for misuse of clients’ funds. Even after this occurrence, he was still nominated and elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Halton from 1935 to1953. He repaid his creditors; and was reinstated by the Law Society in 1952.

Following his reinstatement, H. Cleaver Jr. relinquished his seat in Parliament to practice law. In Ottawa, he chaired the Banking and Commerce Committee, the War Expenditures Committee, and the Railroad and Trans-Canada Airways Committee. In 1929, he partnered with English Inns Ltd. in the building of the Pig & Whistle Inn (5527 Lakeshore Road) that was considered to be one of Cleaver Jr.’s greatest ventures. Other business ventures by Cleaver Jr. included the formation and operation of Bluebird Bus Lines (2015 Lakeshore Road), a fox farm on Caroline Street, and a cure-all remedy called “radium water”, which was said “to have ended for one patient’s troubles altogether”.

According to Stanley Blair, “The Hughes Cleaver House” on 514 Pearl Street was built in 1917 by George Blair, one of the most famous builders in Burlington. This house was built for Hughes Cleaver Jr. when he was first married to Ariel Shapland, who had designed Burlington’s first coat-of-arms in 1913. The young couple first lived in a nearby house and then moved to this house. The couple again moved to a grand house on 2085 Caroline Street (designated in December, 2015) built in circa 1924.



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