At the April 8 meeting of the North York Community Council, Nancy Elgie, widow of the respected former Ontario cabinet minister Dr. Robert Elgie, enumerated the reasons why the Thomas G. Elgie House at 262 Bessborough Dr. should be preserved and not be demolished (as applied for by the owner).
She noted that York East, the area represented by her husband, had included the property. The house was the last remaining example of what farm life was like 120 years ago in this part of Toronto.
“This unique part of our heritage is irreplaceable. Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said, adding, “The property remains such an asset for the community, the lot size, and the graciousness. It is an example of something that can be seen and experienced, not just a picture in a book of lost landmarks.”
She told the developer that she wished for the whole property to be declared a cultural heritage site.
“You bought it as it was zoned and now you want to change the designation. You speculated, but that isn’t a guarantee that you should win. At Casino Rama the odds are rarely in your favour.”
After the meeting, some of us went for lunch with Nancy and discovered there was more to this passionate and sparky lady than just being the spouse of a former politician. She is a long-time school trustee in Keswick (on Lake Simcoe) and (at the age of 80) has already registered for another term. We were reminded that Dr. Robert Elgie was both a lawyer and a surgeon before becoming a politician. And we all felt Nancy must have been an admirable companion to Robert.
Nancy was not the only Elgie family member speaking in favour of having the property declared a cultural heritage site. The public record reveals the presence of nine letters written by Elgie family members from places such as California, Vancouver, Arizona, Waterloo, and Hanna Rd. in Leaside. They stress that seeing a historic house is preferable to reading about it.
North York Community Council recommended to City Council that the demolition permit be denied. And that City Council approve legal and planning support from the city at the Ontario Municipal Board.
Neighbours of 262 Bessborough at the meeting were listening intently and taking notes. Several wondered why the owner sought an application for a demolition permit rather than for an alteration permit.
If a demolition permit under the Ontario Heritage Act were appealed, it would be to the OMB and the decision, effectively final. By contrast, if an alteration permit under the Conservation Review Board were appealed, there would be a recommendation to Council.
City staff said that they had advised the owner to apply for an alteration permit but instead he insisted on a demolition permit. One can only suppose that the owner prefers to take his chances at the OMB rather than on a recommendation back to council.