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'A piece of Manotick is gone' with demolition of Falls House: historian

Manotick News Oct 24, 2016 - by Erin McCracken

Falls House - Emma Jackson

'A piece of Manotick is gone' with demolition of Falls House: historian
Replacement office building now in the design stages

[Metroland File Photo
The Falls House was built at the corner of Manotick Main Street and Maple Avenue in 1896. Over its lifespan, it had just three owners. It was torn down earlier this month, and designs are now in the works to redevelop the lot into a three-storey office building with ground-floor commercial space.]

Disappointment continues to ripple through Manotick in the wake of the recent demolition of the Falls House, a distinctive home built in 1896.

"A piece of Manotick is gone," said Larry Ellis, a longtime Manotick resident and local historian. "I'm sorry to see it go. No question about that."

There was never an intention to tear down the home, said Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, who worked with the new owner of the property as well as community leaders for a year in hopes of preserving the building, located at the corner of Manotick Main Street and Maple Avenue.

Around the time it was put up for sale in 2013, the councillor applied to have it added to the city's heritage register, giving the city 60 days' notice if a demolition permit was sought.
"From the outside it looked great. Inside it was another story."
- Coun. Scott Moffatt

That heads' up would have allowed the councillor to have the house assessed for possible heritage protection.

When it was purchased in 2015, the owner, a Manotick resident who works in the financial sector, hoped to turn it into a coffee shop and build office space in back, said Moffatt.

"From the outside it looked great," he said of the 120-year-old home. "Inside it was another story. It was never maintained."

The rooms were small, and the second floor had been blocked off and hadn't been heated, causing significant damage. There were cracks in the walls and in one room the ceiling had caved in.

"There's really nothing of significant character inside the house," said Moffatt, who brought several community leaders in for tours to discuss options with the owner. "They all saw the reality inside the house."

OUT OF OPTIONS

Klaus Beltzner, president of the Manotick Village and Community Association, said the community is saddened by the loss of this "Manotick icon."

However, he said everything possible was done by community leaders, the owner and Moffatt to find a way to prevent the building from being torn down.

Beltzner said it was determined the structure was unsafe and not of sufficient heritage value.

"Despite this, additional efforts were made to consider stabilizing the building and have it moved to a parking lot across Maple at Manotick Main, but the costs were prohibitive as it also involved the need for a high dollar purchase of the parking lot," Beltzner said in an email to Metroland.

Another site was also considered, but Moffatt said relocating the Falls House would have cost $25,000 to $50,000, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade and transform the home.

And the slanted foundation and outdated plumbing would have also been very expensive to address.

"It's unfortunate," said Moffatt, who, prior to demolition, took several photos and filmed a video of the home's interior, which he plans to soon post on his website.

The Falls House was built by Alexander Montgomery, who purchased the land for $400. John and Dora Falls bought it in 1935, and it passed on to their son Reg, who died in December 2012, leaving the home to his nieces.

"Reg was in the army during the war and I knew him very well after the war," Ellis said of the army veteran, whom he visited at his home many times over the years.

"I think he would have liked to have seen it kept as it was, as the gateway or the entrance to Manotick," said Ellis. "It was one of the first things you see when you come in right at the corner of Bridge and Main."

The Falls House had a distinctive design. It was a narrow home with a tin roof and gingerbread-style roofline trim. A barn located at the back served as a horse stable at one time.

"Manotick's lost something," Ellis said, adding the "the fear" now is that its replacement "will be so modern it won't fit in with the rest of the town."

He also worries other aging and vacant buildings in the village core could share the same fate one day.

Beltzner confirmed that efforts are now underway to ensure the community has a say in the vision for that corner of the village.

"The community leaders and Coun. Moffatt are working with the owner to design a new building at this location that is acceptable to the community," he said.

FUTURE VISION

A three-storey office building with ground-floor commercial space is now in the works for the vacant lot, which is zoned for village mixed use. Moffatt said he has presented the owner with some workable design options.

"It's fine for the building to be new and to look new, but it also needs to somehow respect the character of Manotick. A brand new glass-steel structure doesn't fit the village," he said.

The area of Manotick in question could use a makeover, Moffatt said, to extend the village feel and give residents and visitors a reason for walking farther north beyond the core.

"This is not a street corner that screams heritage at all," Moffatt said.

While he doesn't yet know what the timeline is for the rebuild project, he doesn't want the lot to sit empty for years on end.

"I think it's a first step along the way," Moffatt said of the redevelopment. "Obviously, it would have been much nicer to have kept the Falls House and have that be incorporated into the entire vision, but it just wasn't in the cards."

Erin McCracken is a reporter/photographer with Metroland Media's Ottawa South News. She can be reached at erin.mccracken@metroland.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Manotick's Falls house to be added to heritage registry

Ottawa West News Nov. 14, 2013 - by Emma Jackson

{Excerpt}
... The brown and white wood structure is a landmark in the village, especially since it sits directly on the village's busiest corner.

"When you see the Falls house you know you're in Manotick," said Rich Mc-Donald, a former Manotick councillor. He said protecting the house is important, because it's a landmark in the village. "Just like the mill is part of Manotick, that house certainly is as well."

Local historian Larry Ellis said the house was likely built in 1896 by Alex Montgomery after purchasing the property for $400. The home has likely only had three owners since it was built, he said, including Reg Falls, who died last December.

The home is "uncommonly narrow," Ellis said, and features steep pitched roofs, gables and bargeboard. A stone and concrete foundation surrounds a deep basement. The verandas, spindles, window frames and doors are all "interesting in contemporary design," he said.

Inside, the home has wide pine baseboards and wide framed arches and doorways, which Ellis said is typical of older type homes. The garage behind the home was used as a stable for horses. ...

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