Oakville fights to designate 180-year-old “gothic” farmhouse a heritage property
Published November 10, 2023 at 2:34 pm
An eye-catching but isolated white farmhouse, surrounded by trees and tall grass in the Burhamthorpe and Trafalgar area in Oakville, is the subject of a disagreement between town staff and the property owner.
The disagreement lies in whether or not the gothic-style Bentley family farmhouse, built around 1840 not far from the Mississauga border in an area that remains relatively rural to this day, should be designated as a heritage property.
In a report set to be considered by town council at an upcoming planning and development meeting, town staff members argue that Oakville should proceed with designating the farm located at 3444 Trafalgar Rd. as a property of cultural heritage value or interest.
The report, written in response to a notice of objection, says council declared its intention to designate the property at a previous Sept. 11 meeting.
“A notice of objection to the designation was received by the Town within the required timeframe as set out in the Ontario Heritage Act. Staff has reviewed the notice of objection provided, and despite the objection, remains of the opinion that the property meets the criteria for determining cultural value or interest and continues to merit heritage designation,” the report reads.
According to town staff, the one-and-a-half-storey, stucco-clad farmhouse was built in the Gothic revival style of architecture in the 19th century and was included in the substantial land holdings of Colonel Peter Adamson, a celebrated military figure who lived in Thorne Lodge in modern-day Erindale.
The home is also linked to the Kenney family, but neither they nor the Colonel ever lived there.
In the objection to the heritage designation, solicitors for DGB Trafalgar Ltd., the property owner, presented a report from Vincent J. Santamaura, Architect Inc., arguing the property only meets one of the nine criteria required under the Ontario Heritage Act and its regulations and must meet at least two to be designated.
In his letter, Santamaura said the building is not an exemplary example of Gothic architecture as it’s missing some key features, including a porch and enhanced decoration. The letter also says that while the construction is unique, it’s not uncommon and is typical for areas close to rivers where flat shale rock stones are available.
Santamaura wrote that the appearance of diamond mesh attached to the exterior wall under the stucco finish suggests the finish is not original and was applied in the mid-20th century. He also said that while the Bentley family who did reside on the property were “solid, hardworking citizens of the community,” they did not rise to leadership roles in the community, province or country.
The letter also said that any other buildings that would give the property additional context have since been removed, leaving the house a solitary structure surrounded by fields.
“The building lacks any visual presence in its presentation to the street either by outstanding architectural design elements or any features which would attract the eye to it or by its proximity to the street,” he wrote, adding that moving the property would also be challenging.
Santamaura’s report says the only criteria the house meets is being rare, unique and representative of a certain point in time.
In the report, town staff said it remains their opinion that the house has cultural heritage value for its direct associations with the Bentley family, who owned the property for 106 years and contributed to the agricultural development of Trafalgar Township.
“The building also has cultural heritage value for its associations with the theme of early agricultural development in Oakville and the former Trafalgar Township,” the report reads, adding that it remains an important physical reminder of the town’s agricultural past and the contributions of early European settlers to the 19th and 20th-century development of the area.
“…The property also has the potential to yield information about early European settlement and the construction of early settler homes,” the report reads.
Addressing Santamaura’s suggestion that the rear of the house might actually have been built later, the report says that part might not be eligible for heritage designation.
In the report, staff say they believe the home is an example of a “19th-century Ontario Gothic Revival style house,” despite there being no front porch.
“The house is especially unique because of its stone and rubble construction. There are relatively few known buildings in Oakville to have been constructed this way and only one other known remaining example in Oakville at this time,” the report says.
“As one of only a handful of remaining historic farmhouse structures in the local area, the Bentley Family Farmhouse is an important physical connection to the past and to the former use of this land.”
The report will come before council on Nov. 13. xinhalton's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising