525 Dalhousie Street, Amherstburg, Ontario—AT RISK OF DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT

Dating from 1816 and connected with the War of 1812, one of the few remaining examples of Georgian architecture in Ontario is being left to rot by its owner. Even the national celebrations of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 were not enough for the municipality to enforce its own Property Standards bylaw to deal with this scandalous case of demolition by neglect.

Why it matters Its credentials are impressive. This grand historic brick house known as “Bellevue” is one of the few remaining examples of domestic Georgian architecture in Ontario. It was built in 1816-1819 by Robert Reynolds, the Commissary to the nearby British garrison at Fort Malden, after he returned from serving in the War of 1812. He lived there with his family, and his sister Catherine Reynolds, the renowned artist whose landscape paintings provide an invaluable record of early 19th-century life in Upper Canada. Bellevue House was declared a National Historic Site in 1959, and three years later was selected for an Ontario Heritage Trust plaque. It was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act by the Town of Amherstburg in 1982. The house consists of a central core with symmetrical front flanked by imposing chimneys and side wings. Facing the Detroit River, the spacious villa and grounds offer expansive views. Both Robert Reynolds and his sister Catherine lived at Bellevue until their deaths. Over the years, it has served as a private residence, a hospital administered by Veterans Affairs Canada and a Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Why it’s endangered The Bellevue House has been unoccupied since it was purchased by a numbered Ontario corporation based in Windsor in 2001. The building has been without heat, leaving it, the outbuildings and the grounds in a growing state of deterioration. It has suffered from vandalism and is at risk of fire. Plans to construct condominiums behind the house, which was to be rehabilitated and possibly used as a Bed & Breakfast, have fallen through.

Where Things Stand The local Heritage Committee, the Friends of Bellevue and the Amherstburg Historic Sites Association have been joined by the Windsor branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario in advocating for the preservation of this important historic site. The Town of Amherstburg has been unsuccessful at engaging the owner in a discussion about the future of the property nor has it enforced its Property Standards bylaw in order to reverse the ongoing deterioration of this important residence dating back to the early history of Upper Canada.

Windsor Star, October 30, 2013

UPDATE: In May 2016, the still vacant Bellevue House was listed for sale. In a meeting May 24, town council voted to prepare a business plan and begin negotiations to purchase the property.