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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.



Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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  1. I often drive past this house and I always think how fortunate the owners are to have such a unique and beautiful, one-of-a-kind house. As an added bonus, their property values have surely gone up a lot with the other homes that are now all around them. I can’t imagine tearing it down. If it no longer suits them, then they should sell it to someone else. When the owners bought it, they obviously liked it at the time, but perhaps have outgrown it. That happens. I think this is one house that should be designated and saved. I am very tired of all the character being destroyed, especially in south Burlington. Soon we will look just like any other generic city. Lakeshore Road sure is looking worse and worse with every new build.

  2. Hello,

    I’m Stephanie Wellens, my husband (Morgan Wellens) and I are the homeowners of 514 Pearl Street.
    We’d like our community to know that submitting the request to demolish our first home is not one that we have taken lightly. We’d like to take this opportunity to share our perspective.

    We purchased the home in 2009 and have spent the last 7 years fixing it up. We focused our efforts on the curb appeal of the home and worked tirelessly on our evenings and weekends to fix it up. Once we started to make some noticeable improvements to the curb appeal of the home, our neighbours took notice and would come stop us in our work to communicate their appreciation. Thanking us for fixing up what they had come to call “the eye sore of the neighbourhood.” But, while we spruced up the outside we were at a standstill on the inside, faced with substantial problems that weren’t financially practical to fix. Our original plan was to make this our long-term family home but when we started to get quotes to remedy some of the more substantial problems within the home, we realized that the renovation costs were far too great. Some of those problems include: significant mould growth, rotting wood, a basement we can’t stand in with 5’7’’ ceilings and the low roofline of the 2nd floor prevents us from having a 2nd floor shower. In 2013, we began to realize that updating the home was not going to be feasible nor would it be in the best interest of our growing family and the community.

    Throughout this process we have worked closely with Heritage Burlington, we’ve engaged accredited heritage professionals and award winning local architects as well as members of our community. Our home is a nice home, and it has some heritage significance, but I hope you will agree that losing this home will not have a significant impact on Burlington’s heritage or the immediate neighbourhood.

    We want to continue working with Heritage Burlington and the community and are open to all discussions regarding relocating the home. If it cannot be arranged to move the home, we would love to re-use certain foundational elements (i.e. bricks) of the home and design elements (i.e. porch columns/cedar shingles) to assist in preserving some of the heritage aspects of the home. I myself grew up downtown Burlington in a heritage home that won a heritage award for integrating the old design with the new. New builds can in some cases add more architectural integrity to the neighbourhood, and our vision for our new home is to do just that!

    We believe that City Planning has moved very quickly to recommend a forced designation on our property. Our research has proven that City Planning has not taken the time to find the accurate facts pertaining to the property and are working with incomplete and overstated information. When we presented our findings to the Heritage Committee, they voted almost unanimously (11 for, 1 abstained and 1 against) in our favour and agreed that our home should be removed from the Municipal Heritage Registry. Given that Heritage Burlington strongly supports our request to remove our home from the registry, we are surprised and can’t understand why staff and our councillor Marianne Meed Ward would contradict their recommendation on a heritage matter. Forcefully designating our home against our wishes infringes on our rights as the property owners and will negatively impact our growing family for years to come.

    We thank you for your time and your passion for maintaining the heritage of Burlington. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

    Stephanie Wellens
    514 Pearl Street

  3. I agree that keeping our heritage is important, however, as the current owner bought this house without the heritage designation they should be entitled to do with it as they see fit. If the city wants to offer them fair market value to buy the home, then designated it and resell to someone who knowingly buys it with the designation that would be fine in my opinion. The other option is for the city to remove the house to another location at their expense.

    Many of the older houses in the downtown core on the outside may appear to be nice homes, but in reality are just poorly built and have wet basements. We know as we looked at several houses before settling on out location downtown. We also considered this house at one time, but felt the renovation costs would be too much. Glad we didn’t opt to buy it as this would have proved to be a poor choice in light of the city’s current actions.

  4. I’ve seen a lot of destruction of what I wished had been saved (The McLaughlin House, on Lakeshore at Burlington St, for example) and it saddens me that “money wins out” so often in Burlington. I would love to see the Cleaver House saved. A fantasy of mine would be a large city block set aside for relocating buildings such as this; offices could be located in them; doctors, layers, dental, real estate, etc. It would show that the town cared; the buildings would be useful; walking tours would be arranged, and it would be a designated historical district. As it is, buildings are scattered around town. Like the Train Station. Each year, we lose more heritage. Lion’s Park has already been chopped and butchered from what it used to be. Perhaps a Historical Block could be located there !

  5. As a long time resident of downtown Burlington, and a recipient of a Heritage Development Award, I can appreciate the sensitivity around the subject of demolition but in this case I believe forcing a home owner to take a designation is the city strong arming.

    Mr. Cleaver has already had several properties designated in his honour and this poor example of the style is not a major addition to the city’s heritage inventory.

    The 514 Pearl St. house sits dwarfed by new development and offering a financial support of up to $15,000 is almost laughable when you compare it to the values of properties the city has allowed to develop all around it. Currently the little house is just out of place, surrounded and over powered by neighbouring developments twice it’s height and size. Staff may consider looking at neighbourhoods as a whole rather than nit pick and end up with a hodge podge of bits a pieces.

    I am a pro-heritage voter but in this case I would not be able to support your recommendation, especially since the owner has shown a sensitivity to the architectural details of the area and is willing to incorporate them in the design. A new build could add continuity of mass and done with architectural integrity could bridge the old and the new.

    • Your quite correct in your take of this matter. Lets face it, the home only now sparks interest because of the upgrades done to the exterior by the present owners, before that it looked pretty shabby. The owners are at an impasse due to the interior rot so the city should buy it, (a waste of money, like its investment in the lakeshore mansion fiasco of many years ago), or let the owners get on with demolishing it,

  6. One by one, we are eliminating Burlington’s history. By preserving these homes, trees and surroundings, Burlington residents can see and appreciate our ancestors. They will seek out their stories and be proud to be part of that heritage. A plaque will not do that.

    I strongly agree with you, Marianne. ” 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.”

    The history of the Master Builder, George Blair, will also be diminished.

    Please do not destroy our cherished history and the beauty of downtown Burlington.

  7. It is a lovely home and we need to retain some history rather than the high rise ugly glass high rises, or streets with row upon row of the same townhouses. or equally detached houses. Downtown Burlington used to have its own beauty and charm, which it is fast losing. Once gone it cannot be
    replaced. The present owners bought it, one would think because they liked it. If they have a change of mind, surely the can get another home of their liking somewhere else. I’m sure the house would sell very fast if in good order at a fair price.

    Please we do not need a Toronto Harbour front in Burlington which had its own charm.

  8. Hi Marianne:

    This is a tough one. Property rights have a long been enshrined in our legal system so forcing owners to do something against their will needs to be thought out very carefully.

    As for this particular property, we know that one of the units just across the street sold last week for almost $1.3 million. So a retail value on the property, if a semi is built similar to the one across the street, would be in the order of $2.6 million. The problem with the city buying the property is that they would be paying a market price that is based on its potential to be turned into something much more valuable whereas the city would be selling the property based on its historic value. And the difference between these two may be much more than you are assuming particularly in today’s housing market.

    If the city does not buy the property but still forces the Heritage designation on the owner then the owner may sue the city over the loss of potential value. Has the city done any study on what the impact of a Heritage designated has had on property values?

    In the end it may be more prudent to walk away from this one. The developer did a nice job in constructing the units across the street and would no doubt do the same on this property. The heritage designation of the property on Caroline would still preserve the significant contribution made by Hughes Cleaver to our city.

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