Historic Pickering house on track for heritage designation

Nesbit-Neman house future under discussion at Pickering Council. (NESBIT-NEWMANHOUSE_E)

Members of the West Shore community, in Pickering, showed their support at the council meeting, last night, to give the local Nesbit-Newman house and some of the surrounding property heritage designation, but one resident of the home does not want the designation.

The Nesbit-Newman home is a Georgian, stone farmhouse and was built in the mid-1850s in Pickering’s West Shore neighbourhood. It housed several generations of Pickering residents who made a difference in the community. All six Pickering city councillors voted to have the process started to give a portion of the property heritage designation. Richard Newman lives in the home.

“I resent heritage designation,” he said.

Newman said the house needs work done to repair it and if it has heritage designation, he said he would not be able to fix, for example, the windows which badly need attention.

The motion before Pickering Council, put forward by its heritage committee, recommends that any future development of the property “distinguish the home … and provide a reasonable property boundary to retain the heritage context, being approximately 135 feet in frontage on Park Crescent and 140 feet in depth.”

The Ontario Heritage Act states that the owner of a property does not have to be the one requesting the designation or consenting to it.

Among those significant residents of the house were, Peter Nesbit, who helped start the Dunbarton Church. Harry A. Newman brought St. Paul’s on-the-hill Anglican Church from Toronto to Pickering. He was also involved in the fundraising campaign that expanded the Rouge Valley Ajax and Pickering Hospital in 1964. William G. Newman was a reeve of Pickering Township in 1956 and continued on to be an MPP from 1967 to 1981.

Coun. Jennifer O’Connell (Ward 1) said Pickering Council should vote based on what is best for the whole community.

“I support starting the process of heritage designation on the property,” she said. “Only taking into account the owner’s opinion undermines the cultural value and identity of the property.”

In addition to housing prominent residents, the home’s stonework is rare and the original sidelights and transom contribute to the landscape in the neighbourhood.

Danielle Clewes, a resident of the West Shore neighbourhood, said she does not want the land bought by developers.

“In Pickering and much of the Durham Region, there are very few historical sites. This is a beautiful home built on a fabulous plot of land. There is plenty of space elsewhere to claim, tear down and destroy as the city pleases; just leave history alone,” she said.

Seven residents spoke at the council in support of preserving the home. The community submitted a petition to council with over 1,100 signatures.

Mary Humphrys, a community resident and an organizer of the petition, loves the house and wants as much of the land preserved as possible.

“I can’t think of a good reason why this house shouldn’t be designated as a heritage home. This house has been part of shaping Pickering’s past,” she said.

All of the councillors strongly supported the motion to beginthe designation process.

Coun. Bill McLean (Ward 2) said if the decision is differed, the land may be taken by developers.

“It’s important that we act on this now,” he said.

The process of heritage designation includes a 30-day objection period. Following that, the decision goes back to council for a final vote.