Why Gatineau’s advice saved this home and what it could mean for others like it
An author and historian says a house style built in the 19th and early 20th centuries as part of the history of the Hull sector of Gatineau, Que needs to be protected.
Les maisons allumettesor matchstick houses, housed working-class families employed in sawmills or matchstick factories in the area.
“By the turn of the century, virtually all of the population was working class, with the exception of a privileged few,” said author Kathleen Durocher, who believes the homes need to be protected.
“So it’s really everyone’s story.”
One such home was the focus of Gatineau City Council last week when it voted to halt demolition of the building to make way for a 10-story, 159-unit apartment building.
Gestion NDI Champlain Inc., the company behind the project, has said it intends to seek court approval for the demolition.
A company spokesman told Radio-Canada that they would not comment as the case is pending trial.
Almost impossible to renovate, the company says
count. Jocelyn Blondin voted against saving the property, saying the building may not be salvageable since it has been derelict for so long.
At a special council meeting earlier this month, Gestion NDI Champlain Inc.’s attorney presented several reports detailing the poor condition of the building.
Éric Olivier listed a number of structural flaws that would make renovation all but impossible.
count. Steve Moran, who voted to protect the home, said the historical value of the property had been underestimated and the case for demolition was not strong enough.
He said it was just a first step in the process of protecting the home, something with which Claude Royer, president of the residents’ association, agreed.
At the council meeting in early February, Royer also said he thinks the reports presented may be wrong – that the foundation may be in better shape than previously thought.
He also questioned the presence of rot and asbestos in the walls.
Maintain the charm in the future
Durocher estimates there are around 100 of the homes, some of which have been renovated over the last 50 years with mixed results.
“The quality of conservation and renovation over time in the 70’s, 80’s and after varies greatly from house to house [another],” She said.
“Some have retained their charm from the past and others have been greatly altered over time.”
count. Daniel Champagne, who voted to save the house at 207 rue de Notre-Dame-de-l’Île from demolition, also said he would like the city to review regulations on listed properties so they don’t fall into disrepair can be left.
Durocher said she thinks it’s a good idea — a way to keep the area’s history alive while looking to the future.
She said a plan for “neighborhoods and planning the city with a certain aesthetic, a certain perspective on how certain houses can be preserved” could make them viable for the future and allow the buildings to be renovated to meet the needs of the community 21st century needs.
This could also unlock some money from the government for the work needed, Durocher said.
“To help people who own these houses, who rent these houses, to work with the right materials and the right perspective so that they look like matchstick houses, at least in spirit, but don’t have to live in 19th-century conditions.”
count. Mario Aubé said he would like the city to make an inventory of all matchstick houses and he also floated the idea of a tourist circuit to make the houses an attraction.