We’ve all heard stories of prestigious, historic homes such as the Parkwood Estate, and the people who lived in them, in the case of Parkwood, Robert Sam McLaughlin.
Historical buildings are the foundation of our heritage and culture. So why isn’t more being done to preserve them and the memories they hold?
Like the house at 195 Simcoe St. N, which has recently been proposed for demolition.
It belonged to industrialist Robert McLaughlin who founded McLaughlin Carriage Works, which became General Motors (GM) under the management of his son, Robert Sam McLaughlin.
The house, built in the late 1880s, was designed in the Classical Revival Style. McLaughlin lived there for almost twenty years, from 1901 to 1919. In the 60s, it became office space for doctors and dentists. It is currently empty.
Heritage Oshawa, Oshawa’s heritage council, has asked city councillors that the building be designated as an important historical building, which would offer it more protection.
Heritage Oshawa advises city council on heritage-related issues. Heritage Oshawa has a list of historically significant buildings called an inventory.
If they feel a building on the inventory is especially significant, they can try to have it designated, which gives it extra protections to help conserve it.
McLaughlin and his family had a major influence on Oshawa. This influence can still be felt today, thanks to GM.
Heritage houses are sometimes slotted for demolition to make room for townhouses and apartment buildings. That is understandable. But when these homes are demolished, part of history is erased.
In 2016, another house on Simcoe St. N. was torn down. It belonged to a woman named Harriet Cock. She was one of Oshawa’s first female land owners. Her house told a story from a female perspective. By demolishing her house, she was forgotten.
Not only was her legacy completely erased but so was a historical perspective, one which is often ignored.
These people and houses are part of what makes Oshawa, Oshawa. It is important to protect both the houses and by extension, the stories they tell.
There needs to be better, more impactful ways to protect our historical buildings. Heritage Oshawa can only recommend what they think should be done with a building.
Oshawa City Council has the final say on what is designated and what is demolished.
Perhaps Heritage Oshawa should have more of a say, or citizens should have more power in making these decisions. Either way, more must be done to preserve Oshawa’s history for future generations.
As the Durham Region undergoes tremendous growth and development, this issue is increasingly important.
If you see a building that should be preserved, speak up. Talk to Heritage Oshawa, learn about the building, fight for its survival.
Citizens saved the Henry, Guy and Robinson Houses which are now home to the Oshawa Museum.
Let’s save the home of Robert McLaughlin, one Oshawa’s most influential figures.