News / Kitchener

Waterloo moves to protect two heritage buildings

Heritage advocates are applauding the city’s move to protect two of its historic buildings.

On Monday night, councillors voted to designate two very different structures — a log school house dating from 1820 and the Edwardian brick commercial building that once housed Canada’s first mutual life insurance company — under the Ontario Heritage Act.

“I think it’s very important for the city of Waterloo to maintain and support its heritage,” said Joanna Rickert-Hall, a member of the municipal heritage committee. “I think it strengthens our identity as a multicultural community.”

The former home of the Mutual Life Assurance Co. at 14 Erb St. W. — most recently the home to a Waterloo Regional Police division — was recently declared surplus by the region and will be put up for sale.

A new owner would be aware of its heritage designation, Rickert-Hall said. “They would already know what the expectations are.”

An owner would have to apply to the city for a permit to undertake alterations to any identified heritage elements, or to demolish the building. Those elements include the Albert and Erb street facades and the two decorative lions flanking the front steps.

The school house, now located in Waterloo Park, is believed to be the oldest known log school in the province. It was originally built in the Central Street area on land donated by Abraham Erb, and was later moved to Kitchener where it became the home of an ex-slave and his family.

Even in the 19th century, “it was also considered too valuable to be destroyed,” Rickert-Hall told council. It was moved to the park in 1894.

“It’s a very important focal point for our community,” Mayor Brenda Halloran said.

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