Permit issued for demolition of Belleville’s “Coleman Castle”

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| Published , updated February 1, 2024

The 1830’s era Victorian style mansion estimated to have been built in 1872 is located at 68 North Front St, Belleville, Ontario. It was formerly known as “Coleman Castle” and previously operated as the Belleville Funeral Home & Chapel Ltd. up until the last couple of years. It is owned by Rushnell Funeral Services Inc.

According to late Belleville historian Gerry Boyce in “Belleville’s Heritage, Volume 2”, Coleman Castle was a jewel in the crown for its architectural style surrounded at the time of its construction.

Captain Thomas Coleman came to the village of Belleville after the War of 1812. He was given 800 acres of land for his service in the war, and created a vast fortune by building stores and mills along the west side of the river and on Front Street. Coleman Street was named in his honour.

Captain Coleman’s son Charles Lester Coleman was called to the bar in 1845 and appointed as a Hastings County Attorney by Donald-Dorion Government in 1863.

After living for many years in the white frame house at 77 South Front Street, in 1872, Charles commissioned a grand, opulent house to be built in the centre of a park-like setting that extended from Coleman Street to North Front Street and from the Grand Trunk Railway to Earl Street. “his new home on this commanding site on the hill overlooking the town”

It is in the [Victorian] Italiante style with tall tower. Stone arches with heavy projecting keystones are over the single, paired and triple windows and doors. Coleman chose to finish his home with a slate mansard roof and dormers. The three storey tower once had a mansard roof and iron cresting.

Belleville historian Gerry Boyce

Coleman died in 1884 and William E. Northrup, barrister bought the estate which became a summer home after he became a Member of Parliament and Clerk of the House of Commons. Mr. Northrup passed away suddenly in 1925, and after being boarded up and vacant for a time, the property was purchased by a Ray Grant of Grant Funeral Home who converted it to a funeral home in 1939. It was later operated by the Vanclief family.

It was acquired by Rushnell Family Services in the mid 2000’s from the Thompson family, where it operated as Quinte Cremation and Burial Services.

Despite its age, good condition and location on North Front, the building has no heritage designation.

Property listed for $1.795 million in 2023, but listed terminated

The property was on the market from April to November 2023, before being terminated. The listing’s description was as follows:

This Victorian mansion predicted to have been built in 1872 and previously known as the “Coleman Castle” is ready for it’s next owner to take on this piece of history. Located on North Front St in Belleville, the majority of all exterior and interior finishings are original and in great condition, with the exception of the top floor which could be renovated to suit by any new owner. More recently this home has been used as a commercial space on the main floor with an apartment with exclusive entrance and deck, alongside offices on the second floor.

The building boasts 10,155 square feet of pure potential. Basement: 826 s/f; Main Floor: 5470 s/f; Floor 2:2250 s/f; Floor 3: 1609 s/f.

The garage can be accessed off of Gordon Street and has 4 indoor parking spaces. Prime development site for possible restaurant or pub, with bed and breakfast above, or with applications for a Zoning Amendment and Amendment to the Official Plan, the “Residential Opportunities are endless.”

Demolitions permit fee: $100

The demolition permit was issued on November 14, 2023.

Demolition permit fee for the 8073 sqft Funeral/Crematorium/Mausoleum with an “estimated value” of $15,000 was $100:

January 10, 2024 – Mayor Ellis met with city staff Wednesday to discuss alternatives

It’s been a very tough call. Councillors and I have received many calls with some with anger and we’re trying to explain where we are at with this,

I talked with the owner today and he’s exhausted with the building. He doesn’t want to invest in the building. It’s not feasible,” he said. “I phoned him today to do a last-ditch effort to save the building. It’s a no-win situation.

As people are aware, the building was never designated as historical and over time it was missed. A lot of historical buildings were put forward by their owners but those were concentrated in the downtown and East Hill so at that point, staff had to issue a demolition permit

It’s privately owned and the owner has requested they are proposing an eight storey, 200-unit apartment house to be put on the property. They went through a number of architects about saving the building but it’s not feasible.

It’s been broken into, stripped of its piping and all of its copper which is unfortunate so much damage has been done to it in the last year. They did have it up for sale but didn’t have any offers on it

Mayor Neil Ellis

The building did not have a heritage designation leaving municipal officials little ground to halt the tear down of the building.

January 11, 2024 – Statement from Rushnell family

We want to wholeheartedly address the concerns surrounding our decision to demolish the property at 68 North Front Street. It is essential to emphasize that this choice was not made lightly but was deemed necessary due to several critical factors. For more than three years, the property remained on the market, with numerous price reductions, without attracting any serious interest from potential buyers. Furthermore, the building’s security was repeatedly compromised by break-ins, raising significant safety concerns and resulting in the theft of crucial materials. It is well-known that vacant buildings, like ours, pose a considerable fire risk to our community.  In addition to these challenges, we recognize the urgent housing crisis facing Belleville. To address this issue, we are in the planning stages of transforming the property into a 200-unit building. We are fully committed to collaborating closely with city officials, local organizations, and the community to ensure that the redevelopment project aligns with Belleville’s needs and aspirations. Your ongoing support is immensely valued, and we remain steadfast in our dedication to improving Belleville and making it a better place for all residents.

Craig Rushnell, owner

Demolition

Credit: Catrina Meeks
Credit: Ripley Weland

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David Senger

Thank you for reporting on this. It is sad to see it go.

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