Designation preserves historic city home

As special features go, Mulberry House is a gem.

Few houses have front steps made from discarded headstones, and intricate stone carvings over the front windows.

Canada’s second Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie reputedly built the house at 197 London Road years ago. For many years, it was the home of late Sarnia mayor Marceil Saddy.  Only half a dozen families have owned the house and all of them ensured the original doors, flooring, ceiling beams and fireplaces remained intact.

The house on the southwest corner of London Road and Brock Street has a history that needs to be protected, says Wayne Wager, chairman of Sarnia’s heritage committee.

In a few weeks, when the weather is warm enough to let the concrete set, a bronze plaque will be installed on the front of 197 London Rd., officially designating it of historical, architectural and cultural value.

“Having it designated gives me a good feeling. It will mean it can’t be torn down,” says Jim Terry, a retired history teacher and the current owner. He and his wife Jayne bought it in 2012, having waited 30 years for the right time.

“We were drawn to it by its bargeboard gable, its nine-foot high ceilings and the peaceful feeling it has.”

The Ontario Heritage Act is designed to preserve iconic buildings like Mulberry House, or the Saddy House, as it is often called.

The designation costs nothing but requires approval of a bylaw by city council. It means no major changes can be made to the building unless they are sympathetic to the architecture and reviewed by the heritage committee.

Wager has chaired the committee 20 years. In total, 28 houses and historic sites have been designated in Sarnia.  He hopes to step up the pace and approve one or two a year.

Mulberry House is a particularly significant designation during Sarnia’s centennial year, Wager said.

“When we look at heritage photos and see the properties we’ve lost that can’t be replaced, we want to save these heritage buildings for future generations,” he said.

Alexander Mackenzie was a stonemason and built at least eight houses in Sarnia. Several have already been demolished, said Wager.

The house at 197 London Rd. can be seen during the Doors Open Lambton event June 21-22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

HERITAGE DESIGNATION OF 197 LONDON ROAD

–         Built in 1867 by Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie, just five years after Sarnia became a town. Population less than 3,000.

–         Originally known as Mulberry House, likely because of mulberry bushes on the property.

–         First residents were James Roger and family. Roger was a prosperous stonemason and tombstone maker.

–         Roger family owned the home more than 90 years until Mayor Marceil Saddy bought it.

–         1 ¼ storey Gothic revival and modified Georgian style architecture.

–         Features include bargeboard gables above front door; elaborate stone carvings over windows and doorway; front steps are overturned headstones; original doors, floors, ceiling beams and three fireplaces;  back spiral staircase; stone kitchen window sill; stone workbench in cellar;

–         Saddy bequeathed house to the Sarnia Community Foundation, which occupied it for several years before selling to a private owner.

– Cathy Dobson

 

Saddy4 A view of the living room, featuring one of three original fireplaces.