Subdivision of heritage home on 43 rue Principale to be discussed by Municipal Council; Aylmer Heritage Association expresses concerns
A request to subdivide the property of one of rue Principale’s oldest and largest heritage homes will be discussed by the Municipal Council at an upcoming meeting. On September 26, the city’s Urban Planning Advisory Council (Conseil consultatif de l’urbanisme – CCU) agreed to forward a request to modify the limits of the land at 43 rue Principale to the Municipal Council for a final decision.
The home, which was first built in 1883, was owned by medical doctor and former Mayor of Aylmer John-Joseph Edmond Woods and his family. It has since come to be known as “Maison Woods” or “Castel Blanc”. While individuals and businesses are allowed to purchase heritage homes, the city’s laws and regulations require that owners carefully maintain the homes to keep their original character and historical value. Considering its age, beauty and historical significance, Castel Blanc as a whole has been listed by the Ville de Gatineau as a heritage site of “superior value”. Although the main building itself will not be affected by the subdivision, a favourable decision may allow for new construction on the large Victorian garden adjacent to it.
On October 10, the Aylmer Heritage Association (AHA) sent a letter to the Municipal Council expressing its concern that a decision to subdivide the land would infringe on the property’s heritage status by putting the garden at risk. In the letter, the AHA noted that the property as a whole constitutes a heritage site, with the garden forming an essential part of the building’s natural environment that enhances its overall beauty. The letter states that the “house and the garden form an indissoluble whole, having been designed for each other … the garden gives meaning to the house’s architecture.” It further notes that all previous owners of the property “carefully preserved and impeccably maintained” the garden and, according to the city’s Cultural Heritage Act, it should be considered “landscape heritage” as well as an “immovable heritage object”.
In light of these considerations, the Heritage Association’s letter requests that the Municipal Council either reject the request to subdivide or authorize it in a way that “preserves the integrity of this priceless heritage site” by ensuring that the garden is protected and no structures are allowed to be built over it.
In addition to the Aylmer Heritage Association, the residents’ associations for the village d’Aylmer and the quartier Jubilee, the friends of Wychwood and the Symmes Inn Museum are also signatories to the letter.
Protecting the garden at 43 rue Principale has been an ongoing issue of concern for the Aylmer Heritage Association. In November 2021, the AHA published a letter in the Bulletin expressing similar concerns about the possibility that the property might be subdivided following its purchase.
The Bulletin will be publishing further articles on this issue as it develops.
Photo caption: Maison Woods or “Castel Blanc” at 43 rue Principale. Photo credit: Réseau du patrimoine de Gatineau et de l’Outaouais.