Coun­cil split on fu­ture of William Neal House

The for­mer home of Rich­mond Hill’s first mayor faces de­mo­li­tion or des­ig­na­tion

Richmond Hill Post - - News - By Jessica Wei

Over the past six years, the William Neal House has seen sev­eral dif­fer­ent own­ers, at least two de­mo­li­tion ap­pli­ca­tions and a flood re­me­di­a­tion. Now a new ap­pli­ca­tion to de­mol­ish the home, known as the William Neal House, was sub­mit­ted on Nov. 14, 2017 by the cur­rent owner, the Man­souri Group, which in­tends to build a Chrysler deal­er­ship on the sub­ject lands.

The prop­erty, which was built in the Amer­i­can foursquare ar­chi­tec­tural style, was the last home of first Rich­mond Hill mayor William Neal, who lived there from 1972 un­til his death in 1979. He was elected mayor of Rich­mond Hill in 1957 — the year the vil­lage was in­cor­po­rated as a town — and again in 1963. He opened the first Dodge deal­er­ships in Canada in 1931 in Rich­mond Hill and the town’s first mo­tor ve­hi­cle li­cens­ing of­fice.

In 2014, fol­low­ing a de­mo­li­tion ap­pli­ca­tion, the Con­ser­va­tion and Re­view Board of On­tario (CRB) rec­om­mended that Rich­mond Hill des­ig­nate the prop­erty as be­ing of cul­tural her­itage value based on its as­so­cia­tive value. The CRB in­di­cated that de­scrip­tions of the prop­erty in the her­itage reg­is­ter be “re­vised to elim­i­nate the ref­er­ences to ‘ar­chi­tec­tural’ value.”

Rich­mond Hill Town Coun­cil is split on this mat­ter. Ward 2 coun­cil­lor Tom Muench, in whose ward the William Neal House is sit­u­ated, is push­ing for de­mo­li­tion, be­liev­ing that a Chrysler deal­er­ship would help bring jobs to the community while also hon­our­ing the legacy of William Neal.

“I un­der­stand the pre­vi­ous own­ers wanted a 12-storey build­ing,” he said. “But this is a sit­u­a­tion where they’re say­ing, ‘No, I’m just happy with a car deal­er­ship here.’ ”

How­ever, Ward 5 coun­cil­lor Karen Cile­vitz, who sits on the Her­itage Rich­mond Hill board, dis­agrees.

“There can be no ques­tion that the William Neal House de­serves des­ig­na­tion, de­serves recog­ni­tion and de­serves to be saved,” she said. “[The CRB] looked at all the ev­i­dence that was given to them, and without hes­i­ta­tion, they specif­i­cally state in the re­port that this house has as­so­cia­tive value and it de­serves des­ig­na­tion.”

Of some of his op­po­nents, Muench re­marked, “If they could, they would make ev­ery build­ing in Rich­mond Hill her­itage.”

Coun­cil will hold a fi­nal vote on Jan. 29 to de­cide the prop­erty’s fu­ture.

“If they could, they would make ev­ery build­ing in Rich­mond Hill her­itage.”

Tom Muench in front of the William Neal House

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