Owner wants town to keep open mind

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE -

The mayor said restor­ing the prop­erty is be­yond the town’s fi­nan­cial means, as is the case for the Flana­gans.

They pur­chased Ri­d­ley Hall in 2000 — the same year the cou­ple were mar­ried. Their in­ten­tions to ren­o­vate one room each year were scut­tled by a fire in Novem­ber of 2003, be­lieved to have been caused by van­dals.

Past life

Ri­d­ley Hall got its start as the home of fish mer­chant Thomas Ri­d­ley. Ac­cord­ing to the New­found­land and Labrador Her­itage Foun­da­tion (NLHF), Ri­d­ley Hall served as a fo­cal point for so­cial, eco­nomic, and po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity dur­ing his time as a lo­cal busi­ness­man.

It was used as a ca­ble sta­tion in the 1930s and ‘ 40s be­fore re­vert­ing to a res­i­den­tial space. It was last in­hab­ited in the 1980s and reg­is­tered as a her­itage struc­ture in 1994.

A com­pan­ion stone build­ing, the Ri­d­ley Of­fices, was built in 1838 and has been main­tained to this day.

Even with a her­itage des­ig­na­tion, the ru­ins of Ri­d­ley Hall are not pro­tected from de­moli- tion or­ders.

In an in­ter­view with The Com­pass in March, NLHF ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ge­orge Chalker said the build­ing never made use of restora­tion grants of­fered by the foun­da­tion. Had own­ers done so, in­sur­ance would give NLHF the le­gal right to pre­vent oth­ers from de­stroy­ing the build­ing.

Lack­ing a roof, Chalker added that Ri­d­ley Hall’s ex­po­sure to water cre­ates struc­tural prob­lems.

“If water gets in, then you have to freezethaw it, and when it freezes, it ex­pands and makes the cracks big­ger, and then more water can get in the next time,” he told The Com­pass. “Even­tu­ally, so much water gets in that it pumps out the stone, and things start to crum­ble.”

The Flana­gans will be in the prov­ince next month and hope to meet with coun­cil dur­ing their stay.

“I hope they’ll main­tain an open mind,” he said, adding the com­mu­nity as a whole should be con­sulted on the build­ing’s fate.

Coombs said he will be open to speak­ing with them.

“ We’d just like to see what they’re go­ing to do with it,” he said.

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