Following a unanimous vote to approve the demolition of the former Danny’s Tavern from the Windsor Heritage Committee, the fate of the 100+ year-old building – which is currently on the heritage list but not designated as such – will be decided by city council in the coming weeks.
Constructed in the 1890s, the house was originally the residence of five-time Windsor mayor John Davis, who was also the chief distillery inspector for the Dominion of Canada, inspector of Inland Revenue and the principle shareholder in the Windsor Street Railway and Electric Light Plant.
“Normally for a house or a property that is this old and with this kind of a history, [a recommendation for demolition] wouldn’t come forward, but in this particular case, it’s almost a misnomer to call it a house anymore,” said Heritage Committee member and City Councilor Fulvio Valentinis.
Valentinis explained that since the building was “basically gutted and transformed into a commercial establishment” many years back, both the Heritage Committee and administration thought that it had lost its historical significance.
“It’s not that often that you get a unanimous decision on something, so it just became very obvious that there wasn’t much debate because people are familiar with the property,” said Valentinis noting that the battle to save the building was “lost many years ago.”
The request for demolition came from the owner of the establishment, and while official plans weren’t submitted with the demolition request, Valentinis explained that the owner is seeking to building an office building.
“They’re looking at an office building there [and] I’m not sure at what stage the permits have been filed,” said Valentinis. “The plan is to convert it into some offices, plain and simple.”
While Dr. Larry Kulisek, the University of Windsor chief historian, doesn’t think that the building necessarily deserves a historical designation, he did lament that Windsor has a problem with maintaining a link to its historical past.
“I don’t have a lot of confidence in Windsor’s support for historic buildings,” said Dr. Kulisek. “Those communities that you most want to visit are those that have been aware of their past … a city that understands how important it is to maintain connections with the past is a place that attracts people, tourists … it [makes] an exciting interesting city.”
Dr. Kulisek believes that the opportunity for redevelopment across the city shouldn’t mean that city officials should simply grant demolition requests at face value. Rather, there is a need to take into consideration the importance of historical buildings.
“The city doesn’t seem to have a commitment to its past in any meaningful way,” said Dr. Kulisek. “The buildings we’ve already lost, and those we may lose if we don’t do anything [are immense].”
All might not be lost however, and Valentinis believes that designating specific neighbourhoods as historic might be the answer to preserving Windsorites’ collective link to the past.
“The upside of all this is that there is an increased recognition of what the loss of these heritage buildings means and I think that we have to go to the next step,” said Valentinis. “There are areas that we should be looking at pursuing designation of districts or blocks of buildings … if we need to move to designation, then let’s have that discussion.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.