By Bird Bouchard
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Ridgetown Independent
Canada’s most photographed house could soon be demolished.
Constructed in 1842, the Guyitt House has been vacated since 1985 and is located along the Talbot Trail in Palmyra. The house, which many calls haunted, is known to be a tourist attraction.
Roy and Ethel Guyitt purchased the property in 1908, which is now owned by their grandson Peter Anderson. The 184-year-old home used to have a brick exterior. However, the bricks began to fall off through the years and were eventually removed for safety reasons.
Anderson said the house is beyond repair, and he is not able to maintain the property financially. However, he keeps the grass cut and enjoys how other people can appreciate the property. He said visitors are more than welcome to come and take photos, but they should not enter the building, which has now begun to collapse on the right portion.
Despite not having to do anything with the house for more than 40 years and never receiving a complaint, Anderson recently received a registered letter from the Municipality of Chatham-Kent informing him he had 14 days to tear it down – or they would at his cost.
“I have 14 days to file an appeal from the day that letter was dated, the 15th day of September,” he said. “Fourteen days isn’t long at all.”
According to Anderson, the letter he received informed him the house was in violation of bylaw 151-2015 and read as follows: “As in reference to the vacant two storey building at the above Miller property which has been left vacant in excess of six months to become dilapidated and partially collapsed and danger of further collapse, and insufficiently secured to prevent unauthorized entry.”
The letter was signed by Travis Maxwell, building bylaw enforcer for the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.
The bylaw number referenced in the letter states, “Whereas Section 15.1(3) of the Building Code Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c.23, as amended, provides the Municipality of Chatham-Kent the authority to pass a bylaw prescribing standards for the maintenance and occupancy of property within the municipality and requires that any property not in conformity can be maintained to conform or be cleared and left in a levelled condition.”
Anderson said the registered letter from the municipality states that due to a complaint, he is left with two options. Repair the house, or demolish it.
“I left it there for one reason so that people can appreciate the historical value of Talbot Trail,” he said. I didn’t leave it there to make anybody upset or crazy.”
The house owner said he is disappointed with the quick timeline given to him. He questions where the complaint came from, as he had not received any in more than 40 years.
Anderson said the letter comes off as threatening. He said if the final say is the building must be demolished, they threaten even more by saying they will tear it down at his expense and the bill will be added to his taxes.
“The municipality is going to call their friend, whoever that is, have them come in and start sending me a $30,000 to $40,000 bill for something that could be done by a friend or neighbour with an excavator,” he said. “The whole process is very threatening. Give me a chance, but don’t send me a letter telling me I have 14 days to appeal.”
The frustrated homeowner said he is disappointed and unsure where the complaint came from, given that the house has been vacated since 1985.
“I would have thought 30 days would have been better, but three months would have been a whole lot better.”
At the moment, Anderson said he is trying to buy himself time. According to Anderson, Coun. John Wright had supposedly informed him he would create a motion to put the whole thing on hold until it’s resolved.
Regardless of whether or not the motion passes, the frustrated homeowner said he has every attention to appeal the original letter.
“They’re going to say the bottom line is the law is the law,” he said. “Half the population is going to say that thing should have been torn down a long time ago.”
But for Anderson, that’s exactly what brings historical value to the house. He believes the house should have a designation and be left untouched.
“The house is way beyond repair. That’s what adds to its historical value,” said Anderson. “There are people out there who would like to get the woodwork in the boards, the door frames, trim and everything inside that house. It stood the test of time this far. How much longer will it last?”
Anderson said in a perfect world, the house would be left untouched until the day it hits the ground. However, if the house must come down, he said he wants to do it on his terms. He admitted his biggest concern is to have no say in how things are done and still be left with a hefty bill.
“This is called fight city hall…I don’t want to incur any expense to do it. I do not want the building destroyed at my expense by the municipality,” said Anderson.