PICTOU – The historic Mortimer House, a landmark of the Town of Pictou, is in the final stages of demolition.
The property has changed hands in the over 200 years of its existence and owners included the famed co-founder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Lord Strathcona. It was also used and enlarged by the International Order of Odd Fellows as an orphanage and nursing home.
Dan Macdonald, an actor and director from Pictou was outraged when he learned the building had been partially demolished. “I saw the picture of the building on The News’s website and thought, ‘Dear God, it can’t be true’.”
Macdonald knew about the storied history of the building and its famous owners and couldn’t believe no one had come forward to protect the building.
“The idea that no one has done anything to stop the building from deteriorating is disturbing,” he said. “The building was an iconic piece of Pictou’s character. It was an important building to Nova Scotia, the Maritimes and Canada.”
Beth Henderson, coordinator of the Pictou Historical Photo Society lamented the loss of Mortimer House.
“It’s sad to come across the causeway and see the icon of Pictou’s past gone,” said Henderson.
She hopes the history and story of the building will live on it the photographs, many of which the Historical Photo Society possesses.
The building and property’s current owner, Wayne Harris, took possession about six months ago when the building was foreclosed.
“It had been abandoned for at least four years,” he said. “There was no heat, no power, it was wet and mouldy. The simply was too far gone to be saved.”
Harris said the plumbing and interiors had been removed or damaged beyond repair. No one had come forward to offer to save the building or grant the building heritage status.
Vandals had been caught by the RCMP damaging and putting graffiti on the building for the past few years.
For Harris, it’s about moving forward and using the land without the building.
“I’m sitting on nine or 10 acres of prime land on the water,” he said, indicating the building was becoming a barrier to progress. The land could be used for condominiums or other land development.
Still, some are not satisfied.
“I’m going to investigate,” says Macdonald. “I don’t know how the federal or provincial government couldn’t step in to save the building.”
Henderson understands that every building cannot be saved no matter how important some feel it is. “The retention of historic properties and the circumstances involved are decided by the property owners,” he said.