Windsor’s Forgotten History

The City of Windsor’s online open data catalogue has a list of the region’s over 800 registered heritage sites. These sites range from hospital wings to houses, from churches to curbs. Although the extensive list might seem complete, one of Windsor’s oldest buildings remains unrecognized by the city’s Heritage Committee.

The original home of prominent French Windsor settler Vital Ouellette has yet to make it onto the Windsor Municipal Heritage Register list. Vital designed and executed Ouellette Avenue’s layout in 1854. Although it only stretched for a few blocks of agricultural land at the time, the roads downtown continue to follow Ouellette’s original layout to this day.

The brick Ouellette home currently sits one lot East of its original spot on the corner of Ouellette Avenue and Chatham Street East. The Bank of Montreal bought the land on the corner lot within the first few years of the 20th century. When the house was moved in 1903, it was the first brick building to be sold, bought, and then relocated in the city. The house was not rotated when it was moved to the eastern lot. The Vital Ouellette house’s front now faces the alley, and the back

Since Vital’s death in 1882, and the building’s move, many restaurants, bars, and strip clubs have taken up residence in the historic structure—the Windsor Castle Café, Jason’s, Alley Katz, and the Venue Rock Parlour, to name a few.

The house, which is over 160 years old, still peaks out over the brick wall that obstructs its front from the alley behind the Bank of Montreal.

Although the city’s Heritage Committee seems to have ignored the Vital Ouellette house entirely, it spares no effort in protecting the stone curbs on Kildare Road in Walkerville. These curbs apparently hold such historic significance and heritage value that the street’s residence are prohibited from altering them.

The stone curbs are the last items listed on the city’s Heritage Register list. The state of the curbs was recently threatened when homeowners Karen and John Fisk appealed to cut the curb in front of their home in order to build a driveway. The couple said that winter conditions make their normal parking space, a carriage house accessible by a rear alley, unusable.

“I must say that if putting a driveway in at Kildare Road is going to destroy the area, I guess council has no choice,” John Fisk said to councilors at a city meeting.

If the city is favoring street curbs over historic buildings, perhaps the priorities of the Heritage Committee ought to be reevaluated. Have we chosen to forget those who set the foundation for the city we live in today? Have the countless renovations and business changes by those who’ve owned the building since Vital Ouellette caused the Heritage Committee to overlook what still remains of the house?

 

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