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Grimsby’s historic Grout Nelles house gets a new lease on life

January 2021

In towns and cities across Canada, historic buildings are demolished all the time in the name of progress. Developers will pay big money for the land these buildings stand on, sometimes with little care for the significance of these buildings.

In too many cases, the developers will allow the building to deteriorate to the point where it would be too costly to restore the building, or the deterioration negates any historical value in the building, leaving demolition the only sensible option. This is commonly known as demolition by neglect.

Occasionally, the façade of building will be retained, but that’s hardly a xxx for what’s lost.

In the Town of Grimsby, 30 miles west of Niagara Falls, Ontario, local developer Homes by DeSantis, is among a group of developers who are striving to maintain historic buildings; incorporating them into their re-development plans.

Homes by DeSantis recently purchased the former property of James William Grout Nelles, which includes his former house, built in 1865, and the coach house beside it.

The house is a Queen Anne, Gothic Revival-style, red brick house, with two high pitched gables trimmed with gingerbread. The Nelles family were one of the founding families of Grimsby; United Empire Loyalists who settled the area in the years after the American Revolutionary War.

At one time, Nelles property stretched from the escarpment to the railway tracks, from Nelles Road to Baker Road. The farm that operated on the land was one of the many fruit farms in the Niagara Region of Ontario.

The property remained in the family for decades, but sadly, both buildings have been vacant for decades and slowly deteriorating due to neglect by previous owners and acts of vandalism by trespassers.

DeSantis have begun the process of restoring the historic buildings, with Gillian’s Place, one of Ontario’s first shelters for abused women and children, already picked to occupy the main floor of the house once the restoration is complete. Further plans may include other organizations that provide complementary service to Gillian’s Place.

While many historic buildings are now just a memory, the house that James William Grout Nelles once owned will live on for years to come, thanks to a developer who values historic preservation.

James William Grout Nelles died on 17 November 1918, at the age of 83, and was buried a little over a mile to the west of his former house, in St. Andrews Anglican Church Cemetery.

Sources: https://www.niagarathisweek.com/opinion-story/8666340-grimsby-s-grout-nelles-house-deserves-some-tlc, https://brocku.niagaragreenbelt.com/listings/54-historic-houses/28-james-william-grout-nelles-house-.html, https://homesbydesantis.com/homes-by-desantis-announces-partnership-with-gillians-place-to-bring-services-to-grimsby, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/67610923/james-wilson_grout-nelles, https://benchnews.ca/century-old-artifacts-unearthed-nelles-main-st-east, https://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/index.php/oha/details/file?id=1854&id=1854.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/grimsbys-historic-grout-nelles-house-gets-a-new-lease-on-life/

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