North Saanich heritage house saved for now

The Denham Till House in North Saanich will not be demolished yet.

North Saanich’s Denham Till Residence is a local heritage home that was donated to the community as part of a public space. For years

North Saanich’s Denham Till House will not be demolished — for now.

The heritage home — donated to the municipality years ago as part of a park space bequeathment — has fallen into disrepair recently and the District of North Saanich is now looking for ideas on what to do with it.

In the fall, the District  put out a call for bids on renovating the house. They had a budget of approximately $150,000 and the only bid received to do the work, was for more than double — $340,000.

That prompted District councillors to consider other options — including tearing it down.

Mayor Alice Finall asked council to consider having the house demolished at their Dec. 12 meeting but the majority decided to seek other options.

Finall says it’s not necessary for the District to keep the building, as it wasn’t a stipulation of the donation of the property. She said as long as the land remains a park, it meets the requirements.

“The house does have heritage qualities,” Finall said, adding that doesn’t mean it’s completely protected under a heritage registry.

She said North Saanich has two heritage areas: a designation and registration. The Denham Till House, she said, has the former.

While the roof is intact and not leaking, Finall said, the interior is dated and it needs a lot of work to become habitable again. The house, built around 1928, has been vacant since 2013 and is being regularly monitored by District staff.

Most of council disagreed with simply demolishing the house — as does North Saanich resident Gord Hartshorne.

He told the News Review that the municipality should consider all its options when looking to save the house. He also wants people to speak up if they think it’s worth saving.

“I am asking for support,” Hartshorne said. “I’m asking for people with an interest in saving the heritage home … to write into the District and council.”

Hartshorne, who said his family knew the original family who owned the house, said he’s concerned about the loss of heritage in North Saanich.

“In part, it was past councils that didn’t spend the money on the house to keep it maintained,” he said.

Hartshorne added there have also been changes to the District’s Heritage Commission in recent years, stripping it of any real power to save this, or other heritage sites.

The only way the house will be saved from demolition, he continued, is for people to speak up — and for council to consider all ideas. He said he’s willing to do his part.

“This was a wonderful gift from a lady named Madeline Till,” he said.

Dora Madeline Till died in 1972. She and husband Frederich Denham Till (who died in 1959), donated their land and house to the municipality.

Finall said North Saanich will now look at all of their options — from giving renovations another try, to responding to offers of volunteer time and materials — still including the possibility of demolishing it. Finall doesn’t anticipate a decision on the house until the new year.