City Staff Support Proposed Alterations to Charles Billings House

Artist's rendering, proposed alterations to Charles Billing House in Alta Vista. The portion outlined in red is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. Rendering: Barry J. Hobin and Associates Architects

Thursday, January 8, 2015

OTTAWA CITIZEN, By Matthew Pearson

City staff are recommending that the Built Heritage Subcommittee approve an application to alter an historic home in Alta Vista, despite concerns from heritage advocates that demolishing such a large portion of the original 19th Century structure “borders on the excessive.”

The application pertains to the Charles Billings House, located at 187 Billings Ave.

Billings and his descendants owned and occupied the house for three generations, from 1859 to 1961.

With its wood frame, symmetrical façade and a side-gabled roof with a central gable over the entrance, it is considered a rare example of the Ontario cottage style in Ottawa, which was popular from the 1830s to the 1870s.

The house, which received its heritage designation in April (2014), is also one of the earliest remaining buildings in Alta Vista.

Now, the current owner wants to remove about 20 per cent of the designated heritage building — which will result in the loss of a window on the front façade and affect the symmetry — and construct a large addition.

However, a staff report says the new addition conserves the heritage value and attributes of the house and, because of a proposed setback, allows the historic building and its unusual orientation to the street to remain the dominant presence.

Heritage Ottawa is pleased the original building is largely retained and integrated into a newly expanded residential structure, but it bemoans the demolition of such a large portion of the original structure and says there has been no clear rationale for sacrificing the symmetry of the façade, the report says.

Charles Billings was the son of Braddish and Lamira Billings, whose nearby home is a National Historic Site.


This application will be considered by the Built Heritage Sub-Committe on January 13, 2015.

To read the City Staff Report's recommendation which incorporates Heritage Ottawa's remarks, see the PDF below or click here.

For more information about Charles Billings and the Billings family history, click here.

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