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This article first appeared in the May 22, 2019 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Old Chelsea dep not historically significant

By Hunter Cresswell

There have been lots of calls to preserve local historical structures since the idea came up in a public forum to tear down a building that, until recently, housed a depanneur in Old Chelsea. Located between the Chelsea Pub and Mamma Teresa's, the structure would be replaced by a grocery store and hotel.

Old Chelsea depanneur
The old depanneur, located in Chelsea. Hunter Cresswell photo..

The Low Down has reported before that the building isn't listed as historically significant by any patrimonial organization or group - but that doesn't mean it isn't significant, just that it isn't designated as such. So this reporter reached out to the Gatineau Valley Historical Society to talk to someone knowledgeable about the building's history. The short story: it's not significant.

"I cannot find anything of any significance that has happened there," said local history buff James Milks, who was raised in Chelsea and now lives in Aylmer.

The Quebec Culture and Communications Ministry didn't respond before our publishing deadline to a request for comment on fees associated with patrimonial designations and standards and qualifications buildings must meet to be designated.

The date it was built isn't conclusive, but its first documented use was as Sweeney's Hotel and Tavern in 1875. However, it may have been used before then, Milks said.

In his 1988 book 'A Tale of Two Chelseas', historian Patrick Michael Oldfield Evans writes, "It is possible it may be the place where Thomas Brigham Prentiss operated his store and post office, from 1830 to 1843, although no documentation has been discovered to substantiate this."

Old Chelsea depanneur
The old depanneur as it stands today. When Chelsea based developer Manuela Teixeira bought the building, the inspectors she had go over the building concluded that the cost to bring the building up to modern standards would not be economically feasible. Hunter Cresswell photo..

Both Evans, in his book, and Milks, during his phone interview with The Low Down, said that the building had been repurposed and changed hands numerous times.

"This is probably the building that had changed the most in the village," Milks said. "From its earliest incarnation, it's always been a place of business."

In the 1920s, it was sold to Jack Hendrick, became a post office in 1926, then was sold to Ronald Donovan who ran a store and post office there and added apartments upstairs some time in the 1940s. In 1948, Gerry Murphy bought it and ran the store and post office for 19 years, then in 1967 it was sold to the Fissets. It was later sold to Bob and June Dompierre, then sold again to Richard Dompierre in 1986. It currently houses Une Boulangerie dans un Village.

"It would always adapt to what was in fashion," Milks said.

He remembers growing up in Chelsea when it was a video store with a snack bar and gas pumps out front.

Aside from peoples' fond memories and nostalgia, it's not historically or architecturally significant, he said.

"This was really just a... simple building," Milks said.

When developer Manuela Teixeira bought the building, she had inspectors go over the structure - they found that bringing the building up to modern standards would cost more than economically feasible. Milks toured the building earlier this year and saw the mishmash of building styles from different eras including wood paneling from the 1960s and the original piled rock foundation in the basement.

"It's in rough shape," Milks said.

In 1997, Chelsea printed out plastic plaques and installed them, with the owners' consent, on the walls of buildings that were over 100 years old.

"Over time, people took that to mean 'official heritage building'," Milks said, adding that people who are concerned about the loss of the building should be more concerned with the patrimonial designation of St. Stephen's Church, which is currently fundraising for repairs to its roof.

"Why don't you focus up there instead of some decrepit building?" Milks asked.

Old Chelsea depanneur
A photo of the depanneur taken in 1975 by "The News". The Parkway General Store, as it was styled in those days, was celebrating the West Hull Centennial. Photo courtesy Gatineau Valley Historical Society..
Old Chelsea depanneur
This photo was taken in Old Chelsea in 1870. The first building on the left is the old depanneur, which was serving as Sweeney's Hotel and Tavern at the time. Photo courtesy Gatineau Valley Historical Society..