Cornwall’s forgotten second historical museum
One is a welcoming structure, located in Lamoureux Park, a red-bricked path leading to its entrance. The other is surrounded by trees and blocked off from visitors, a menacing “NO TRESPASSING” sign displayed at its entrance.
Both are historically important jewels of Cornwall, but are owned by two different levels of government. The Wood House is owned by the City of Cornwall and operated by the SD&G Historical Society, whereas Inverarden is managed by the Federal Government.
The latter’s blocked driveway deters potential tourists from visiting it. Not that it would change anything, however, as every window and door is nailed shut. In addition, the surrounding grounds are private property, meaning no one can venture in the heavily wooded area for fear of being arrested.
The behemoth of a building dates back to a different time, when Cornwall was still in its infancy and the canons of the 1812 War were still warm. Built in 1816 for John MacDonald, a trading partner of the North West Company, the house was surrounded by 150 acres of fertile land.
According to Parks Canada, who classifies the site as a cultural treasure, “(The) house is a fine early example of Regency architecture and its interior is a pleasing expression of Georgian symmetry with excellent detailing. In a wooded setting and commanding an impressive view, this was a fitting house for a country squire."
Yet MacDonald left the one and a half-storey home in 1823, selling it to his daughter Eliza and her husband John Duncan Campbell. Their descendants lived in the massive house for over 150 years, before selling it to a chemical company in 1965. The company then donated the building as well as one acre of property to Parks Canada in 1970.
Being such an early example of Regency architecture and having played an important part in the settling of Eastern Ontario, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the Inveraden House as a national historic site in 1968. When Parks Canada acquired the house in 1970, an extensive restoration project was carried out to take it back to its appearance in the 1820’s. The overall project came with a deafening cost; $400,000.
Following the restoration, it served as a historic museum operated by the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Historical Society for 30 years. Yet in 1999, Inverarden’s front doors were locked for one last time. Although the building is heated to a minimal level and an adequate security system is in place, the property has been the subject of neglect.
According to a management plan, published by Parks Canada in 2006, “the overall state of heritage presentation at the site is poor and in need of fundamental enhancement.”