Sidbrook, Brookside and 93 Albert

There are now at least three Heritage buildings in Cobourg which their owners may be trying to demolish by neglect although hopefully the owners of Brookside (the Province) will move quickly to dispel this possibility.  In a letter to Council, Keith Oliver raises the issue – details below.  Separately, at Monday’s Council meeting, Councillor Adam Bureau gives notice of a motion to ask the Province to use Brookside as a winter homeless shelter.  If that happened, then at least minimum maintenance would be done on Brookside.  If the Province is slow to act and heat is not provided, then it could quickly get to a similar state as Sidbrook – see video below. But it seems to me that the Town has little authority to do anything – with no-one living there, it’s only a health hazard to people trespassing.  Is there an expert who can direct us to someone with authority who can tell us what can be done?

An earlier article on this subject (Demolition by Neglect – see resources below) generated a lot of interest but no actual solutions.



In his recent letter to Council, Keith Oliver said [edited summary]:

I walked the grassy area around Brookside and found 21 pieces of roofing shingles on the east and south sides; black mold is enveloping many areas of the buildings’ wooden exterior. There are areas that show wood rot and decay including at the base of the grand wood columns, window sills and eaves. The building is empty. Who is ensuring that the roof is in good repair? … that water is not entering from anywhere else including the basement? … that the interior heat is maintained to a minimum of 58 degrees Fahrenheit? … that after a power outage the electricity powering the furnace will come back on? … that the water system has been effectively drained? … that no one has gained unauthorized entry to the building? … etc. When will Council address the possible “demolition of Brookside by neglect”? … hold its present owners, the Provincial Government to account … or will Brookside be subject to the tragedy which has befallen Sidbrook ? [Keith is no doubt referring to the Strathmore building on the Brookside property – see photo]

When will Council address the possible “demolition of Brookside by neglect”? … hold its present owners, the Provincial Government to account … or will Brookside be subject to the tragedy which has befallen Sidbrook? If the above protective measures have been and are being carried out by the Province, the Town needs to receive a detailed statement in writing to that effect!


The first report on this property  in Cobourg News Blog was in February 2018 when Councillors were asked to take action – but if they did, it was unsuccessful (see link below).  The property has been vacant since 2002 and it has slowly deteriorated.  There are several links below that tell the story.

93 Albert

At Monday’s Council meeting, Councillors will be asked to ratify the vote taken January 3rd.  The vote at the CoW was 4-3 so if one person changes their mind, demolition could be approved. However, at the January 3rd meeting, correspondence from Donald Macintosh, Chair of ACO Cobourg and East Northumberland branch states that they support the Cobourg Heritage Advisory Committee’s (CHC) recommendation to decline issuing a demolition permit for 93 Albert Street.

Once again, no actual solution is provided to the problem. There is no financial support or incentive provided so if owners cannot get permission, they will simply wait for “demolition by neglect” which is arguably much worse.


Earlier articles

Correspondence to Council

History of Sidbrook 

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27 January 2022 6:35 pm

I see 93 Albert is now up for sale!!!

Reply to  Concerned
27 January 2022 7:17 pm

Yes for $499,900 which is TWICE what he paid for it. Seems the town does it developer friends some favours?

Wally Keeler
12 January 2022 5:52 pm

It is certain that 93 Albert is going down. The Town owns a drone. I suggest that the Cobourg Historical Society request the Town record a drone flight circling the building and over top for historical documentation. Done. What else is there to preserve? Nothing. So let the developers fill the property with 21st century imagination.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
13 January 2022 1:08 pm

Just a question but other than age what makes 93 Albert worthy of heritage status/protection?

Reply to  Concerned
13 January 2022 2:58 pm

Reading below and looking at pictures of the property, there appears to be no historical or even remotely special about this place architecturally. If I’m wrong let me know. Allowing structures like this to remain standing only allow the town to look rundown not historically preserved. Especially when someone is willing to rebuild something. If there is a structure with historical or architectural value then by all means protect and preserved. Just because a building is old doesn’t mean it should be saved. As many below have already said.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Concerned
13 January 2022 9:42 pm

It is absolutely unworthy of heritage status/protection.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
14 January 2022 3:34 pm

Good idea

11 January 2022 6:25 pm

How are things working out on that old Certo building?

Last edited 1 year ago by Frenchy
Reply to  Frenchy
11 January 2022 6:42 pm


Keith Oliver
11 January 2022 12:04 pm

The answer to the challenge presented in the meaningful and practical preservation of our built-heritage lies in their adaptive reuse in ways that enable new and imaginative solutions to new problems.

An example. Sidbrook was last used as a private hospital. Its’ interior plan must have included many rooms from small to large. It may well be suited to use as a cohousing project which brings together young and old individuals who, through no fault of their own, have become isolated.

Everyone has a private room with small frig and a microwave. At least one meal a day takes place in a common dining room with residents sharing the time and effort in meal preparation. Common areas include: a craft shop; an entertainment space which enables live and on-screen performances; a small lecture space available to outside public interest groups.

Internal functions include regular tenant meetings and a form of internal currency called Brook Notes where individuals can pay each other for needed personal services such as hair cuts, income tax preparation, learning to play a musical instrument, write a short story about their lives. There are many successful examples of this type of project already in existence.

In other words, all that’s lacking in the preservation and adaptive reuse of our built-heritage is constructive imagination and that the nay sayers adjust their thinking caps.

Reply to  Keith Oliver
12 January 2022 2:45 pm

That all sounds great … but WHO is going to pay for the renos?!!!!! Say there would be 12 separate housing units — if you figure about $12 million for the renos – that’s about $1 million each!!!! Would you be investing, Keith?

Pete M
Reply to  Scottie
12 January 2022 6:09 pm

So how about saving the front facade of the original house before the additions and build something new and more cost effective that would allow for double or triple the units.

Look at County tearing down 1950 s depot housing to increase capacity with new buildings.

Time to maximize return out of Sidbrook

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Scottie
13 January 2022 9:57 pm

Scottie (or who ever you are?)

Appears you misunderstand what constitutes a cohousing project. There are eight underway in Ontario and many more that don’t make the headlines because they are small … two or three individuals combining their wealth to create a common living space in which they cooperate to make a better and more stable life for all.

Just where do you get these costs of 1 and 12 million dollars?

Anne Marie Cummings
Reply to  Keith Oliver
26 January 2022 4:23 pm

I looked at Sidbrook to do this very thing and spent many months doing the research and budgeting to determine what it would cost to preserve this old building. I had several meetings with the town council and staff who were very supportive and I made an offer to the owner. My offer was not accepted by the owner so I moved on to another project in Cobourg. I would love to see this old building brought back to life. It would be an incredible historic restoration that I would love to be part of.

Gail Rayment
Reply to  Anne Marie Cummings
28 January 2022 11:54 am

Thank you for this comment, Ann Marie. I would have very much liked to see you buy and restore Sidbrook. For all the naysayers, let me recommend that you watch on YouTube a series of television programmes made by British heritage architect George Clarke. He has helped numerous couples restore old buildings in much worse shape than Sidbrook.

Reply to  Gail Rayment
28 January 2022 4:55 pm

Gail R,

I agree that there is merit in saving/restoring Sidbrook and Ann Marie is to be commended for her efforts in that regard.
That does not mean that all “old” buildings should be saved, 93 Albert St. for example.

Reply to  Gail Rayment
28 January 2022 6:40 pm

Thanks for the introduction to George Clarke, I watched a few of his videos on line Not only amazing features about new life for old buildings, but he also has some ideas about the housing crisis including affordable housing.

10 January 2022 10:05 pm

There is a fascination with old buildings supported by ACO. However, many of the buildings were built for uses that no longer exist. When these mansions were built by very wealthy people, they were designed for leisurely lifestyles supported by extensive domestic and outside labour. But those times began to disappear at the beginning of the 20th century and are long gone. The mansions are now used for private academies, spas, luxury guest houses, etc., or preserved as museums – all to earn money to maintain the historic buildings that have outlived their usefulness by getting money from the general public.
Middle class people have no need for ballrooms in their homes. Smaller families mean few families need 6 or more bedrooms. Most People in Northumberland cannot afford domestic servants.
I think there is a limit to the number of old mansions we can afford to subsidize just because they are old. Many of them need extensive renovations to bring them up to today’s building code standards and maybe divide them into reasonable housing units. Perhaps it would be best to accept that 100 years later it is time to let go of derelict and currently useless buildings and use the land for something for useful like affordable housing.

Reply to  Maureen
11 January 2022 9:09 am

Very well said — I hadn’t actually thought of Sidbrook in those terms — but you are absolutely correct — my grandfather (who died at Sidbrook back in the late 1960’s as a 90+ year old ) – came to Canada in the early 1900’s from England to work as a butler in one of Cobourg’s magnificent (and long-gone) mansions!

Reply to  Maureen
11 January 2022 9:22 am

Good point about changing lifestyles. A nod to creative adaptive reuse, here is an idea.

Some years back a group of retirees was looking into a similar idea of multiple owners sharing a building with regard to a big old mansion in Port Hope. Not sure if they followed through at that time. Possibilities in ownership options have become more varied these days.

Interesting about the video of Sidbrook. Except for water damage resulting mostly from an unmaintained roof, the lines of the interior are straight. No sagging walls and edges. These mansions were typically built very well by well trained and experienced trades and crafts people. The embodied value of such assets is worth something even in today’s dollars but seems nowhere listed. And do we train enough people who know how to work with and repair these assets as a matter of regular service? Big or small building, anyone caring for an older building knows it can make a difference to have the right people doing the job including a comprehension of meeting today’s code standards.

Reply to  MiriamM
11 January 2022 9:35 am

But imagine the cost and effort required to replace all the old iron-and-lead plumbing, the heating system for the whole building, and all the electricals – all of it buried in the walls.

Compare that to the cost of a brand new apartment building of similar capacity.

Reply to  JimT
11 January 2022 12:11 pm

Why not leave it buried and severed or capped to be inoperable and install new to suit desired uses? Material selection has life span limitations. I can only imagine that years ago there was less plumbing pipe and electrical wiring in a home. Today there is often a different expectation to life styles. And I did a quick check on line … According to the 2020 Plumbing Code of NYC that city still uses cast iron pipes in certain applications, with plastic pipes being allowed in other situations, for example, single unit residential. Materials have varying life spans. Replacing and upgrading more often has a cost too.As for building new, it is time we as society move back to building to last at least 100 years.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  JimT
11 January 2022 3:03 pm


Would be more helpful if you put forward a question asking how new services can be installed in older buildings and comply with existing building codes.

Re Sidbrook.
Apply 2″ thick polyisoceranurate rigid insulation boards to the interior of all exterior walls, increasing total insulation value of these walls by a factor of R7. Heat with electric baseboard heaters installed in all outside rooms to compensate for heat loss. Run water and electrical supply lines vertically in a small service chase located at the corner of a room or in a closet or in the 2″ depth of the new insulation boards. Run these services horizontally behind new baseboards.
Cooling of heritage buildings like Sidbrook and Brookside with their load bearing exterior masonry walls is less challenging than those using wood framing. There’s much more but this will do.

Last edited 1 year ago by Keith Oliver
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Maureen
11 January 2022 9:24 am

The 93 Albert Street building has few if any noteworthy architectural features. If it is past reasonable repair then it should go. However, Sidbrook warrants preservation as a reminder of Cobourg’s past affluence and the decline over the past century.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 January 2022 9:52 am

How many reminders of the affluence of the few in Cobourg’s past can we expect ordinary people to maintain, because any kind of support from any level of government is funded from tax revenue.
The preservation of old buildings is costly. Even the restrictions on my little heritage-designated home make maintenance more costly. It is as if we are all participating in a costly venture to entertain those who like looking at quaint buildings. My cottage is cute, but it is damn expensive to heat or keep cool without triple-glazed, screened windows. The cost of restoring the windows of Victoria Hall were staggering.
As long as we value the affluence of the past, we will continue to build houses or condo developments with an eye to creating an illusion of heritage instead of building for our 21st century when we believe that ordinary people should be enjoying their own modest homes, not be working in servitude to the rich. Perhaps paying to preserve every old building is not worth it.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Maureen
11 January 2022 10:45 am

I’m confused, Maureen. Which reminders of Cobourg’s affluence are currently being maintained at public expense? Victoria Hall and…?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
12 January 2022 3:46 pm

The Firehall and the museum, to start with. Any tax exemptions, tax credits, subsidies, even crowdfunded donations to maintain old properties are public funding. My argument is that we do not need to maintain all old buildings in their original condition to satisfy what I recently saw called “an old-building fetish”. Why can I not replace my windows with something other than the materials and styles of 1846? Why can’t property owners demolish their old buildings to rebuild something using 21st century technology? Why not demolish Sidbrook and build the type of wonderful housing Keith describes? Public money should support the public good, in my opinion. As you can guess, I am not a fan of ACO.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
27 January 2022 7:28 pm

Well if its beyond repair why has LeBlanc listed it for $499,900 which is twice what this developer paid for it?
Just askin’. Something strange?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
27 January 2022 7:43 pm

Apparently the lack of noteworthy architectural features did not prevent a greedy developer from doubling its money in twelve months. It is now listed at $499,900!
Wow for a derelict building?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  sam
28 January 2022 10:09 am

For the lot, the land, centrally located.

Reply to  sam
28 January 2022 6:54 pm

LeBlanc does NOT own this property it is a relative and they are not big developers. LeBlanc Enterprises would not waste time on such a small project. The price is current market value, land value. Would you sell your home for what it was worth two years ago? Absolutely not!

Reply to  sam
28 January 2022 7:59 pm

The listing price means nothing. It certainly is not proof of value and is not money in the bank.
The value is the price a willing buyer and seller agree to, nothing else. Wait and see how soon it sells (if??) and the price.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bryan
10 January 2022 3:29 pm

Further to my earlier posting, why couldn’t the Town’s Planning Dept. simply contact the current owner and make the offer of a demolition permit — with conditions like a limited timeline for the demolition to take place as well as some sort of limitation of what could be constructed there in its place. And to all the preservationists out there — I too, hate to see lovely old buildings taken down — but let’s face it — the $$’s required to rejuvenate this place would be just absolutely formidable and not feasible. Right now it’s simply a huge eyesore on one of the main entrances to our town and a haven for undesirable, unsafe and likely illegal practices.

Reply to  Scottie
10 January 2022 5:28 pm

Finally some one that knows a little about Economics and a return on Investments .

Reply to  Scottie
14 January 2022 11:57 am

Because four councillors said no unfortunately.

Reply to  Concerned
27 January 2022 7:39 pm

Seems like the 4 Councillors had their heads screwed on right. Apparently 93 Albert is worth $499,900 now twice what the developer paid for it last year. Kudos to the 4 Councillors who protected this very valuable property against greedy builders.

Reply to  Scottie
14 January 2022 11:58 am

There isn’t much lovely about that place. Sorry nothing architecturally significant at all.

Reply to  Scottie
27 January 2022 7:33 pm

See real estate listing on MLS.
Seems that the developer has doubled his money and looking for some is prepared to undertake the work. Maybe when he bought the building he was looking to make a quick buck one way or another or is there another agenda. He paid $250,000 or so. Now listed for $499,900 after costing the Town & staff a whole lot of time and the Taxpayer a lot of money. Not to say that the the Town Councillors had anything else to do!

Last edited 1 year ago by sam
Reply to  sam
28 January 2022 7:03 pm

You realize the owner paid for all of the engineers right? And that EVERYTHING on MLS is priced much higher than its value in previous years. No one is making a quick buck. They don’t want to take the project on if it cannot be demolished for a clean new build. Time to move on, maybe all the heritage supporters can take it on?

Reply to  Invester
28 January 2022 8:08 pm


Agree with your closing line “…maybe all the heritage supporters can take it on”. If the heritage supporters are so keen on the building and find value in it, then they should pony up, buy and renovate it.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Bryan
29 January 2022 10:08 am

How utterly sensible and simple.

10 January 2022 3:07 pm

I can remember going to visit my grandfather at Sidbrook when he was a resident there — well over 50 years ago now — As a teenager I remember thinking how creepy it was even back then — we need to put it out of its misery — it’s obvious from the video that it’s past its point of no return –it’s a shame — but a half century of neglect can’t be rehabilitated.

10 January 2022 1:20 pm

Quoting myself from a previous comment re 93 Albert St.:

Just move it somewhere out of the way.
Maybe create a small village to collect similar structures over the years to come, similar to this one on Orr Street behind the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre.

10 January 2022 12:58 pm

In reference to the video…if the people videoing in Sidbrook were injured, trapped or in need of rescue, what Town resources would be called upon to be provided at no cost?

10 January 2022 11:49 am

Amazing video. Thanks for sharing. It is so sad to see this beautiful mansion get to this state. Please don’t let the Brookside get to this state too. David Piccini might be our best hope here

10 January 2022 11:02 am

Hope the raccoon got a good burial – see Video of Sidbrook interior. To my mind we will continue to have these conversations/disagreements until the rules change. There is a presumption that owners will do the right thing but they will do what is THEIR best interest. The policies/procedures/remedies need to be forcefully defined; time limits need to be rigourously maintained. If either of these constraints are not met then down goes the building – move on.

Merle Gingrich
Reply to  Gerinator
10 January 2022 2:53 pm

Why not have the restoration and ancient architectural individuals pool their money’s together and pay the costs, most 19500 tax payers don’t give a damn, if it’s an eyesore pull it down. This is 2022,
Cancel culture.

Jackie Tinson
10 January 2022 9:04 am

Council could expropriate Sidbrook for non-payment of taxes but lacks the courage to assume responsibility for the property. Both courage and vision are in short supply. Soon residents (and their children and grandchildren) will lose all 3 buildings. They are irreplaceable.

Reply to  Jackie Tinson
10 January 2022 10:10 am

But if the Taxes are paid ?? Then what happens Nothing .
Besides check out what the Taxes being charged by this town are on this property .
Excessive might be the word . May be the town should put some of that money they have received in taxes over the last 10 or so yrs back into the Restoration if they
believe so strongly in History

Reply to  Jackie Tinson
10 January 2022 10:31 am

Jackie T,

I agree that a heritage case can be made for Brookside and Sidbrook.
But 93 Albert?
What are the building’s historical characteristics of note, other than age?
Why is it worth saving?
What is the benefit to Cobourg residents?
If the heritage advocates tried to raise the restoration money (say $500K = $60 per Cobourg household) by public fund raising, they would quickly learn that there is likely little support from the general public for saving the 93 Albert street building.

9 January 2022 11:24 pm

Hi, I’m new to Cobourg so am not sure if there is an existing local organization to the one working on developing a very similar property in Guelph into a community hub and educational centre. Check our for more information. I have a friend involved in the Yorklands project and am am happy to connect relevant groups in Cobourg with this organization if there is an interest. I’d certainly be happy to be involved in such a project in Cobourg if there was a chance we could advocate for something similar at Brookside.

Reply to  Mac
10 January 2022 8:50 am

That link provides very good information regarding the role of the Trillium Foundation and the grants provided to underwrite large projects of this nature. Thank you.

Cobourg Council needs to ensure that we have expertise in accessing available monies by employing or delegating personnel with experience in applying for these grants as it is a complex process.

Our local provincial representative D. Piccini should be a forceful active advocate to ensure the province makes a timely decision on the on the Brookside property.