It’s no secret that the United Counties of SDG are steeped in rich history. Right now, the Historical Society of South Dundas (HSSD) needs your help to preserve a piece of that history: the over 200-year-old Forward House in Iroquois.
The HSSD is competing against 10 heritage buildings to win The National Trust for Canada’s Next Great Save competition, sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance. The winning entry will be awarded $50,000 to put towards saving an endangered piece of history. Voting for the Next Great Save opened on January 20th and closes on February 22nd. Voters can cast one vote per day.
Forward House is a home in Iroquois that was built around the time of the War of 1812. It was built by Michael Carman III who was an United Empire Loyalist and captain of the local militia. Carman was contracted by the British government to put a fort on Point Iroquois (where the locks are today). The house stayed in the Carman family for six generations.
“When the Seaway project went through, this home and the neighboring home which is Carman House were saved because they were on high ground. Now they form two thirds of the western front of the recreational park here in Iroquois,” said Shawn Walker, Vice President of the HSSD.
The Township of South Dundas currently owns the home, which has fallen into disrepair and has not been occupied since the Seaway project in the 1950s. There was a plan in the 60s to turn the house into a museum, which never happened. For a while it was used as a meeting house for the Iroquois Lawn Bowling Club.
In 2017, the Township of South Dundas planned to demolish the house, but a petition signed by members of the community managed to take it off the chopping block. However, the township refused to put money into fixing it. In January 2022, the HSSD negotiated to take stewardship of the house and responsibility for raising funds for its repair.
“We are trying to win the Next Great Save to get the $50,000 to be able to reinvest it back into the house to make it structurally sound and safe,” said Walker, “Let’s face it, the building has stood for over 200 years; I don’t think it falling down tomorrow but we still need to bring it up to building code to be able to get it properly insured and be able to take occupancy again.”
The historical society’s plan is to turn the first floor into a space where people can go to have a tea or a coffee, enjoy each other’s company, and learn about the history of the region. Upstairs would be turned into office space and usable space for the historical society, including an archive quality storage room to preserve and safeguard artifacts acquired by the historical society.
After years of neglect, there are some big-ticket items associated with getting Forward House up to code. The house requires masonry work, the basement needs more jack posts, and the roof needs to be done – to name a few. There is also an extension at the back of the house that needs a lot of TLC.
“Right now, the money that we would get if we won the Next Great Save would be used towards the environmental and health hazards that are in the house. There are a number of challenges such as asbestos and horsehair plaster, which is carcinogenic. We need to have that removed so we can safely go in and do the stuff that we can do,” Walker told Seaway News, “We can install jack posts, we can do plumbing, we can do removal of 80s linoleum flooring… We can take that stuff out, but we cannot do the remediation because that is an environmental and health hazard that needs to be done properly by professional teams. That is going to cost somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000.”
The HSSD wants to be a hub where other historical groups can come and share their stories with everybody else. While it’s great to be specialized and know all the stories about one small thing, the HSSD wants to make local history more accessible and be the source where people can get a broader scope.
Click here to vote or scan the QR code below!