By Tina Comeau
There were plenty of bargains to be had at an auction at 56 Argyle St.
But the bargains came with a caveat – the items you purchase may or may not work, they may or may not be cracked, etc.
The buyer beware caution was a chance people were willing to take as they paid $2 for a set of Victorian French doors, $10 for a claw foot tub or $15 for three cast iron radiators.
The auction itself raised slightly over $1,000. But more significant said the town, which had organized the auction, is things inside the property are going to be repurposed. This was the ultimate goal of the auction.
Once a grand property in Yarmouth, that isn’t the case with 56 Argyle St. anymore. The property has sat vacant for a long time. Two years ago it was damaged by fire. It has been the target of vandals. It has been on the market for sale – all offers considered by the owner – but there were no takers.
As people toured the property – stepping over broken glass, staring at gaping holes in ceilings, sidestepping wires lying on the floor – the most common comment overheard was, “What a shame.” It was repeated again and again as people viewed the condition the property is in now.
The town intends to demolish the property. Demolition costs, it suggests, could be in the range of $5,000 to $10,000. The town purchased the property for the amount of taxes that were owing on it, around $9,000, since the property was going to be coming up at tax sale. At the time of the purchase the property was under an order for being dangerous and unsightly. The land it sits on will go back on the market.
While the town has said those living around the property are happy to see action is being taken – citizens have expressed concerns of injury or fear of fire associated with the building – the plan to demolish the building does have critics. Michael Tavares, for instance, who has turned around other historic buildings into new uses, would rather see this property saved than demolished.
"This property represents one of the last remaining pieces of built heritage along that stretch of Argyle Street and for that reason I believe it warrants consideration for an adaptive reuse and repurpose," he said in a letter to the town. He threw out several suggestions of potential uses.
While Councillor Ken Langille agrees it is sad to see what were once grand homes fall into disrepair, he says the town doesn't have the financial means to save all of these buildings.
In this case, rather than tear everything down the town opted to first hold an auction allowing people to reclaim items and building materials inside. Doors, window casings, a staircase system, windows, baseboards, door trims, light switches, etc. were sold. Not all items put up for auction attracted interest. And sometimes a bidding war saw an item sell for $20 instead of $15 as the price went up in increments of one dollar. A few items sold for $2. The most money paid, $250, was for a Victorian oak fireplace mantel.
Another person paid $175 for an oil-fired hot water boiler. Auctioneer and town councillor Ken Langille said that was definitely a bargain. Then again, maybe not.
“They say that furnace may be worth $1,000, if it works,” he said.
Meanwhile, Langille says on the agenda of the next heritage committee meeting will be an item looking at a strategic plan.
“What will our priorities be and how can we work with properties,” he says, explaining they have also looked at developing a heritage incentive program, whereby funds would be available for property owners in need of assistance with their properties.