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The site was first purchased by Henry Walder in 1877. He passed away in 1888 and the site was inherited by his son Robert Walder.
After visiting the famous Del Monte Hotel in California, Robert Walder decided to bring both the name and architectural style to Preston. He combined the inspiration of the hotel with the mineral springs and built a lavish tourist resort.
It featured a grand staircase leading to three upper floors and was located on five acres of terraced gardens and orchards. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the hotel doubled in size with the building extending south along Fountain Street. The primary attraction was the mineral baths in the basement. The high sulphur content was believed to cleanse the body and treat arthritis and rheumatism.
A competing facility next door, the Sulphur Springs Hotel, opened in the mid- 1890s, and a nearby hotel, the North American (renamed the Kress Hotel in 1900), opened in 1840.
In the early 1920’s the hotel was purchased by Drs. J. Edwin and Gordon Hagmeier, two brothers who had graduated in medicine from the University of Toronto. They operated the building both as a hotel and as a private sanitarium and clinic. With the arrival of the Hagmeiers, the hotel came to be known as the Preston Springs Hotel and operated until the early 1940s.
In 1943, the property was taken over by A. R. Kaufman who almost immediately turned the building over to the federal government to be used to house some to the naval trainees at the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Training Establishment (HMCS Conestoga) in Galt.
It eventually it become a retirement and care facility, until closing in 1990, when the building was boarded up and left vacant.
The property at 102 Fountain Street South was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act for its architectural, historical and contextual significance.
Reference: A Part of Our Past by Jim Quantrell
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The Preston Springs property has been a community landmark with a long and storied history. Since it was left vacant in 1990, different owners and potential proposals have come and gone over the years. It had always been the City’s hope that a viable solution would be found to rehabilitate the building and to bring it back to life.
In July 1997, a grant from the Heritage Conservation Fund was approved by Council of $100,000 to assist the then-owner with restoration and his vision.
Over the years, different Councils have expressed concern about the security and future plans of the hotel, touring the building, requesting updates and meeting with ownership groups to encourage a plan forward. The property was purchased by the current owner Haastown Holdings in 2013.
In an effort to encourage development, the City waived all planning application fees, including development charges and building permits, since the 1990s. And, as recently as 2018, Council approved a working group comprised of councillors in an attempt to work with the current owner to investigate the possibility of turning Preston Springs into affordable housing.
The property has been extremely challenging and there have been significant issues with the building relating to the roof, electrical, structural condition and mould dating back to the early 1990s.
There have also been ongoing concerns reported by the public, police and fire officials, ranging from fires, trespassing, camping, vandalism, graffiti, broken windows, drug debris, and garbage.
The location, history and abandonment of the hotel has attracted vandals, scavengers, graffiti artists, urban explorers, video crews, and those seeking shelter.
The City has made significant efforts over the years to enforce lot maintenance, building security and minimum maintenance standards under the Building Code Act. There have been numerous complaints to bylaw staff, with subsequent inspections and compliance orders issued. These efforts have often been hindered by vandalism and trespassing that has taken place over the years.
Recent engineering reports raised the following specific concerns:
- Numerous openings in floors, unguarded stairs, and elevator shaft.
- The west end of the basement was essentially an open excavation.
- The floor of the entire west addition was structurally unstable and not capable of supporting occupants. The potential for someone to fall through was high given that the main area central corridor lead to this area.
- The original west mutli-wythe masonry brick wall was in a state of collapse.
- The balconies were in advanced state of deterioration with loose guard rails.
- The interior structure remained exposed to the exterior elements and was deteriorating rapidly.
- The building posed a hazard to unauthorized occupants and the building was in possible danger of further structural failure.
- The rate of deterioration of the brick and concrete components increases significantly during freeze-thaw cycles.
Please see overview of Council meetings and directions here.