It was only about a year ago the urban explorer known as TikiTrex uploaded a video to YouTube that detailed the state of vandalism and disrepair of the estate formerly known as The Cedars.
To many of the more than 185,000 viewers of the video, the level of destruction spoke in stark contrast to how beautiful the home must have been in years gone by. The house and its approximately nine acres of land are located across the river from Springbank Park.
For Bruce Lamb, the video shows in heart-breaking detail the state of disrepair suffered by an abandoned building he once called home.
“I still get choked up thinking about it. It was just awful,” Lamb said. “I had so many memories, riding horses, learning how to skate, my first concussion. OK, that one I maybe don’t remember, but there were a lot of great memories.”
Built in the 1880s as originally a men’s athletic or boating club, The Cedars had been in the family’s hands since 1906 when his great-grandfather, Herbert Sabine, bought it. It served as a summer home for the family and eventually became the permanent home.
Lamb, who now lives in Lucan with his family, was three years old when he moved into The Cedars with his parents Wilfrid and Gail Lamb, in 1965.
When his parents were separating in 1975, Lamb was asked whom he wished to live with. His choice was whoever was staying at The Cedars. Lamb was 15 when he moved out in 1978 after the family sold the property to Drewlo Holdings.
Although he often found himself thinking of his childhood home, he hadn’t seen it for 35 years, until his niece made him aware of the video.
“Within an hour of my niece finding it, I was watching it. It was awful,” Lamb said.
Lamb almost instantly knew something had to be done to save the property before it fell apart from neglect. Lamb first saw the video on Dec. 15, by Dec. 28 he was in the office of Don Menard, the City of London’s heritage planner, discussing what could be done to save The Cedars.
The first step was getting the house on the city’s heritage designation list. The next challenge, a process currently underway, would be getting the house official historic designation, decided by the province.
Menard thanks Lamb for bringing The Cedars to the attention of the city. The house had been “relatively unknown,” Menard said, having only been made aware of it after the previous tenant had left.
Up until that point, however, Menard had no time to follow up on the situation.
The London Advisory Committee on Heritage (LATCH) began looking into the property through its stewardship committee, which is in the process of bringing back a report on whether to support the home’s designation.
Menard speculates there could be a case made to the house being architecturally significant, but likely more impactful is its contextual significance.
“There is an interesting argument that can be made to its relationship to the development of Springbank Park,” Menard said. “It is tied to the establishment of the park, we don’t have that many buildings associated with Springbank Park still standing. So if I am speculating, there would be arguments made for its unique architectural styling and its contextual value.”
Menard said LATCH should have its report ready by their June meeting and they will make a recommendation to council who will make a final decision. The process could take another three months.
Lamb said, to Drewlo’s credit, the company hasn’t indicated any plans to demolish The Cedars; in fact, it has expressed a desire to see it remain as an amenity building for future development up top along Riverside Drive.
Lamb said he has been surprised how much interest this issue has generated since the first media reports, having heard from “literally, thousands of people,” who have taken an interest in the situation.
Of course, he is quick to thank TikiTrex and her video for bringing the state of The Cedars to light.
“That video just keeps capturing people’s imagination. When the building was put on the inventory list for designation, I sent TikiTrex a thank you note saying look what you started,” Lamb said.
“If the stars align, she may have actually saved this house. It is funny, if this had happened 20 years ago, before YouTube, it would have been tough to get people’s attention on this. But the whole issue of saving this house has evolved very quickly.”