SOUTH DUNDAS — Firefighters battled a blaze that destroyed a stately home on Beckstead Rd. this morning.
No one was hurt when the mansion-like structure — still remembered locally as the residence of a prominent Canadian politician and millionaire industrialist decades ago — went up in flames.
“No one was in the house at the time. It is now owned by a couple from Montreal,” reported neighbour Gareth Jones by email this morning.
Jones, who lives across the road from what was known as the Ballantyne Farm or mansion, said another neighbour noticed the fire around 8 a.m. and called it in.
The owner was on scene, surveying the smouldering ruin at just after noon.
Jack Flammia said he typically used the house only on weekends but had been staying at the place for the past week — until last night when he returned home to Montreal. “I was going to come back this afternoon,” Flammia said, watching as firefighters doused the charred, smoking remains while a high-hoe moved debris at the property he purchased two years ago.
“It’s fortunate he got out,” observed his friend and neighbour, Giovanni Gerbasi, a longtime resident of the tiny, rural South Dundas community otherwise known as Colquhoun. The unmarked hamlet is the birthplace of Charles Colquhoun Ballantyne (1867-1950), cabinet minister, senator and wealthy owner of a Montreal paint company, according to his biography on Wikipedia that draws from the Parliament of Canada website.
“I wanted to restore the brick part of the house,” said Flammia of the home built by the Ballantyne family. “It had a beautiful old library, a fireplace, and all the rooms were still the old wood. And now it’s all gone, the library’s gone.”
“When he called me this morning,” added the homeowner, referring to his local friend, “I thought he was joking around.”
“I was at home, and my wife noticed flames, and I came running,” said Gerbasi. “It’s too bad…. this was going to be his retirement home. It’s beautiful inside. There was a library, antique furniture. It’s a great loss to the community. There’s a great history to it. There was an airport here at one point.”
This article was edited to include comments from the owner and his friend.
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