Built in 1913, the Queen Anne style house with large attic gable, distinctive round tower and wrap around verandah is one of many which once lined Victoria Avenue (now 100th). It is also noteworthy for its builder and first occupant, Prosper Edmond Lessard, who made his mark in business with such ventures as the Great Western Garment Co. Ltd. He also served in the Provincial Legislature and the federal Senate.
When the river valley frontage was rezoned high-rise as part of a larger redevelopment plan for the city some ten years ago, much of the built heritage along the street was demolished to make way for new condominiums and high-rise apartments.
Last year, WAM Development Group applied to demolish Lessard House to raise a six-storey condo project. A number of options were presented by city planning staff including incorporating the house into the new development or moving it to a new location. But because the house has only a “B” listing on Edmonton’s historical resources registry, the city could not enforce preservation. The demolition permit was issued last November – despite public outcry. As is so often the case, outdated planning decisions and zoning bylaws as well as weak legislation stack up against preservation.
To date the house remains standing and the Community Group of Oliver is looking to the province for a matching grant to help identify the important heritage resources in the area and hopefully have them designated and the area rezoned.
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