UPDATE: Heritage building to be demolished

By Penny Coles, Niagara Advance

UPDATE: A heritage building on Queen St. in Niagara-on-the-Lake gutted by fire early Wednesday morning will be demolished Friday.

Niagara Regional Police are keeping a 24-hour watch on 65 Queen St. until the investigation into the cause of the fire is complete, said Fire Chief Alex Burbidge.

The investigation was put on hold when it was determined the building was unsafe to enter, and after a discussion with engineers and insurance adjusters, it was decided late Thursday that everything from the ground up of the two-storey building would come down, leaving the basement, where the fire started, intact so the fire marshal could continue his investigation.

Burbidge described demolition as "peeling the building like an onion" to give investigators an opportunity to look for a cause, and hoped it would move forward quickly with the holiday weekend ahead.

"We can't hang around forever. I don't want this dragging on," he said.

Downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake is a "walkable community," and visitors taking advantage of a beautiful fall day were being forced to walk on Queen St., around the portion of sidewalk that was cordoned off around Andiamo Ristorante at 65 Queen St.

Four NOTL fire stations responded to a call 11:50 p.m. Tuesday, and 50 volunteers firefighters fought through the night to contain the blaze.

The fire started in the kitchen, which was in the basement, but before getting into the basement, Burbidge said he couldn't say whether the cause was accidental or suspicious.

The original part of the building was destroyed, and a rear addition compromised. Damage is estimated at $500,000, said the fire chief.

‪The building, according the NOTL planning department, dates back to 1860 and is described in planning documents as classical or Greek revival style, and as one of the oldest and most important heritage buildings in the Queen-Picton Heritage Conservation District. The district plan calls it "a beautiful historic building."‬

‪Taylor's Ice Cream and Bakery, on one side of the restaurant, and Bistro Six-One, on the other side, are both closed for at least several weeks, due to smoke and water damage.‬

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