August 26, 2021
Presentation to owners of historically designated home
to be made by Mayor Canniff Saturday
Mayor Darrin Canniff and members of the Chatham-Kent Municipal Heritage Committee plan to present a gift basket to the purchasers of a historically designated home at 143 William Street, Chatham on Saturday August 28 at 2:00 p.m. The property is also referred to as, “Avenel” after the Gray family’s ancestral home in Derbyshire, United Kingdom.
Former residents of both St Thomas and Sarnia, Steven and Connie Mannering were married, sold their two homes and purchased this stately home all within one week. Connie’s love for early Victorian era homes led to their decision to make Avenel their new home. “The history and the architecture of the home are truly spectacular”, Steven said but added, “Chatham was never really where we thought we would be. It was the leading of the lord that brought us to the town”.
John Taylor, Vice-Chair of the Municipal Heritage Committee stated that, “the structure is a great example of Queen Anne architecture, built in 1896. This large, three-storey red brick residence and carriage house serve as landmarks in the community”. Some of the outstanding features of this property include an elaborate central entrance veranda, varied rooflines and a façade dominated by a central tower with dormer windows and finials. This tower has been described as French chateau-inspired and has a Mansard roof. Facing Charteris Street, a semi-circular drive approaches the house to a hipped-roof carriage-way, constructed of rusticated limestone supports. Typical necessities of the era include iron rings for tying horses and a steep step to facilitate movement in and out of a carriage.
Municipal Heritage Committee member, Kathy Smyth informed us that, “this property has been owned by three generations of the William Gray family who have played a prominent role in the history of Chatham-Kent. These three generations have not only served in public office but have also been industrialists contributing to the local economy of their times”.
William Gray and Sons owned and operated a Carriage Works factory employing more than 400 people with an output of more than 15,000 carriages each year, making them the largest carriage maker in Canada at the time. Robert Gray and his son, William Murray, took an interest in the early car industry and in 1915, they formed a partnership with Dallas Dort of Flint, Michigan and developed the Gray-Dort automobile which operated as a thriving business with two factories, a showroom and an Employees Club in Chatham.
Today, the Chatham-Kent Museum has a Gray Dort automobile in its collection and Stan Uher of Classic Coachworks in Blenheim documents, monitors, restores and preserves these rare vehicles. Of the forty Gray Dort automobiles still in existence, Stan has worked on twenty of them in his shop.
Avenel is a property significant to this community because it is a representative example of a Queen Anne style of architecture and because of its association with the Gray family. Preserving and protecting Avenel through designation is a responsibility that new homeowners, Connie and Steven Mannering, have embraced. The Mannerings have made this house their home and regard living in Chatham “as a blessing to us,” one blessing that they “want to return in any way we can.”
Mayor Canniff says that, “heritage homes are more than just brick and mortar, more than just a piece of real estate. Heritage homes speak to the stories of the people who have come before us. With almost 6,000 dwellings in Chatham-Kent, over 100 years of age, the role of the Municipal Heritage Committee is integral in ensuring that properties that meet the Ontario Heritage Act criteria for designation are preserved and protected for our children, grandchildren and future generations to appreciate and enjoy”.
For more information contact:
Manager, Development, Planning Services
Municipality of Chatham-Kent
Municipality of Chatham-Kent
519-360-1998 x 3624
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