With the motion to save the Hermitage passed, the money being raised and the community support, this historic building will be restored and built back up to the free-standing memorable structure it once was.
By Leanne Pluthero
Published September 23, 2014
The Hermitage historic ruins in Ancaster, the beautiful family home of the Leiths, has been standing for 159 years. Why tear it down now? Why take away the amount of history within those walls?
Hermitage ruins (RTH file photo)
This historic home has been standing for 159 years. These limestone walls once housed one of Hamilton and Ancaster's most historic pioneer families.
George Gordon Browne Leith, with his wife and young family by his side, claimed the Hermitage land as their own in 1855 building the Hermitage mansion as their family's summer residence. George Leith was a rather wealthy man in his prime. He came from a very wealthy family, but as the second son, he had to make his own family fortune.
In 1902, George's fifth child would buy the Hermitage from other family members and make it her own. Alma had a love for this house. It was her passion and her life. Alma became a local historian for the Spectator newspaper.
She was a very loving, outgoing women and was a breath of fresh air. She would have extravagant parties, inviting all the neighbours. Little did she know that one of these parties would have been the end to the beloved family home.
During one of Alma's afternoon parties, on October 10, 1934, one of the upstairs fireplaces caught fire and devoured the back portion of the house while they awaited the fire department.
Friends were frantically helping by removing as many belongings as they could out to the front lawn. This blaze did cause most of the damage to the back section of the home.
Did this stop Alma and her passion for her residence? Not at all. A friend lent Alma their camping tent, which she set up on the front lawn of her property.
Living within the tent for a few weeks while loving neighbours had built her a little shack within the ruin walls, this little dwelling would become her home until her death in 1942.
Alma's death would mark the last person to use the Hermitage as their home. It was left to family, who decided they did not want to take it on and would rather sell it outside the family.
In 1972, the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority purchased the 125 acres of land. The Hermitage became a tourist attraction, a picnic area and a hidden treasure for hikers to stumble upon.
It would also become a party place for teenagers, a local hangout, a hidden spot in the woods for people to mistreat and show a strong lack of respect for history.
This is what we are left with today: three and a half walls that are slowly falling and caving in. 159 years to date, these walls have been standing, through the humid summer heat and the frigid Ontario winters.
I was a 16 years old with a heart for history and a passion for the paranormal. My dad decided to take me on a Haunted Hamilton Ghost Walk. The moon was full and bright, lighting up this magnificent structure that once was. So much history within those walls, all I could do was just stare at its true beauty.
This homestead had become one of my favourite historic locations. Once I heard the devastating news that the Hamilton Conservation Authority wanted to do a partial tear-down, I was upset. My friend contacted me and I simply asked, "What can I do to save the hermitage?"
We found out who we had to contact to get the ball rolling, started up a Facebook page and starting spreading the word. We got in contact with Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, showed him our support from the community, and proved to the HCA that there are indeed people who care deeply for these "walls" that are remaining.
Our Facebook page was launched just a little over a month ago and is 888 members strong! We all want the same ending; We want the Hermitage to stand tall and proud!
With the motion to save the Hermitage passed, the money being raised and the community support, the Hermitage will be restored and built back up to the free-standing memorable structure it once was.
This will be a very historic moment for a lot of locals and descendents to the Leith family, for them to be able to walk through the front entrance once again. History will be made!
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