Putting up a good front

By Lorraine Briscoe

The old LL Brome building at 91 Lakeside has been lovingly restored over the past two years. Michael Losey and Lise Champagne acquired the property from Peter Marsh in 2018 to rent the space as a retirement strategy. “I learned that acquiring a commercial property is a whole different process from buying a home,” says Michael. For one thing, the application fees for a mortgage and the interest rates are higher. There are also provincial bodies that regulate renovations. 

The new owners hired a local contractor, Construction Napoleon, to bring the plumbing, electrical, balcony and stairs up to code. Safety was not something the new owners were about to compromise on after losing everything they owned in 2007 when their home on Lansdowne sustained a fire. Next came restoring the distinctive façade to the building, which was at risk of falling off. 

According to Peter Marsh the building was originally a carriage house and barn, with cows in the basement, horses on the main floor and a hayloft upstairs. Though it was built in 1892 by Rufus England, he chose to mount the number 1893 on the façade to mark the year of his daughter’s birth. Removing the façade revealed details about its construction, including hand-forged nails, some as long as 9 inches. These nails have more holding power than the modern wire nail. 

The tall rotted pillars that framed 1893 had been made by pressing six sculpted pieces of wood together. Michael was curious about how this wood was cut back in the 1890s. Cam Brown, an antique specialist who runs a store across the street, guessed: “I would think a band saw did it, powered by a flywheel run by water. Amazingly, after more than 125 years, the wooden numbers 1893, the decorative pyramid blocks and the chain link were in good enough shape to be incorporated into the new façade. Almost all of the fancy woodwork is the same as the original. After much debate, the owners decided not to replace a pair of finials to avoid having to reinstall them in the future. As Michael said, “I did not want anyone to have to go up on the roof again.” 

The owners appreciate that TBL made the permit process painless under its Programme d’aide a la renovation de façade. “It is our legacy to the town,” says Michael.