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‘Once it’s gone, it’s gone’: King, Seneca partner to revamp Eaton Hall

Constructed in the 1930s, it was the estate home of Lady Eaton
Feb. 18, 2021
Laura Broadley

Eaton Hall is on its way back.

Seneca College and the township of King have entered into a partnership to revamp the famous Eaton Hall as a municipal capital facility.

Eaton Hall is a historic building on college grounds that is associated with one of Canada’s best known families: the Eatons. The Eatons were the founders of the Eaton’s Department Stores in Toronto.

Eaton Hall was built in the 1930s in the Norman Chateau style and was the country estate home of Lady Flora McCrae Eaton. The hall was carefully constructed using fine materials to implement designs by a well-respected firm of architects.

Seneca College approached the township because, in order to facilitate the reuse and restoration of Eaton Hall, it intends to enter into a lease with a private sector event and hospitality operator. The operator will make “considerable” capital improvements to the building. The operator intends to use Eaton Hall for weddings, conferences and other functions.

“We turned it into a conference centre and inn, and it ran that way for many years, but it ceased to be remotely profitable,” Seneca College president David Agnew said.

Seneca College set out with a request for proposals to see if anyone had any ideas about how to bring Eaton Hall back.

“Part of the challenge of these beautiful, lovely, old buildings is that they’re very old and you have to pay a lot to keep them maintained,” Agnew said.

This designation means Eaton Hall is exempt from taxation for municipal and school purposes for a period of up to 20 years.

The lands of Eaton Hall are currently exempt from property taxes, but that would be removed if the space is occupied by a commercial institution.

“This allows the council to continue its tax-free status,” Agnew said. “But, in turn, there are some public benefits and use.”

As part of the lease agreement, Seneca College has indicated it is committed to working with the operator to ensure community engagement by encouraging to offer discounted, affordable and accessible recreation and heritage event space and programs for the residents of King, non-profits and local community groups.

“We talk about the crown of King and the jewels within it, and Eaton Hall is one of those jewels,” said Mayor Steve Pellegrini.

Pellegrini said he understands why the college wanted to partner with the municipality to upkeep Eaton Hall.

“I’m big about trying to repurpose our history and our places to get them to be used,” Pellegrini said. “It’s an example to others to show them that we can do it.”

Pellegrini said there are grants and other opportunities for heritage property owners to revamp their properties.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Pellegrini said.