Sadleir House breaks ground with grounds plan

The historic Peter Robinson College is continuing to develop and grow in its new role as Sadleir House by taking the next step in its grounds development plan.

This step is part of an ongoing strategy that will allow Sadleir House to become an even more attractive area for students and the Peterborough community.

This particular project is focusing on the small hill that separates the upper and lower lawns. The hill has been assessed as a perfect place for a retaining wall.

Prior to the start of this step in the development plan, the area in question was home to exposed roots and little grass. Further, the stairs that connected the two lawns were starting to fall apart after years of erosion.

According to Dwayne Collins, the steward of Sadleir House, the intent is to make the hill a focal point of the grounds. “We really wanted to clean that up,” he said. “One of the things we wanted to do was open up the lower area. It’s a really nice place.”

The wall itself will not only improve the look and prevent erosion, but it will also act as a perfect sitting area to accommodate everything that goes on outside of the house itself.

The lower lawn of Sadleir has become a mainstay for community events throughout the year, including concerts, weddings, barbeques, tea parties, and croquet.

It has basically everything you would ask of an outdoor space. Situated between the Rotary Trail and George Street, it is an ideal area filled with shade, perfect for people to just sit and enjoy.

This phase of development is the next logical step after the project that kicked off the all-encompassing grounds plan.

In 2009, Sadleir House got funding from the Trillium Foundation to do accessibility upgrades.

The reassessment of the upper pathway is what led to the creation of the broader grounds plan.

“Shortly after we did the pathway, we had problems with the fence. It was deteriorating and had to be rebuilt from scratch,” said Dwayne. “We undertook an effort to plan for all of the grounds so when we were doing these types of projects, we had an an idea of what we were doing ultimately.”

It was this big picture approach that actually led to a monumental change in direction for the grounds of Sadleir House.

This new design decided to get rid of the fence entirely as a means of opening up the building.

“We didn’t want to seem like we were closed off, which is sort of what the fence did. It made it seem like we were separate,” says Dwayne. “The upper lawn is a nice place to welcome people into the building. The grounds really extend what we are. It is as nice and welcoming on the inside as it is on the outside.”

Following this stage of development, it’s unclear as to what will be coming next and when.

This is actually part of the strategy, however, as there has been no timeline set on the overall plan due to the infrequent availability of money and resources.

According to Dwayne, “we’re doing the wall and steps now because we can afford to do so. Also, the stairs were falling apart and it was a little bit dangerous, which was one of the reasons we decided to move forward and take care of it.”

The master plan actually encompasses several other projects, such as cleaning up the parking lot and rebuilding the north courtyard, but they are not considered something as important as the retaining wall.

Ultimately, accessibility the is number one priority.

“Yeah we want to make the grounds as attractive as possible but we need to balance that against other more important things,” said Dwayne. “The building, between its age and architecture, presents a lot of unique challenges for accessibility and it slows the process down. Still, if we have to choose between an elevator or a nicer parking lot, it’s pretty clear the elevator is going to win.”

Dwayne continued, “The hill and wall are actually important, not as important as accessibility, but we’re not at a place where we have a clear idea on what we’re going to do about that. The wall is something we can do now.”

While it’s not clear how exactly the development process will proceed from here, it is quite clear that the building that students bought in 2004 continues to grow and become better able to suit the needs of the student population and the downtown community.