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County Live: Picton Mansion gets new Life
Sue Capon | September 10, 2017

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Pictons historic Legion to become international culinary school

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From Issue No. 260 | September 11, 2017

 

Emotions ranged from joy to a tinge of sadness – but mostly great relief – as Royal Canadian Legion President Pat Burrows helped screw in the ‘sold’ sign Tuesday morning on the lawn of the branch’s historic Main Street, Picton mansion.

He and members of the Legion’s building committee joined listing agent Kevin Gale to make the sale by realtor Elizabeth Crombie public knowledge on Tuesday morning.

The 152-year-old Ross/McMullen house has been home to the Picton Legion for 70 years – purchased by Prince Edward County Council and presented as a gift to Branch 78. It was officially opened by Govenor General Lord Alexander of Tunis, of Nov. 20, 1948. Tunis said then it was the most impressive Legion Hall of any he had visited.

Burrows had mixed emotions but was relieved the two-year process, made fraught by a fire, is almost finished.

“I have been a member for 46 years – 17 on the executive and four as president – and this has been my home,” said Burrows. “This is our clubhouse, and our home, and there are a lot of members who think the same way.”

The membership agreed two years ago to put their ‘home’ on the market after numerous fundraising attempts over the years to keep it viable.

“At one time this Legion had over 2,000 members and our veterans were alive and in good shape,” said Burrows. “Now, we have less than 270 members and, as you know, costs and utilities just keep going up. We just couldn’t afford to maintain the building.”

The Ross/McMullen house was built as a private residence in 1864-65 by Lt. Col. Walter Ross, the first commander of the County’s first Regiment of Volunteers from 1863 – 1883. Ross served eight years as councillor and four as Mayor of Picton.
In 1884, the property was bought by Ruth McMullen whose husband George worked in the United States and Canada, then took over the Prince Edward Railway. It was purchased by Dr. Roblin in the mid-1930s, who had married George’s daughter, Ethel.

There was hope when Greg Sorbara, responsible for the stunning restoration to Picton’s Royal Hotel, expressed interest in the mansion in 2016 and was investigating options available to create a residential development.

Legion secretary Mary Cannons shows the room where the fire was as it now looks.
But it was a fire on July 5, 2016 that pushed the membership out. Flames were contained to one first-floor room and smoke damage throughout the first and second floors, but some artifacts, including flags and documents on the walls, were destroyed.

“After the fire the Elks were kind enough to offer us use of their hall and we’re grateful,” said Burrows.

Members are continuing the arduous process of packing up belongings in the 13,000-plus square foot building. Cardboard boxes, carefully labelled, are now stacked in neat piles in the hall used by the Legion members and many community groups over the years.

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