One of Belleville’s iconic, historical landmarks, fondly referred to as the “Coleman Castle,” will soon be torn down. The former funeral home, located at 68 North Front Street for over a century and a half, has been slated for demolition following a decision made by Belleville City Hall. The news has come as a devastating shock to many residents, historians, and preservation enthusiasts.
The demolition permit was granted by City Hall despite community opposition, which has stirred discussions regarding heritage preservation and the city’s historical legacy. The “Coleman Castle” Victorian mansion is believed to have been erected in 1872 and holds much of Belleville’s rich history within its walls.
The decision was not made lightly or without efforts to preserve the building, though. In 2020, the City of Belleville listed the building for sale or lease, highlighting its original charm and updated maintenance. The listing encouraged developers of all kinds, noting that “the opportunities are endless” for the over 10,000 square foot building, which could include the development of a cultural center, Airbnb, bed and breakfast, or a pub, to name a few.
Despite these efforts, the City of Belleville recently decided to move forward with the teardown of the building.
According to the City of Belleville’s Engineering and Development Services team, “the building was not designated under Part IV of the Heritage Act or listed on the City’s heritage registry prior to the submission of the demolition permit last month. Therefore, a demolition permit was issued under the Ontario Building Code.”
The historical gem, known locally as the “Coleman Castle,” has stood witness to the City of Belleville’s evolution for 151 years. Constructed by Charles Lester Coleman, a Hastings County attorney appointed in the 19th Century, the mansion was prominently known for its Italianate style. Overlooking the city from its North Front location, the building has been uniquely identifiable by its slate mansard roof adorned with elaborate architecture.
According to the late local historian Gerry Boyce, “Coleman Castle” was built by Charles Lester Coleman in 1872. Coleman lived out his days at the home, and after his death, the building sat empty and boarded up. In 1939, Boyce claimed it was purchased by Ray Grant, who converted it into a funeral home.