Developer opens doors to Maplehurst mansion
by Doug Draper
It was like one big homecoming at Maplehurst last week.
During a five-hour period last Sunday, an estimated 700 to 800 people roamed through the 19th century mansion commanding a high spot near the corner of St. David’s Road and Front Street, and overlooking Thorold’s downtown. The numbers that toured the stately old home overwhelmed one of the individuals who was involved in sponsoring the first-of-its-kind event along with the city.
"It (last Sunday’s open house) was a great success,” said Phil Ritchie, president of Thorold-based Keefer Developments Ltd., which is spearheading plans to convert the city-owned mansion into a heritage inn. "I always knew this building was special, but by the end of the day, I was more aware than I was before of how important it is to people. It reminded me of how important a responsibility we have to do this (restoration) right.”
Built in the 1880s, Maplehurst was originally the home of the Keefers, one of Thorold’s founding families that played a key role in the early history of the Welland Canal and industrial development in the area. It was last used as a hospital until its doors closed in the late 1990s and then-owner Basil Griffis was faced with the prospect of either selling or demolishing it.
More than a year ago, the City of Thorold purchased the property for $625,000 and by October of last year, the city entered an agreement with Ritchie’s firm to rejuvenate it, along with about 14 additional acres of adjacent downtown-area land. The area includes the old Gallaher paper mill where The Book Depot has recently closed a deal with Ritchie to establish one of North America’s largest book warehouses, and the Welland Mills building off Pine Street.
Ritchie said he is inviting volunteers across the community to participate in restoring the Maplehurst mansion to its illustrious past.
At last Sunday’s open house, about eight or nine people willing to contribute to the outdoor or indoor restoration of the home volunteered their help. Anyone else interested can contact Keefer Development’s website at www.keeferdevelopments.com or call the firm at 905-680-2221.
Last Modified: November 27, 2012