The former Preston Springs Hotel is history as crews worked to tear down the last remains of the once-famous landmark.
Demolition entered its fifth and final day on Monday, with the structure remains expected to be cleaned up over the next three to five weeks. Traffic will be allowed through in reduced lanes.
There were several questions in the community around the timing of events leading to the complete demolition. The order to demolish the historic hotel was given on Christmas Eve, a fact that has raised many eyebrows in the community.
After years of debate on what to do about the building, the decision to demolish was ultimately made by the city's chief building official, Dennis Purcell.
"We looked at options and we did our due diligence and once we had those things in place was when the decision was made to issue the emergency order," he told CTV Kitchener on Monday.
“The concern was that there was ongoing security breaches with the fact that the building was in an advance state of deterioration and there are elements of the building that we are concerned about with structural failure and the oncoming of the winter weather.”
Purcell adds that he is confident he did what needed to be done.
"As the chief building official, it is my responsibility, my sacred responsibility to ensure public safety," he said. "I was just not willing to wait any longer. Not on my watch."
When asked about issuing the order on Christmas Eve, Purcell said it was just a coincidence, even though the building inspection took place in early November.
"There's nothing nefarious attached to the issuance of the order on that particular date, it just happened to be the timing of getting all our information together."
Purcell said at the time that, due to the deterioration of the building, it was a threat to public safety and at risk of collapse.
"Unfortunately, it has now come to a point where the structure is unsound and a threat to public safety. Anyone entering the building, including emergency or fire officials, could be placed in peril. Frankly, this is not a risk I am willing to take," he said at the time.
A week later, on the morning of New Year's Eve, work began.
The Cambridge chapter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has questions for the city, including what made the situation so urgent on Christmas Eve that the order had to be signed that day.
"The ACO tried to contact City Hall and an answering service was taking calls," said Karen Scott Booth of the ACO Cambridge and North Dumfries. "They didn't even know who people were and they weren't proving extensions.
"We were limited in our reaction and our ability to do anything to stop it."
The ACO adds that the city ignored its request to pause the demolition 24 hours while it filed for a legal injunction.
"I was on site Dec. 30 in the afternoon, I met with the deputy city manager and notified him that we had applied for an injunction and it would be before the court in the morning," said Booth. "I asked for a 24 hour stay."
The application went through on the Dec. 31, but only after the demolition had begun. After a short pause, the tear-down was allowed to resume.
In its initial news release announcing the order, the city noted that two independent firms in the past had determined that the building was "in poor condition which will lead to structural failure."
In a statement, Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry acknowledged that the the order superseded any decision that would have been made by council, anyway.
"Personally, I will mourn the loss of this historic structure and it represents the end of an era in Preston," the statement read in part.
"However, as we look forward, I am committed to working on ways to pay tribute to the legacy of Preston Springs and on future plans for the site to invigorate new life into the community."
The ACO said it is looking for a full, independent inquiry of the process from January 2020 to the end of the year to "make sure this never happens again."January 4, 2021