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The province is investigating the demolition of a registered heritage building in Avonport, N.S.

The Reid House dates back to the 1760s. It was used as a tavern, a stage coach stop, a courthouse, a post office and a polling station as well as a farm.

The property is owned by Nanco Development, based in Halifax. It was torn down on Sunday.

Chris Gertridge, a board member of both the Wolfville and the Kings County historical societies, lives in nearby Gaspereau.

“It was an icon and meant a lot to a lot of different people,” said Gertridge. “I rushed down there when I heard on Monday, but it was too late, there was nothing left.”

Laura Marson lives in Lower Sackville, but has family roots in the area. “Whenever we drove past the Reid House I knew we were close to my grandparents’ home,” said Marson.

Marson had started a Facebook group to try to buy part of the property to save the building. She said there was a graphite drawing done on a wall by a traveller in 1812 who didn’t have funds to pay for his lodgings.

“It made headlines when it was found, because it was found under some wallpaper,” said Marson. “Local museums wanted to put it on display and now it’s gone and we’ll never get it back.”

This graphite drawing from 1812 was found underneath old wallpaper at Reid House. (Laura Marson)

The house was designated a provincial heritage property in 1993.

Marson said no one was contacted before the demolition took place to allow any artifacts to be removed. She said so far the Acadian-built foundation, which predated the Reid House, is still intact, but she worries it could also be removed soon.

According to Trish Javorek, the director of planning and inspections for Kings County, a demolition permit was issued to Nanco Development on Dec. 2.

Javorek said the municipality had no grounds to refuse to issue the permit. But she added the fact that the building had a heritage designation was flagged for both the property owner and provincial officials.

‘No such approval was given’

A spokesperson for the provincial Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, Matt Lumley, confirmed in an email that the developer had not applied to deregister the building.

“To substantially alter or demolish a provincially-registered property, an owner must obtain approval from the Province of Nova Scotia. No such approval was given,” wrote Lumley.

Contravening the Heritage Property Act can lead to a fine of up $10,000 for individuals and up to $250,000 for corporations.

In a statement, the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia called the demolition a “shocking disregard for the law.”

“Nothing will bring back this landmark building, but a large fine may indicate to others that the Province is serious about protecting its heritage resources,” it said.

Nanco Development did not respond to repeated requests from CBC News for comment.

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