The ivy at the Nelson Courthouse, which has long served as one of the city’s iconic visuals, is to be cut down.
The Ministry of Citizen Services’ real property division, which manages the courthouse, announced last week the ivy is causing damage to the facade of the 112-year-old building and must be removed starting this month.
A ministry spokesperson said there are no plans to replace it.
On Monday, city council approved the ministry’s heritage alteration permit subject to several conditions including “controlled replanting of appropriate species of ivy take place as soon as possible.”
It’s not clear if the ministry will follow those conditions, which it isn’t obligated to abide by.
An assessment by Fairbank Architects dated March 10 states the growth is damaging the facade’s marble exterior and mortar, windows, gutters and roof.
Rats and rodents are also nesting in the ivy and using it to get inside, it is getting in the way of security cameras, and the roots are compromising the building’s foundation and leading to water damage.
Mayor John Dooley said he understands and agrees with the rationale behind the work.
“For me, for us as a community, I think it’s really important that we don’t want the integrity of that building damaged by ivy to the point where it could eventually fail,” he said.
The ministry said a five-year maintenance plan had been in place to trim the ivy, but was too costly and inefficient. The courthouse’s marble exterior, meanwhile, is regarded as soft and susceptible to damage by the ivy.
The courthouse is designated a municipal heritage site, and the ivy is described as a “character-defining element.” The recommendation adopted Monday by city council also asks that the courthouse be designated a provincial heritage building and that no “potentially harmful” work such as power washing take place without consulting a conservation specialist.
The Nelson Courthouse was designed by Francis Rattenbury and constructed in 1908. It’s not clear when ivy spread over the building, but a postcard provided by local historian Greg Nesteroff shows it was present as early as 1931.
The ivy at the courthouse has a special meaning to Susan Wallach.
The Nelson native was a lawyer for 36 years prior to her retirement, while her grandfather Alexander Carrie was a supervising architect for the courthouse when it was originally built. The thought of the ivy’s removal upsets her.
“I think it would be a sad day if they strip it. I really do,” said Wallach. “It’s a beautiful building in and of itself but that ivy just makes it eye-poppingly spectacular.”