Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Friday, January 18, 2013

Love and Loss - Villeneuve Castle

looking up from Picton Bay
 Mom and Dad took great interest in the historic and beautiful buildings of their town. They were especially pleased to live on Bridge Street overlooking the treed hillside where stood the Castle Villeneuve.

They were 'first on the scene' with their Instamatic the morning after the explosion. Just recently I found these photos and wanted to share them with folks who still mourn the loss.

 In the 1986 propane gas explosion, a patron of the (then) restaurant was killed. The building could not be allowed to stand without some kind of retribution, and was quickly demolished.

The six acre property which slopes down to Picton Bay marina has been for sale forever. The Lester Group  which is handling it (one simply does not 'sell' a property this special) has assembled some of the history on their website. I guess in time the property will fill up with McMansions, and the castle will be nothing but a name...bragging rights.

It will always be there for me, part of the scenery we drove by on the way to 'town'.  I still remember the matching gatehouse which stood along Bridge Street. It stood for many years after the castle was demolished. I remembered to look recently and it has disappeared. Wonder how long ago?

Be sure to venture below this post, to read the heartfelt comment sent by the son of the then-owner of our wonderful Villeneuve.


  1. Must have been a magical sight in its heyday.

  2. Oh and the setting was magical, a curving drive down from the gatehouse to the edge where it sat, and huge trees everywhere. Interesting to have had insights into the conceits of the wealthy and powerful in a wee town like Picton in the day.

  3. Loved your line about it always being there for you. I often wonder why I care so much about historic places that "don't make it"(to be charitable about it). Last week a fine c.1810 mansion in Pictou, NS was demolished. The large house was built of stone brought from Scotland, where many of the earliest settlers were from. It had been a fixture of that town, almost from its inception. Try removing that from your individual or collective memories.

  4. I'd best make plans to get back to some of your favourite towns before they disappear.

    1. Well, Annapolis Royal has lasted 400 years, I'm sure it'll be around for a few more. But your point is well taken. I think a trip next summer is in order. On the way down I'll finally make a stop at Upper Canada Village and see what people are talking about.

  5. I remember having lunch there in the '70s. A tragic ending that should not have happened. Never store propane inside!

  6. The Castle was a very unique and beautiful place to grow up in. My family are the ones who owned it during that unfortunate event. The magnificent ballroom with the ornate plaster work, grand fireplace with huge oil painting that hung over it. I remember the bustle of the weekends with the packed restaurant, the Kidds playing live music in the bar area. The view from the bar deck overlooking the bay was gorgeous. My favourite room was the one on the third that resembled a ships cabin-so neat. We never used that area or the bath with the clawfoot tub, just off the stairs. I can never forget my time living there. The stories that went with the old place or the house itself, in and out. Many times I have walked through the house in my memories. It truly was like losing a work of art. Houses like that aren't build anymore.

    BTW- The propane was being used to unfreeze a frozen waste line. The valve on the tank was faulty leaking propane across the basement floor to the furnace pilot light. The rest, sadly, is history.

    Signed- Rick Uhlmann

  7. My grandfather owned the Villeneuve Castle for a short time in the 1930's. Perhaps we could share stories from that period

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  9. As a Villeneuve by blood I would love to purchase the castle and make it spectacular again. I was in contact a few years ago with the realtors but never found out a listing price. I have yet again tried to contact them to find out how much the listing price is currently. If anyone knows anything please feel free to reply. Would love to gather as much information as possible. Thanks :-)

  10. My husband Larry White has a Carnegie medal of honour for running into that burning castle and saving a few people during that explosion in 86. My husband Larry and I are both former residents of Picton. I have a lovely painting of this historic Castle on my wall.

  11. Thanks for adding that to my story. Terrible that a life was lost; how fortunate that some were saved thanks to your husband. Our mom and dad lived on Bridge Street, just above the property. The explosion was a major event in their lives.

  12. Rosetta VannelliMay 21, 2018 at 10:09 AM

    I believe I may have a great oil painting from that castle: a Victorian lady seated and a little girl with a battledore in her hand....can anyone tell me if they know of this painting?

  13. Curious to know who posted that their grandfather owned Villeneuve Castle in the 1930's? So did my grandfather....Wondering if we are related?