A Woodstock, Ont., Realtor and an Oxford County excavation company have issued a joint apology after posting Instagram images, from the site of a building demolition, that appeared to mock residents who were fighting to save Elgin Hall.
The photos were posted on the Instagram accounts for Oxford Evacuation on Monday while Elgin Hall was being pulled down by excavators.
The two-storey yellow brick building was the subject of a battle between a developer who owns the property and a group of local residents who lost their fight to get the building a heritage designation.
One Instagram image headlined “Open house” shows the building’s exterior walls smashed open. In another post, a man is smiling and sitting in a bathtub among the rubble while holding a shower head. Another image shows the demolition underway with the headline: “Knock, knock … can I come in?”
Another Instagram post showed the exterior wall of the building opened up with the hashtag #mosthated.
The images no longer appear on the company’s account.
Calls to both businesses were not returned on Tuesday.
Residents who fought to save the pre-Confederation building said the posts were insensitive.
“It very much had a feel of rubbing salt in the wounds,” said Debbie Kasman, who petitioned the Township of South West Oxford Council to save the building. “This was a very hard loss and this felt like they were giving the middle finger to the community.”
Demolition permit was issued
The Council voted 4-3 two weeks ago to take no action on a report commissioned by the township that concluded the building had heritage attributes. That decision meant the municipality would not be able to oppose a demolition permit application for the building.
The township confirmed to CBC News that property owner Elgin Development Inc. was issued a demolition permit last week.
In their apology, which was shared to CBC News, the two companies said the Instagram posts were a misstep.
“We recognize that the images shared on social media were not in line with our values and beliefs,” their apology read. “We have come to understand the significance of this site within our community and have accordingly removed all the posts from our social media accounts. Our intention is to increase our involvement in the SWOX [South West Oxford] community in the future.”
Kasman also complained about the posts to the municipality.
In an emailed response to Kasman that she shared with CBC News, chief building officer Howard Leaver agreed the posts were inappropriate and “very unprofessional.”
In the email, Leaver said he called the demolition contractor right away.
“With no minced words I told them how I felt it was very unprofessional considering the current atmosphere surrounding Elgin Hall. In their mind it was just another old building that they were hired to demolish. They expressed their utmost apology.”