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Is city doing enough to protect heritage?

James JacksonThe home built at the corner of Bridgeport Road and Regina Street by the city's first full-time engineer, Charles Moogk, was demolished last month. It was built in 1878 but was badly damaged in a 2011 fire.
Chronicle Staff
Published Oct. 8, 2014

The great-granddaughter of the Town of Waterloo’s first full-time engineer is fearful the city isn’t doing enough to protect its heritage and remember those who helped build it.

Carol Moogk-Soulis, whose great-grandfather Charles Moogk became the first full-time engineer in 1899 and oversaw the design and construction of some of the city’s most iconic buildings, was disheartened to see the family home he built at the corner of Bridgeport Road and Regina Street demolished last month.

She said the city must do more to remember its most important figures.

“We don’t have anything commemorating the man himself. We don’t have a street, don’t have a park, don’t have a parkette (named after him),” said Moogk-Soulis. Moogk was inducted into the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame in 2005.

Moogk built the family home in 1878 at the corner of what was then Cedar Street (Bridgeport Road) and Queen Street (Regina Street), but the house was torn down last month, along with the neighbouring house at 50 Regina St. N., and all that remains now is a vacant lot.

The house had been empty for several years after a fire in 2011.

The mid-morning fire tore through the multi-residential structure in November of that year and had become a notable eyesore in the neighbourhood in the years since.

The man who built that home, along with several other houses in the area for his family members, is synonymous with some of the most important developments in the history of Waterloo. Born in Preston in 1848 as Carl Moogk, his father was a carpenter and died when he was just nine years old.

Moogk left for Detroit to learn his father’s trade and he met and eventually married Josephine Lockhard in 1873. At some point in the 1870s he anglicized his first name to Charles. The couple returned to Waterloo in 1874 and Moogk found work with a contractor to build the new Waterloo village hall, the fire hall and the market building. From the early 1880s until 1911, he owned and operated his own construction office in Waterloo.

“That was his office there, at the side of the house,” said Moogk-Soulis, pointing to a black-and-white photo of the home.

After town council appointed Moogk as full-time engineer in 1899, he oversaw many significant local municipal projects, including the drilling of municipal water wells and the installation of fire hydrants and fire call boxes, the conversion of the town’s steam-powered electricity generator to hydro power generated at Niagara Falls, and he implemented plans for municipally-funded garbage collection, street numbering of buildings, and the paving of Waterloo’s main streets.

Moogk was described as a “gruff perfectionist” and his work ethic was legendary. One story suggests he ordered the firewall of a building under construction to be rebuilt because it looked sloppy — even though no one would see it.

He also supervised the paving of Erb Street in 1924 from his bed as he lay dying of cancer. As the work progressed, workers would bring photographs of the project to him for his approval, and he died the day after the work was finished.

He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

Several significant buildings he helped design or build still stand to this day, including: Carnegie Library, Waterloo post office, the Zimmerman Hotel, the Mutual Life Building, St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, St. Louis Roman Catholic Church, All Saints Anglican Church, Erb Street Mennonite Church, St. Louis School and Alexandra School.

The irony of Moogk’s former home falling into such a state of disrepair and eventually having to be torn down isn’t lost on his great-granddaughter.

“I’ve lost that part of my family history,” she said.

After the city received a request for a demolition permit in June, the municipal heritage committee noted that due to the significant alteration inside the building, as well as the fire, they would not seek historical designation of the house, said Michelle Lee, the city’s heritage planner.

However, given the significance of the building, the committee did suggest the building be documented prior to demolition and that the new property owner be asked to commemorate Moogk in some way.

The new owner, Waterloo lawyer Frank Volpini, has not discussed his future plans for the site.

Moogk-Soulis, who was raised in Kitchener and lived in Newfoundland and Alberta prior to returning to Waterloo in 1978, hopes the city can preserve its historic past in the face of future population growth and further intensification in the historic city core.

“How do you describe that to someone who is new to the community? Or who comes to study math or engineering? That importance of our history and remembering our development as a city,” Moogk-Soulis said.