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A Guelph, Ont. strip club with rich history gets heritage protection

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A well-known strip club in Guelph, Ont. is getting a heritage designation.

At The Manor, the focus is usually on the inside, but lately it’s been on the outside.

“I decided to paint the building last year and it was just a continuation of the paint job being carried over to this year when the warmer weather arrived,” said Sam Cohen, owner of The Manor.

Before it became a local landmark in the Royal City, it was home to local royalty – the Sleeman family, known for Sleeman Breweries.

So when city staff caught wind of the paint job, they expressed concern and wanted to preserve the façade. Sam Cohen obliged and halted painting.

“You’ll see there’s still some original limestone at the peak of the building that I did not paint,” said Cohen. “We’ve maintained the building as historical and we haven’t changed anything structurally. We’re going to continue to preserve the building for many more years to come.”

It comes as city council moved to protect The Manor on Tuesday.

A staff report deemed the former Sleeman home meets several criteria for designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Norm Lawrence lives on-site at the motel portion of The Manor, and helps with duties such as security.

He said efforts to maintain the history continue within the building’s walls too.

“You see all the gangster’s pictures up here?” he asked, pointing to a series of photographs that pay tribute to the prohibition era.

He also showed CTV News the stained glass throughout several windows in the building.

It’s music to John Sleeman’s ears – the founder and chairman of Sleeman Breweries. His office is filled with memories from the family home, such as a clock his great, great grandfather made in England and brought over to Canada in 1834.

John Sleeman at his office on June 13, 2024. (CTV News/Spencer Turcotte)

“It was at the house and it has the original pendulums. I mean, nothing has changed,” said Sleeman.

The family history is sprinkled throughout his work space, but another key piece is his desk, which belonged to his grandfather.

“If you open this, there’s all kinds of drawers to put bottles of booze in. Some of them have shields over them. So when inspectors came you’d say ‘I have nothing to show you’ and you pull it out and there’d be a bottle of booze in there,” said Sleeman, showing CTV News the hidden compartments.

Down the road at the brewery, photos of the original family home still line the walls.

A portrait of the original family home still lines the walls at Sleeman Brewery. (CTV News/Spencer Turcotte)

“There’s still a lot of sentimental value,” said Sleeman. “And now with a heritage designation, it’ll last for another 100 years.”

The Manor, Sleeman family and the City of Guelph may seem like an unlikely partnership. But it is a partnership that works and one that has a common goal of making sure this local landmark lasts.

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