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Meet city's 'Captain Kirk': Charles Pachter is sold on Orillia (10 photos)

Pachter, who has purchased and transformed a few properties in Orillia, is 'a friendly visionary with an undiluted affection for this town'

When it comes to Orillia, Charles Pachter’s artistic eye sees beyond the canvas.

The artist, who caused a stir — and collected a bunch of new fans — with his 1972 painting of Queen Elizabeth II riding a moose, has also left his mark on local real estate.

In 2013, he purchased a former auto repair shop on Western Avenue and transformed it into an art studio called MOFO (Moose Factory of Orillia).

He then purchased the properties at 49 and 114 Elgin St., keeping the former for himself and renting out the latter.

It was Pachter’s friend, real-estate agent Vlad Bregman, who turned his attention to yet another property. Bregman took it upon himself to approach someone at 92 Peter St. S. and ask if the property was for sale.

“Vlad’s the one who told me, ‘This is the one you should get,’” Pachter recalled.

Pachter made an offer without even entering the house. Now he owns it.

These have not been easy projects for the Toronto-born artist, who splits his time between the big city and Orillia. The house he had restored at 49 Elgin St. was a disaster.

When he finally entered the house on Peter Street, of which he took possession at the beginning of April, it was a similar scene.

“It was just a mess. I was speechless. It was a wreck,” he said. “It was filthy and there were needles all over from people shooting up.”

In fact, it had been the focus of a police investigation into a shooting in January.

“I realized it was irreparable. It was a goner,” Pachter said.

He was undeterred.

“I’m kind of a Captain Kirk of Orillia. I go boldly where others fear to go,” he said with a laugh.

He got a demolition permit for 92 Peter St. S. and is waiting on the disconnection of services before tearing it down.

He’s still deciding exactly what to do with the place, but a draft plan shows it connecting with his MOFO property and 49 Elgin St., including a central courtyard and gardens. He is working with local architect Rod Young and landscaper Anna van Maris, who created the garden at 49 Elgin St.

“I’m excited about doing this,” he said. “I just want to get it built and have the joy of seeing it transformed.”

That type of transformation has been a thrill for Pachter for decades.

In the 1970s and ’80s, he led the revival of Toronto’s Queen Street West, when 20 buildings were restored to be used as arts spaces. Orillia is, to a lesser extent, an extension of that passion.

“I see Orillia as my Queen Street. To me, it’s like the reincarnation of Queen Street that I knew years ago,” he said.

Orillia has long held a special place in Pachter’s heart. His family had a cottage in the area, and he spent 12 years painting in a former ice-storage depot on Lake Simcoe that he converted into a studio.

“I became enamoured of the town,” he said. “It’s a charming little town, but its worst advocates are the people who live there. They don’t get it.”

Pachter hopes he — “a friendly visionary with an undiluted affection for this town” — can play a part in turning that image around.

“I do see it as a future destination in the next decades,” he said, adding he is responsible for at least three people moving to Orillia after they saw what he was doing here. “I don’t mind at all having part of my legacy be in this town.”

More information about Pachter and his work can be found on his website.


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Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central Ontario news desk in Simcoe County and Newmarket.
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