Perched at the side of a country road near Lake Erie in southeastern Ontario, an uninhabited, partially collapsed 19th-century farmhouse cuts an eerily elegant figure against the wide-open sky and the corn, soybean and wheat fields that surround it.
Over the years, the crumbling house, near Palmyra, Ontario, has become a destination for photographers like Cathie Wright, who visits the property every month and has taken hundreds of photos of it, capturing it shrouded in snow or cast in the gray light of an overcast sky.
“It’s got this dystopian charm,” said Ms. Wright, a retired professional photographer and graphic artist from Ridgetown, Ontario. “I like to get the whole wide-angle effect of the cornfields going back. It adds to the isolation of it.”
But now, the house — so beloved by photographers that the Canadian news media has called it Canada’s “most photographed house” — may have to be demolished, even though the ravages of weather and time have taken it most of the way there.
In a decision issued last month, a property standards committee in the local municipality of Chatham-Kent, gave the owner of the house, Peter Anderson, until Oct. 20 to tear it down unless he takes steps to preserve or protect it or brings it into compliance with local property laws.
The news has devastated Canadian photographers who see in the house the faded grandeur of a bygone era in rural Ontario when farmers across the province lived in houses like it with wood stoves, wells and no running water.
“I think it’s a crying shame,” said Michael Chase of Amherstburg, Ontario, the owner of Windsor Aerial Drone Photography, who happened to drive by the house on the way back from an assignment in February and took a dramatic video of its ramshackle exterior.
“It should be designated as a historical site and saved to let it deteriorate naturally,” he said. “It’s a tourist attraction.”
But Paul Lacina, the chief building official for Chatham-Kent, said that the house, known as the Guyitt House, was “beyond repair” and in an “unsafe condition.” One side has completely collapsed and the structure is “collapsing into itself,” he said.
There is evidence that teenagers have been inside, drinking and lighting small fires, he said.
“It could fall down and, if someone happened to be trespassing, it could fall on them,” Mr. Lacina said.
Mr. Anderson, whose grandparents, Roy and Ethel Guyitt, bought the property in 1908, said he felt unfairly targeted by the tear-down order, which came in response to an anonymous citizen complaint that was sent to local officials last year.
He said fixing the house would be extremely difficult given how dilapidated it is, and that filing a court challenge would be costly. But he indicated he was not ready to watch as a piece of his family’s history is destroyed.
He mused that he could put chickens inside and call it a chicken coop.
“All I want them to do is leave me alone,” said Mr. Anderson, 71, a farmer who lives in Muirkirk, Ontario, and has posted a “no trespassing” sign outside the house.
“I can put up a fence,” he said. “But leave me alone.”
He said that while he appreciated how much joy the property has brought to photographers, he was frustrated that more of them had not come forward to help him save it.
“I feel like a man on an island who is begging for somebody to rescue him,” Mr. Anderson said. “Cruise ships are going by, and people have their cameras, and they’re waving and talking, but nobody will come and rescue me.”
The two-story farmhouse, across Lake Erie from Cleveland, Ohio, and about 95 miles east of Detroit and 160 miles southwest of Toronto, was most likely built around 1840 to 1850, Mr. Anderson said.
The house once had a brick exterior, a chandelier in the parlor and a grand piano, he said. The windows still feature decorative scrollwork with hearts, circles and diamonds.
Mr. Anderson visited his grandfather and uncle there in the 1950s and 1960s, when neighbors would come by to watch “Bonanza” or hockey games on the television. He inherited the property in 2003, long after the last tenants had moved out in the 1980s.
One of the reasons it has become such a magnet for photographers is its location, about 200 feet off the Talbot Trail, a country road that follows the shore of Lake Erie and is a popular route for scenic drives.
“You’re driving down that highway and all of a sudden, it’s just ‘boom’ there it is: this creepy-looking house off the road, and it really catches your eye,” said Dave Conlon of Toronto, who posted a video of the house on his YouTube channel, Freaktography.
“Every time I stop,” Mr. Conlon said, “a dozen people are there, taking pictures because it’s such a unique roadside attraction.”
Mr. Anderson said he enjoyed the crowds. Ten or 12 people were photographing the house on Thursday, he said, when he went there to spread fertilizer.
“On Sundays, it’s endless,” Mr. Anderson said. “One comes, one goes. I can spend my whole day talking to them.”
Ms. Wright, the photographer who has been documenting the house every month for years, said that if the property must be destroyed, she would like to be there to capture its final moments as a gift for Mr. Anderson.
“I would like to photograph the very end,” Ms. Wright said. “It would be a record shot.”