Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Friday, February 5, 2016

Schoolhouse Rock

my alma mater, S.S.#3, built 1875
Regular visitors to this blog may know that I volunteer in a variety of capacities at Glanmore National Historic Site. It's enormously rewarding and fun, for many reasons which I won't go into just now. I laugh at my trepidation when I first signed on; thought I was entering the domain of sniffy society matrons who would dust-test my furniture with their white gloves. Couldn't be further from the truth.

One of the best things about volunteering at Glanmore for this curious cat is learning. Annual volunteer development days, an impressive resource library, coaching by professional staff to take on new roles. A delightful part of being a Friend of Glanmore is the monthly meeting: business (short,) coffee break (great fellowship,) and guest speaker (fascinating.)

This week our guest was sociologist and writer Millie Morton, who has written a tribute to her mother: a country kid, farm-wife and one-room school teacher story. Lovely. The book is called Grace. The subtitle, A teacher's life, one-room schools, and a century of change in Ontario, promises (and delivers) a thoughtful nostalgic and philosophical journey through the very territory I travelled as a child, albeit a couple of decades later. I am wandering through it, and memory. I attended a one-room school from 1952 to 1960. Same one room, same teacher, pretty much the same kids but for the occasional addition of "the beginners" in September.

Millie's talk - and her book - started a reminiscence about moments in that school-house (as they used to be called, likely for their domestic scale) and the formidable teacher who superintended my education
She deserves a book,  I would suggest. Not a perfect teacher for kids who struggled. A chooser of favourites. Shy, obedient and diligent little me was her favourite kind of 'pupil.

All those memories pouring back. What strikes me about the hard life of Millie's mother Grace, and of Miss Eaton at S.S.#3 North Marysburgh was that they were rocks. Expected to be community models, judged  by how well they produced a Christmas concert or gave the strap or by the memory-work their pupils could produce, hired and fired by uneducated school board members. They often married local farmers - and in the day, that ended their careers - and continued to be cornerstones in rural society.

But I do go on. Read Grace. It's an astounding book. And like me, you may have one-room school experience, as pupil or teacher, and the book will touch your heart.



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

...and there my true love sits him down

Last Wednesday's junket to Kingston was delightful, as always. We drove down lots of streets of houses calling me back (when it's warmer, please) to visit on foot, with camera. Lunch at a favourite pub. A browse (always fruitful) for pre-owned books at the remarkable Berry & Peterson Booksellers. That accounts for the pile of new-to-me books on the desk.

My fella pulled the first needful title from the shelf (rather appropriate after a couple of pints at Sir John's Public House.) There is a Tavern in the Town was written by the indomitable duo  of Margaret McBurney and Mary Byers  and published by UofT Press in 1987 . The book had been on my want-list for some years (I already have most of their work in my library, great go-to books) but as my book budget shrinks, my visits to my list diminish and I had forgotten it.

Michael Cook's Tavern (1822)
I have been fascinated by the role of the tavern in the early history of our towns, since I researched Mrs. Simpson's tavern (a ramshackle log building near the Moira river in equally ramshackle late 1700s Belleville) for a March 2013 article for the HCHS Outlook.

Here's a wee account of the tavern - and the later Wallbridge House hotel - from Belleville: A Popular History, written by Belleville's most prolific and respected historian, Gerry Boyce. I invite you to pick up some of his titles; Historic Hastings (1967, updated 2013) is but one of Gerry's impeccably researched and entertainingly written visits into our past.

John Willard's Hotel 
The McBurney and Byers book's flap text description of the role of the early tavern (which Mrs. Simpson's fulfilled admirably) is better than I can do (and much more succinct.) I quote it here:

"As soon as the first roads were cut through Ontario's wilderness, an inn-keeper, that jack of all trades to his pioneer community, opened the doors of his hostelry. His was the first public building until the town hall appeared years later. All events of any importance took place in his establishment: court sessions, elections, land sales, and even in one instance, a sitting of the Legistlative Assembly of Upper Canada. Doctors, dentists and travelling salesmen met the public in the inns. Church services and Sunday school classes competed with circuses and concerts. Political movements were born there. Settlers were given provisions, directions, loans and supplies at the inn."

Aaron Merrick's "respectable tavern"
From what I've read over time, that's an excellent summary. I tsk'd the entire time I was copying it, stumbling over the HE pronoun, given that (as you'll know if you followed that link to the passage from Gerry Boyce) Meyer's Creek's indomitable tavern-keeper was a SHE. As were many others.

Mc Burney and Byers visit many of my favourite taverns. Most of the ones I've visited to date feature in the chapter 'The Danforth Road.' I'm just getting into this entertaining and informative book, and already foresee its future tucked into the Blanche's map pocket (along with my driving gloves) leading me to visit all the ones I haven't yet seen (or frequented.) Thirsty work.

William Fairfield's house, old Bath Road
Let me share what the writers have to say about a few of early Ontario taverns. Several superb early inns were spared thanks to historic preservationists, and now live out their lives in old house sanctuaries, telling their stories.

The fine British Classical brick structure at the top, "one of the best" according to our authors, is Michael Cook's 1822 tavern, originally standing on the Prescott to Cornwall stage-coach route along the St. Lawrence River. It was that same river whose alteration by the Seaway Project drowned many early properties and townsites. One happy result was the relocation of Cook's Tavern (restored to the 1835 period) at Upper Canada Village. We visited in 2012.

Alexander Thompson's Inn 1840s
Below it is John Willard's Hotel, which was built in 1790, and had three owners before he purchased it in 1830. Here's an interesting tidbit from the book: "His records show that for the month of February 1830...he served nearly five hundred people with food or lodging, or both." I wonder how those numbers compare to today, when the lovely Loyalist building serves lunches to the tourists at Upper Canada Village. Here's an account of the day mi amore and I joined the lunch line.

full entablature on a side entrance?
The little stone building is  the tavern operated by one of the nine children of William Merrick, UE, who built the first mills in the town which took his name in the first decade of the 1800s. I wrote about this town, one of our favourites, a few times in 2014. Where does the time go?

Below that is a pair of Loyalist Georgian inns, both protected. The William Fairfield home, built by 1793, entertained travellers who would have required R&R after a rough passage on Samuel Purdys' stage-coach along the rudimentary Kingston to Bath road. Hospitality was like that in the day, I've read. Even the simplest and most crowded cabin would never turn away a stranger from the door. The home sits in Amherstview's Fairfield House and Park, a delicious shore park spot I visit often.

I'm a keen admirer of this welcoming spot
Looking a bit like Fairfield's city cousin is a former resident of Scarborough, a halfway house for coaches on the Dunbarton (near Pickering) to Toronto jounce. This white frame inn with double verandahs and two exquisite doorways, is Alexander Thompson's late 1840s inn; it plays The Halfway House in its newest role at Black Creek Pioneer Village. The interior of the inn is just exquisite. Its interpretation of the life of an inn-keeping family in the day kept me busy for hours.

I visited this lovely stucco over frame building twice last summer; it's the Kennaley family's inn. It was built as a home in the village of Keene before 1836, and grew fourteen rooms by the 1860s. It was restored by B.Napier Simpson Junior and is now adeptly playing the role of the Keene Hotel at Lang Pioneer Village.

A fellow traveller throughout this exploration of early inns is Anna Jameson. I've been reading The Embroidered Tent by Marion Fowler, a tad academic but entertaining study of five British gentlewomen taking on the Canadian wilderness from 1791 (Elizabeth Simcoe) to 1872 (Lady Dufferin.)  Anna Jameson, British writer and feminist, published Winter Studies and Summer Rambles (1838) her observations on Toronto society pretensions and her passion for the wild north. Tavern in the Town is peppered with her acerbic remarks about the dubious quality of inns from Chatham to Sault Ste. Marie.

As soon as spring arrives and the open road beckons, I will visit a few more of these historic taverns. Look for another round of reminiscences, soon.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Slow Motion Train Wreck

 The expression "slow motion train wreck" is a common metaphor for an inevitable tragedy unfolding in front of one's eyes. It's often used to describe a  life unravelling due to addiction. I think it can be equally descriptive of the decline of abandoned properties, often hotly championed, but with circumstances that do not augur well for successful adaptive reuse and salvation. We watch it happen.

One of the best examples I've seen lately is Kingston's Outer Station. I've been hearing about it for several years. One day last fall, on a search for resonance (ghosts of the early developing city) along Montreal Street, I came upon the unmistakeable proportions of a train station, and quickly nosed Blanche onto the sidewalk beside some substantial cement barriers - "no meddling here, they asserted"-  to have a closer look.
















My immediate reaction was 'what is there to save'? And a nanosecond later, as my eye swept the property, the skeleton of a two-storey limestone with its four corner chimneys still proudly standing, caught my attention, and I knew.
Outer station (1855)










This station stood along a sharp curve on the Grand Trunk Railway, midpoint between Montreal and Toronto, and served as Kingston's main station from 1856 until the current station opened in 1974. The brick building was added 1895-98. Once there were wood and freight sheds, engine houses, and a refreshment saloon.



Eventually, the station ran out of steam. The track was moved north in 1976, and the offices were closed in 1987. The place was repurposed as a restaurant for a bit, but was a bit too far from the entertainment district to succeed. Another note on the theme of location, location is the fate of the Inner Station, which was connected by a spur line. Sitting on Ontario Street, housing a restaurant, it is the darling of the tourists.

The limestone building, which bears a resemblance to Belleville's heritage station according to one source (but with the added cachet of a second storey)  and its site were designated as a heritage railway station in 1994. Sadly (predictably?) a fire destroyed the roof of the stone building two years later.

The property stands neglected, one of the Canadian Heritage Foundation's 2008 top ten endangered sites. Its chances can't be improving with age. A "sub-prime location" limiting development (not my words,) delays in the courts, CNR's historic intransigence, and site contamination don't augur well. A newpaper account from early this year suggests there's still hope, although I don't have an update.

There are historic photos of the old Outer Station on the astounding blog Trackside Treasure. My curiosity about the roof form (I'd guessed Mansard) was instantly satisfied (although the author notes that roof was added 20 years after construction.) Here's a link. Blogger Eric Gagnon offers "the definitive source for Canadian railway enlightenment." I think he may be right. See you there!

Thanks to Wikipedia for some of the facts, and to Vintage Kingston's  wonderfully nostalgic Facebook page for the image of the intact Outer Station illustrating the similarity in design with Belleville's historic station.
Wonder what its future will be?

Interestingly (at least to me) I thought I had posted this account long ago. I even referred to it in a 'subsequent' post - which may have had some ambitious reader following the link to 'Sorry.' Just now, as I was going through my train station posts, I discovered this one - about to leave the station.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Out-takes II

I occasionally check Blogger stats.
Flemish bond, early brick
Sometimes I can tell what people are interested in by the titles that come up in the list of visited posts. Other times I suspect webcrawlers.
Occasionally, seeing an old post reminds me that I once promised to return to add more information or captions. Sorry, Grafton!

Today I had a look (along with some unknown visitor) at Out-takes. This is text which ended up on the cutting room floor (Orland French's treetop office on Albert Street) at the time that the 2013 book Wind, Water, Barley and Wine was being put together.

Asa Werden house 



It reminded me that I had more to say about PEC architecture.
And that I had committed to doing so.
So. Brick.

Prince Edward county and Picton in particular is a red brick kind of place. There are plenty of early county brick homes still standing 200 years after they were built, likely with bricks baked on the property. The HASPE survey completed prior to 1984 (ssource of much of The Settler's Dream research I suspect) lists the most likely candidate for PEC’s oldest brick house honours as the Asa Werden house, built on his extensive Athol property in 1813. Werden, a successful lumberman and property owner, built a fine house befitting his station in life. The home displays early characteristics: tiny square attic windows, tight eaves and wide facade/narrow side footprint. The brick is a rare pale salmon pink hue, laid in prestigious Flemish bond on the façade with the less impressive common bond on other elevations. That's a common conceit which survives to the present day - putting the showy and more costly treatments where they will make the best impression. Check your nearest subdivision.

Another exquisite early brick home, the austere 1829 Loyalist Georgian  dwelling built by Richard Miskin and his wife Sarah, daughter of Carrying Place pioneer Asa Weller, shows the characteristic evenly spaced windows across five bays. Until recently the house was in a poor state of repair, but my last drive by was much more encouraging.

 The fine c.1813 John Scott house was rescued from oblivion by Rodger Greig. local teacher and built heritage expert, writer of the sometimes cheeky volume The Splendour of Prince Edward County (Mika Publishing, 1991.) The house stands far from the road on the way to Point Petre in secluded treed grounds. It features paired windows, identical front and back door-cases and a basement kitchen, signs of its early pedigree. It is built of small unevenly coloured colonial brick, with the preferred cherry red reserved for the front façade.

My heart broke when I witnessed the 2012 demolition of the doughty little Mouck house near South Bay. It was built around 1836 by William Mouck, and was generally considered the oldest brick house in South Marysburgh. Its small windows in gable and façade, tight eaves and simple eaves returns proclaimed its age. 




At one time the house was covered in rough-cast, suggesting the brick was beginning to deteriorate. At its demise the house revealed its brick heart; the imperfect bricks used as insulating infill, or ‘nogging’, placed between wood framing elements. 

Cruikshank and Stokes comment on the significance of this dignified small house built in brick in a rural setting “at the time brick was generally reserved for palatial houses in towns.”


One of the county’s finest early brick houses was built around 1830 by the Reverend William Macaulay who established the Church of England presence in 1821 in Delhi, the area south of today’s Picton harbour. Macaulay owned most of the property in the area, and oversaw the growth of the new community in spiritual and temporal matters; he donated property and resources for many significant buildings in the area. 


Macaulay House, today part of Macaulay Heritage Park, illustrates many characteristics of early brick building. The colour of the brick varies greatly, from the prestigious even cherry red (considered the finest colour) Flemish bond brick across the front to the mixed hues varying from tones of pink to buff to brown on the less important sides. 

Macaulay’s 1830 St. Mary Magdalene Church displays the same early mottled brick. Adding to its charm are the low roof pitch and outstanding vernacular Gothic windows. 








  

I love these two  large former farmhouses in Picton. They seem aloof, turning away from the street. Turns out  they were built before the town was surveyed into house lots and didn't know which way to turn. 

The c.1835 home of Simeon Washburn, prominent merchant and politician is situated behind and to the east of St. Mary Magdalene Church along today's Main Street East. This two-storey brick home displays high gable end parapet walls with four massive chimneys. 

Another original farmhouse, built by Joseph Johnson about 1835, sits on today's Johnson Street, although the facade is oriented to the south and what was once an uninterrupted view to the harbour.

Its brickwork is laid up in Flemish bond,  rare at that time,  according to something I've read somewhere.

















While I was writing the chapter I had a lot of fun learning bricklaying (on paper.) Page 107 of the book displays my prowess. Common bond, Flemish bond, and my favourite, Rowlock bond are shown. Rowlock bond was the trademark of  the bricklaying Welsh brothers, whose work I featured here . Turns out the clever lads didn't used bigger bricks, they just stood them on the skinny side, to make them go further!

I wrote about an endangered rowlock bond house on the 'town hill' in Picton, back in February 2013. Last time I looked there was a 'development opportunity' being shilled for the site. Poor prognosis for that little house.

A final note on brick. A most versatile building material. I am continually astonished at all the varations a brick-builder can create: dog-tooth, corbelling, a pattern I cannot call anything but "smocking." Then there's polychromatic brick-work.

A rare sighting of checkerboard brick is to be had in Waupoos.

But the last word in brick (oh wait, I forgot the 'white brick' house in Picton, likely from Sandbanks sand) goes to the stately deGroffe houses of Bloomfield from the late 1800s.

These simple, elegant, commodious homes lend dignity to the village and give it some of its distinctive character.







I read somewhere that the Degroffe trademark is said to be the showy cornice detail on these otherwise plain and practical (Quaker-inspired?) homes.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A river runs through it

A chilly bright and beautiful winter day today. Unfortunately, when people say that to me, all I hear is "chilly." Like those dog jokes where the cartoonist interprets what dogs hear. Lots of blah-blah and then "walk" or "treat." So. Chilly. Have spent part of the morning between the covers.

The covers in question are those of the inestimable treasure Rogues' Hollow by Peter John Stokes, Tom Cruickshank, and Robert Heaslip (ACO, 1983)


I spent two days in Rogue's Hollow (known more commonly as Newburgh since the 1850s) in November. If you are a Newburgh nut also, I'll link you here and here to previous posts.

The more I walked Newburgh's streets the more I became acquainted with its rivers. First thing I learned - there is only one river, the Napanee. Split by nature into two branches (the smaller one is Little Napanee - no poet on hand to christen it more poetically) and domesticated into canals and millraces by the owners of its water powered industries, Newburgh is a town with a lot of waterfront.

Walk with me through some delightful spots in Newburgh where the river and the town coexist.

This grey and honey-coloured stone building hugging the north edge of the Napanee, dead centre in down-town along Main Street, is Philip Phalen's blacksmith shop, built on the site where he had been established since before 1856. The building looks ancient, but the authors suggest that it was built after the 1887 fire which destroyed so much of the centre of the town. By way of evidence, a c1910 photo shows a new-looking (although rough-built, in the interests of economy) stone building at the site. Tsk. A virtual Newburgh newbie. The building has been used as blacksmith shop, fire hall, storage and now a residence. But never as a mill, according to Rogues' Hollow, despite the Wikipedia article writer's assertion to the contrary.
Salmon River upstream

For years the door in the south facade opened onto thin air above the river; only recently has someone harnessed the power of the deck.

From the bridge you can view the Napanee River burbling along cheerily. But just back it up with a dam, especially during spring freshet, and she becomes an industrial force to be reckoned with.
looking downstream

Join me on the bridge. It's easy to get a look to west and east, in the fall with the leaves flown. The top photo is the view upstream, what the folks sitting on that deck would see.

To the left is the view downstream.  I like the bit of a ruin in the stream;  I believe it's part of the dam at the former Hooper's mill complex.
no this was not the November trip

Doesn't look like much of a flow really, does it? But by 1860, Newburgh was home to an astonishing amount of industry, most powered by the river and its branches: a sawmill, flour mill, carding mill, a foundry, carriage and cabinet works, tanneries and blacksmith shops.

Denis is standing near the riverbank at the concrete and stone dam which is visible from the Main Street bridge above. Here Douglas Hooper started the  Union Flour and Grist Mills in 1840; later he added an oat mill. A mill pond bulged around Hooper's dam on the Napanee River.

Nothing is visible of Hooper's grist milling empire but by way of consolation, I offer his 1864 woolen mill, which sits just north of the earlier buildings, on the Little Napanee River. Fortunately, this immense structure has been saved, beautifully restored and landscaped, and used as a residence .

The Rogues' Hollow writers comment on the round iron plates in the fine stone walls of the two and a half storey structure. They're useful, not decorative, serving to hold the ends of tie bars keeping the walls standing straight and tall. To finish up I'll share two of the other stone buildings in the valley of the Napanee River, along Main Street.


The stone store (with its shop-front unattractively modernized) sits right on the northwest bank. It's visible in the top photo, should you still be trying to get oriented. This is the W.W.Adams Tailor Shop c1850. Rogues' Hollow notes its classical qualities, its size and proportions and its grand chimneys, stone corbels and eaves (a particularly Newburgh feature.)

Madden Store
The final stone structure in the river bottom grouping is this lovely. It sits a bit north of Palen's blacksmith shop, its parapet end wall visible in the second photo from the top.

This is one of those happier stories. Often buildings that appear in great condition in books published in the 1970s or 80s (why are there so few architectural history books coming out these days?) have succumbed to unattractive face-lifts or worse, in the intervening years. In the case of the lovely Madden Store (c1855) Stokes et al describe this worthy as "vacant for some years, partly stabilized and restored by the former owner..." They comment on the boarded up shop windows which the owner had painted to resemble the original 12 paned glass. This is what they had to say about the Madden Store: "The building is of great architectural importance and it contributed to the overall visual quality of this section of Main Street." See it's not just me. They note the "imposing chimneys, stone corbels and eaves, quoins and posts to the shopfront, and a transom over the front door."

I love how it sits right at the street, in the old manner. And that happy story? It's now restored, and looking wonderful.

Newburgh sounds like a nice little community, even today. Check their Facebook page to keep up with news and events. Shout Sister, a choir I used to sing with, performed recently, a Syrian refugee benefit. Good on ya, Newburgh!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Grain Drain

One day last week I  learned something from Facebook.
Actually, I do that most every day, as my friends are intelligent people who post interesting stuff, and the pages I follow tend toward heritage and architectural history.

On January 4 Connie who is Facebook host for Trenton Town Hall 1861 (the page of the Trent Port Historical Society) posted an account of businessman and steamer agent William Jeffs. This was his home, at 116 King Street, built c1884. The site features a photo taken around 1900 when vines climbed the tower, and a cascade of young ladies graced the steps.

Although William Jeff's house sits a respectable distance above Dundas Street nestled near the base of Mount Pelion, his life was on the waterfront. He owned a grain elevator right at the harbour, and another brick commercial building.The image on the site (from a Belden's atlas, maybe?) shows 1870s sailing ships at the wharf and several wagons and teams representing the grain shipment which took place here.

side steps - another apartment 
A January 7 Trenton Town Hall 1861 post profiled yet another once fine home. The home of  Captain Jonathan Porte at Queen West and Cresswell Drive is in wretched shape,  long ago divided into apartments, giving few hints of  its former elegance. Here's a glimpse in Streetview.                                                                                                                       Trenton is fascinating that way. I love the echoes of the past in its many "unevenly preserved" neighbourhoods. There are a few beautifully maintained Edwardian homes in the area  along with a variety of infill bungalows and apartment towers no doubt replacing older homes.
For some reason I don't have photos of the area around Queen, McGill and Shuter streets, but it's calling me back. The neighbourhood boasts several wonderfully eclectic and boastful red brick mansions; sadly they are now living in genteel poverty, subdivided and neglected. One on Queen Street just before the intersection with Shuter, is Victorian eclecticism writ large, with an Italianate tower with  Mansard roof (similar to the Jeffs house) tall narrow paired windows, and an ample frosting of gable end trim. Although the main house sports a gable roof, a back wing goes Mansard.  Dormers. Cresting. Finials. Polychromatic slate. Check, Verticality the watchword.


What I find absolutely fascinating is the view these houses must have had from the back of the properties - over a bluff and out to the Bay of Quinte, past the railway lines of the Canadian Northern  and an industrial district which contained (among others?) the  Trenton Cooperage mill, founded in 1908 to manufacture barrels for the export of apples from wharves along this same shore. Now it's the home of Quinte West's wonderful library (winner of the 'best view from a library' award), the green expanse of Bayshore Park's soccer fields beyond the memorial, and a new marina ("slip into something more comfortable.")   Time travel. Tickets here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Man Outstanding in his Field

shame about the Armco - road-widening 
Growing up among houses of white-painted frame, soft handmade brick and warm grey
limestone  - with the odd outcrop of cobblestone in Hastings County -  has led me to a fascination with a type of stone building not seen in Prince Edward County and other eastern Ontario locations. Recent conversations and research about threatened houses in the Whitevale area, have prompted me to find out more about fieldstone houses. I love the mottled appearance of muted jewel tones of granite, and am in awe of the extraordinary work and workmanship involved with splitting the irregularly shaped rocks to create uniform blocks for coursed stonework.

random rubble on sides, coursed dressed stonework on facade
It's a puzzle how little information I have been able to find. My best source was my go-to book for wood construction (go figure) John Rempel's Building with Wood (UofT, 1980). He adds a chapter on 'Non-wood Construction' which contains some gorgeous photos of fieldstone houses. One in particular, on page 273 ("turn to the chapter in your textbooks") shows an exquisite doorcase (drool) in a house front of coursed stonework, near Mosport. Wonder if it might still be standing?

A website on drystone wall building gave me the only glimpse into the preparation of stones (because it's got to be really hard work, right?) "Use a wax pencil to mark the sections of the stone you want to remove. To make cuts you'll need a three-inch carbide chisel, a three-pound hand sledge, and safety glasses." And time. Strength. Endurance.

south of Myrtle 
One of the fascinating features of Ontario fieldstone houses is their distribution. I'll let John Rempel explain. "In Ontario three kinds of stonework are to be found: the grey limestone in a belt running diagonally across the southern part of the province from Kingston through Guelph; the random fieldstone rubble with flush joints typical of the Pennsylvania-Germans in Waterloo County; the split and sometimes coursed fieldstone of the Scottish variety found in areas other than the limestone belt. These divisions are never clear-cut, of course, and there is considerable overlapping at the borders." (page 270.)

To understand this distribution I had to approach one of my other passions, geology. Our relationship is less than fulfilling as I haven't devoted the time needed, despite having collected some fascinating books. One of my favourites is Canada Rocks.

photo courtesy Steve Redman
An on-line paper by Gerard V. Middleton, retired professor of geology at McMaster, helped somewhat. I found it on the Hamilton based site Raise the Hammer, a great site for dozens of topics related to that vibrant city. Middleton explains that fieldstone "was collected from fields or streams, rather than quarried from bedrock outcrops." I've written often about cobblestone houses, the palm-sized stones painstakingly collected for the day when a house could be built.

The building supply stores left by the great glaciers' debris fields included stones of various origins (light Canadian Shield "granite" and dark amphibolite for example - think pink, grey, black.) This wealth was available only in certain areas - scraped too clean and the bedrock was exposed (revealing stone for quarrying - think limestone, sandstone.) Patterns of moraine distribution might result in overburden with a dearth of suitable large stones. I am guessing that the pocket of fieldstone houses in Whitevale and areas around Toronto is linked to the Oak Ridges moraine.

Regrettably I have few photos. The photos of threatened fieldstone houses in Whitevale are courtesy Steve Redman of ACO Collingwood. I wrote about them recently.

I came across a few others in my quest; I'll pause a moment while you run to your library shelf.



Old Ontario Houses by Cruickshank & DeVisser (Firefly Books, 2000) shows the Reid House near Embro (page 147.) The photo captures the richness of colour and texture, and highlights the patterned effect resulting from small fill-in stones called 'closers.' Mary Byers and Margaret McBurney et al tell the story of a number of fieldstone houses in Rural Roots (UofT, 1976) featuring pre-confederation buildings of the York Region (Markham, Pickering, King townships ) and Governor's Road (1982) featuring early homes from Mississauga to London.

Early field-stone houses are definitely making headlines. Here are a few.

 This link to a Durham region newspaper highlights the Walter Percy House (c.1875) which as of press time in June 2014 was being saved from the forces at work in Seaton township. One of the photos shows the closers.

Here's a rubblestone Pickering Farmhouse which has made it to National Historic Site designation. I hope it will survive the current GTA trend of tearing down historic communities to build new developer-designed ones.

Richardson-Will House, Pickering
This link to the Pickering Municipal Heritage Register lists an astonishing number of designated or properties 'of interest'  in the area east of Toronto.Two years ago I found this story about a number of Pickering area homes being offered for free. One of them was the Richardson-Will house. I have no idea where I captured this photo (if it's yours let me know.)

One final note. Who built these fieldstone houses? The top 3 photos of a lovely home south of Myrtle, offer one possibility. When Denis stopped to let me grab a photo, I made contact with the owner and we had a great chat. He pointed out the heritage plaque, and suggested that the stone came from Scotland as ballast in cargo ships returning empty. I've heard these ballast stories before. Thomas McIlwraith (Looking for Old Ontario, UofT 1997) mentions roofing slates from Wales travelling as ballast in ships returning empty to Ontario.
More likely, after absorbing as much geology as possible for one day, I come to the conclusion that German and Scottish stone builders, with their different masonry techniques, looked about them at the farms' annual crop of rocks, and rolled up their sleeves. Gerard Middleton provides an answer to why the techniques differed: different traditions. "The Scottish were skilled in cutting stone, even the hardest granites; while Germans preferred to work with wood (think Joseph Schneider House) and had an ancient tradition of using fieldstone in its natural shapes."