Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Friday, June 26, 2015

Back to School

Not long ago, I visited the high school from which I graduated in June 1965. That's a significant length of elapsed time. Then why did a prospective visit to the building, and the possibility of meeting with classmates (should we recognize each other) produce such angst?

Perhaps because high school was not a great time in my life. Despite my dad's envious assertion that "these are the best years of your life", doubtless in exasperated response to an episode of whining or exam panic, high school was not fun. A shy socially inept introvert from a farm, not likely to be voted prom queen.

But there it is. I braved it, in company with a dear friend whose high school memories are similarly not of glory days.

I've gone to school most of my life.

Started eagerly with visits to S.S.#4 in North Marysburgh, a school whose closure went unnoticed, as I had launched upon my 8 year career at neighbouring S.S.#3 by then. Eight grades in one room. I'll leave it to you to conjure up the sense memories that evokes.

Then high school at the factory in neighbouring Picton. Then a less than stellar undergraduate career at Carleton, when the now massively expanded waterside campus was little more than the buildings around 'the quad.'

Later, Simon Fraser in Burnaby. Even later, summer courses at UBC. A post-grad degree at Gonzaga University in Spokane Washington, an enterprising yankee school which ventured north of the border to south central B.C. to offer part of their program off-campus. Administration courses at Nipissing University in North Bay.

Wish I had photos. Hate to crib some from the net. Have a look yourself, if you're interested, They're easy to find.

Oh yes, failed to mention the rest of my school career. Spent that in offering educational opportunities to others. So, at the time of my retirement in 2007 (about the time I found online courses at Mohawk College to keep the little grey cells active) I had spent 54 years at school. Enough already.

To the Trains

industrial deco - rivets and steel plate
Yesterday friend Larry and I needed a bit of city.

So we grabbed the GO train at Oshawa and felt awfully sophisticated zooming above the hoard labouring along 401 (that artery we'd just left, and would have to face again at day's end.)

Teamway - so called because of the teams of horses
which travelled this route hauling ships' cargo to the city

A wander around Union Station and a reccy of the new Metrolinx Union Pearson Express station satisfied my train nut friend's appetite for rail.

deco delight - needing attention

A highly distracted walk (as we both stopped to snap things which interested us) and totally delightful chat  led us to the AGO for lunch at FRANK, to fortify ourselves (delightfully) for yet more wandering.

An eclectic mix of old and new architecture  - and stories about everything, supplied by that 30 year resident of the city.

Plans to do it again? Oh yes.

I've always loved the GO transit logo
UP Express station
a successful design fusion - great space

I've always loved the GO transit logo. Here's a link to the design history. The writer uncovered the identity of the creator of the logo (which goes largely unnoticed and undervalued for its brilliance, in his opinion) as Frank Fox, of the Gagnon Valkus agency. The date? 1967. A great read about a great design. Love this quote: "Sometimes that happens in design. A happy accident."

the evolution of signage
coffee from the Drake kiosk while you wait?

This Globe and Mail article from May 28 describes the vision and intent of the UP Express. No more ticking taxi meters in traffic jams on the 401, but an efficient and sophisticated swoop into downtown from your international business flight. Snazzy.

Plans to write more about my day in the city?
Oh yes.

 But for now I'll leave you standing at the station.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wartime Wednesdays

Two things popped up on Facebook lately, which have a connection to each other, and to the incredible collection of WWII buildings at the former Camp Picton, now called Loch Sloy Developments. It's a place I have special fondness for.

Krista Dalby, a local artist, has just posted about  a quarterly networking event called Creative Rural Minds - the Loch Sloy Edition. Worth checking out.

Then there was the astonishing Facebook post this morning, about a 92 year old former Air Transport Auxiliary veteran who had a chance to relive her wartime experiences and fly a Spitfire. Made me think of Camp Picton's role in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan during WWII.

I did a post back in January 19 titled Camp Life, about Camp Picton and Loch Sloy.

And there's one more piece of miscellaneous wartime aircraft news. Don't know why I have a special interest, as a generally pacifist type, in military aircraft. I guess it's the history, the romantic appeal of the flyer, the desperate days of the war that made everyone a hero. Or maybe it's Den's post war stories about the abandoned aerodromes in Lincoln.Dunno.

Do know that when a couple I interviewed recently told me about Elinor Florence's blog Wartime Wednesdays, I was in. The story that hooked me was the author's account of living in a surplussed DND prairie aerodrome building, as a child. Here's yet another link, to her post.

The photos of the Lancaster were taken at Hamilton's Warplane Heritage Museum a few years ago, when Denis realized a childhood dream and took a flight on a Lancaster Bomber. Here's a neat account of the museum's Lanc story.

It's a terrific spot to get up close and personal with military aircraft. As is Trenton's RCAF Museum.

Cobblestone Encounter

I'm loving my new road atlas.
It makes heeding the siren call of a new side-road that little bit easier, as it reveals just where one might end up, and what discoveries might be waiting.

But the side-trip off the Stirling-Marmora Road along King's Mill Road - well, to be honest, I was pretty sure I would come across King's Mill at some point, but I didn't expect this!

Another Hastings County cobblestone.
I thought we had them all.

I wrote a piece for Country Roads Winter 2011/12 issue on Hastings County's cobblestone houses. This was the first ever I wrote for editor Nancy Hopkins, who tracked me down via a piece I'd done on the same topic, in Outlook, the Hastings County Historical Society newsletter.

 I had as a source, the cobblestone house files of the estimable building historian Lois Foster, as well as an early ACO driving tour guide. I wrote about them all, even the one that was demolished!

But here, at 460 King's Mills Road, is another. Somewhat neglected, but pretty fine nonetheless. Large 12x8 sash windows, a great doorway with small panes in transom and half-sidelights.

 A beautiful setting on a rise, with loads of great old trees and flowering shrubs.

A pretty creditable job on ashlar quoins, and an awning verandah roof, covered in steel.

Nice moulded cornice and eaves returns.

And the cobblestone work. Evenly sized multicoloured cobbles, regularly coursed, with some relatively unsuccessful changes around windows and door-case.

So, who are you my lovely, and what is your story?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cottage Life

I have been going to the lake a lot lately, researching a story. I have enjoyed several wanders, and conversations with some super people.

A recurring theme of our walks and talks has been regret at the loss of the 'old' cottages. Seems we all want something more now. Cottages used to be small; life was outside. And simple. Four walls, a roof, a screened porch. A few chairs around the yard. A place to clean fish and tie up a rowboat. An outhouse. A firepit.

Another change at 'the lake', in addition to the proliferation of a new generation
of cottages, is the transition of many early cottages into year-round homes. That usually means adding to/modifying the old cottage beyond recognition, or (with great regret, when the original cottage owners make the decision, I'm guessing) demolishing and replacing it with something sturdy that can be insulated, ensuring any number of creature comforts - most notably water pipes that don't burst in winter, and heat, blessed heat.

A lake-dweller who spent childhood summers around the lake took me to see a few of the originals. These two in particular have a story to tell. Their so typical cottage architecture, the simplicity of the surroundings, and their state of near-collapse tell a story which has an ending, coming up quickly.

We discovered a hand-built table that had seen lots of family meals and crokinole games.
An icebox that held plenty of potato salad and fried chicken in its day.
The shore road is home to a number of new modern homes. These lots are likely next to sell, their cottages and cottage stories lost forever.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Free to good home

Well, not free exactly, but I made you look didn't I?
The 'good home' part is very definitely true.
I have written about the very historic Huffman-Smith house on Highway 33 between Adolphustown and Collins Bay, several times.
In my last post, I promised to let readers of this blog (and their historic house loving contacts) know when owner Malcolm Smith had listed the home.
Well, that's now.

Here's a link to the Gordon's Real Estate listing, with 61 photos of the place, the historic (c.1815) hand-made brick Conrad Huffman home, the Lake Ontario shoreline out front, the 50 acres of farmland surrounding it.
Muster up, heritage types.
This property needs to go to someone who will restore the rooms, value the historic detailing, keep its history alive, use the farmland for what it's intended...there are several vineyards in the area. Just saying. Not a housing development.

The link will give you all the details you need.

Like the $289,000 price tag. (Not to be indelicate, but if you sell your place in the Beach and buy here, you'll enjoy the leftover cash for life in your pocket.)
Like the Open House on May 23.

Thanks to Malcolm Smith, and his visionary hard-working parents for preserving the house, and its history.
Let's pay it forward.
Heritage house types, now is our hour! Let's be sure this house goes to the right owners.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Wharf Rats

Foster Ward Community Centre
I'm about to go off-line for a few days.
One of the things I will be doing is doing some research into the earlier times of Belleville, and one of its most colourful neighbourhoods, which lay between the tracks and the wharves;  an industrial neighbourhood of foundries and rolling mills, coal yards, oil tanks, trains, docks and some pretty tenacious folks.

The city's earliest houses (some of them hard fought for) are there. The old Foster Ward.

One of the streets was called Wharf Street; from it, the area's waifs and strays gained the nickname 'wharf rats.' Later, as folks were trying to change its (and theirs?) image, the street became St. Paul Street.

I have Bill Hunt's Dockside Democracy to give me a sense of the place, and David Bentley's ACO walking tour guide to assist. Then there are the fine house histories produced by the Hastings County Historical Society, and Heritage Belleville.

So I'm ready to start prowling the streets of the old neighbourhood. Just another Wharf Rat.