Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

You got some 'splainin to do, Lucy.




Only folks old enough to recall old black and white TV shows will relate in any way to this title (which is half of the fun of writing this blog). In case you forget (and want to remember) here's a reminder of the kinds of antics Lucy was regularly called upon to explain.

In actual fact, the explanation I'm seeking is incumbent upon the property at 51 Drummond St. East, in Perth.

 This intriguing structure doesn't figure in either my go-to guide Going to Town (Ashenburg, 1996) or Perth's Heritage Walking Tour guide.

A search on-line yielded no recent real estate activity, which can usually be counted on for superlatives about a building I'm equally enthused about, as well as some history and sometimes even interior shots. No historical society gleanings. Nothing.

But what an intriguing property. Located in a once-prestigious early neighbourhood, the 'hood for McMartin, Radenhurst and Boulton, at the corner of Craig Street, a main road to Smith's Falls, and across from the Bathurst District Court House, it must have had importance and cachet in its day. I'm sure I read somewhere that this part of town was once the 'better' neighbourhood.

I expect this was a commercial building; a hotel is suggested by the large flat-roofed back wing, and verandahs looking out towards the Tay River. The facade, though reworked, suggests a shop front; today's pressboard inserts with small new windows are throwing me off the trail of the original.
There's a second shop front to the right, vintage unknown.

So, what's its story? Its Mansard roof styling appears rare in Perth - there's a beautifully kept vernacular version closeby, and the enthusiastically eclectic 26 Drummond Street West. Is it built of Perth sandstone? (forgot to check it out, close and personal ). I love the ashlar 'eared' lintels and sills, the warm sandstone doorstep. There are two rows of darker stone - one at the foundation, and a stringcourse above.  At front, the old street sign is mounted on the dark stone.

The building has heavy paired brackets (some missing) and cornice board, plain but for two deep grooves along the bottom edge, echoed on the brackets. The flat-roofed three-storey back section is
another Drummond St. East Mansard - cozier proportions
clad in pressed tin sheeting as is the perky mansard roof. The brackets match those of the stone section. An impressive oriel window clings to the west elevation, complimenting the tall windows of the facade - a ball-room?

 Some modern window replacements make it difficult to figure out what the originals were, but the tall narrow window openings don't appear to have been altered.

Emerging through the Mansard roof in front, not the expected rounded dormers with hoodmoulds, but an oversized square box with some decorative panelling, resting somewhat incongruously on 3 pairs of brackets, anchored well below the cornice. A smaller gable roofed dormer emerges from the pressed metal 'slates' on the west side. I'm dying to see the roof cornice - now that I study my photo, I'm thinking I see classical swags.
trying out all the grand styles on Drummond W.



The more I look at this odd building the more I like it. It's vaguely Montreal...

Please Perth, put me out of my misery here. If you see this, reply with any information you have on 51 Drummond Street East. Use the email address shown o the blog, or comment on the post. I would love to know more!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Not Fair


Allow me to whine a bit. During Shannon Kyle's Ontario Architecture course several years ago, I became intrigued with a house in  Dundas - the place was called Mount Fairview.


My imagination (and sympathies) were aroused when I learned that the first settler in the area was a widow Morden, who settled at the head of Lake Ontario, on a patch of water we now call Coote's Paradise. (Coote's Paradise was the name of the village that grew in the area, and later combined with another early settlement to create Dundas.)

In 1848 wealthy merchant Hugh Moore built this fine Greek Revival home on the top of Cotton Mill Hill, on land bought from the widow. 'The jewel on the brow of Dundas' as it was called, takes full advantage of its hilltop setting with wraparound verandahs and a roof walk with belvedere. Two storey tall Ionic pillars grace the south (invisible to the prying eye) facade. The square building is brick clad in stucco.


 Denis and I navigated from Ancaster to Dundas, and came upon South Street, where I'd hoped to capture my prize, a good look (and some good shots) of Mount Fairview. Alas, that was not to be.

A few trips up the side street, raising the suspicions of house-proud neighbours, revealed nothing but a glimpse of the gardens, wrought iron fencing and the rooftop belvedere.




A wander along South Street, and Mount Fairview remained elusive. I believe that the property may have been severed, and infill homes built, including the one that stands between me and my quarry.

 Mount Fairview Sound appears in online listings at 50 South Street. Hmm.

So. I've included a link to the Dundas chapter of Shannon's online course. It offers some fine photos of the stately home (including a highly coveted interior).

Here is another great shot of the place.

My photos, not so much. But I wouldn't want you to think I'm whining. At least I got to visit Mount Fairview's sister ship, Willowbank - it's a NHS and much more inviting.

Willowbank (1834) Queenston

Marriage Mill


The dictionary describes a marriage mill as "'a place where it is possible to marry with a minimum of formality or delay." I expect it implies no fuss, or bother, no elegance or grace. Don't think it applies to this post but I'll keep it because I like the alliteration.

And because this post is about a marriage - a delightful wedding we attended last weekend - and a mill - the carefully chosen romantic venue at which the celebration (and an electrical storm of titanic proportions) took place.





















I consulted The Governor's Road for some background on the mills of Ancaster. And what a wonderful spot for mills, we thought as we swept down over the escarpment, and back up winding wooded roads in our explorations.

Byers and McBurney report that there has been a mill in Ancaster since 1791, when Richard Beasley and James Wilson built what was believed (at the time of this book, 1982) to be the first mill at the head of Lake Ontario, at what was called Wilson's Mills. Jean Rousseau (a name which features prominently in the village) bought in, and by 1813 a stone grist mill was operating. In 1862, under Egleston family ownership, the stone flour mill which stands today was built. In fact, it was still producing Mountain Mills stone-milled flour at the time of publication of the book.


The souvenir menu bears the history of the Ancaster Old Mill restaurant and events venue. It explains that four mills have stood here, building on the predecessor's foundations. As so often happens, fire destroyed the first three mills, with the current one built in 1863. It was constructed of limestone blocks taken from the site (as I sat in the outdoor chapel, I mused on that fact); its walls four feet thick at the base,




The mill's fortunes changed in 1972 when the Ciancone family purchased the property and began an extensive building and restoration task, opening the Ancaster Mill Restaurant in 1979. The designers made the most of the site - the contemporary west-coast style works with the ancient limestone, the waterfalls, the hillside property, the wooded nooks. Quite a romantic spot.

The Egleston's couldn't have imaged this in their wildest dreams.

Inge Va the sign said...so I did

I've been wanting to see 'Inge-Va' for years. Tuesday was my opportunity. My guy was visiting a local vintage motorcycle enthusiast, leaving me with time to wander the Perth neighbourhoods I hadn't gotten to on our last visit. As I trudged along Wilson Street East in the late summer heat, my old house radar went off, presented with the clearest signal possible - towering black locust trees in a green oasis ahead.





And there it was. Inge-Va. Now a museum, property of the Ontario Heritage Trust, it is to be hoped that this perfect house will be granted a dignified old age.  It's one of the constellation of 3 prominent early homes built by three pillars of early Perth society, its influential lawyers Daniel McMartin, James Boulton and Thomas Radenhurst. The McMartin house is in Federal hands, and preserved well. Ironically, the Boulton house (yes, those Boultons) has fallen on hard times. I wrote about the trio back in July.


The Radenhurst home was built in 1824. The tourists love the scandal of the 1833 duel fought for the honour of a young woman, which resulted in the death of Robert Lyon, a young relative and law apprentice of Thomas Radenhurst.

I loved the step back in time that this shady corner lot offered. Unfortunately, the place was closed. Rule-bound as I am, I hovered outside the chain for a few moments.
























I quickly succumbed to the lure of the shady spot and invited myself under the chain across the entrance for a quick stroll up the mossy circular drive under the locust trees. I  admired the Scottish stone masons' work, the 12x12 sash windows, and elaborate elliptical fan-lighted doorcase with curvilinear glazing bars in the sidelights. And that gorgeous window in the classic Ontario farmhouse gable.
the less posh kitchen wing



Oh, and my reason for breaking the rules? The home's third owners, Cyril and Winifred Inderwick, who donated this treasure to the Ontario Heritage Trust, renamed their house 'Inge-Va'. The words are Tamil for "come here." How could I refuse?







Saturday, August 9, 2014

Day Tripper - Fairfield House

Fairfield House (1793) is one of those unique and beautiful heritage houses that I have often visited, but never entered. On a recent trip to Adolphustown, I captured some extra time to travel the Loyalist Parkway eastward to the outskirts of Amherstview, because I had read that the house was open for tours during July and August.
autumn at Fairfield


And so it was. Young Frank our guide undertook to tour a couple from Hamilton and myself around this rare for Ontario early house. It may have been something of a struggle, as we were all so taken by the early interior treatments, the original to the house furniture, the way the windows opened onto the lake, the many historical displays and artefacts, that he may sometimes have felt like a Grade 2 teacher on the first day of school.


The house is a Loyalist style house, in the New England tradition familiar to the UEL Wm. Fairfield family, originally of southwestern Vermont. Austere symmetrical 5 bay front, simple Georgian door with flanking sidelights, large chimneys at the gable ends. Steep roof typical of the early houses, and a footprint much wider than deep.

The two storey verandah is not original to the house; it was added in the mid-1800's. Our guide told us that the historic restoration team debated removing it, but that on her 1984 visit, Queen Elizabeth had liked it, so they retained it. View certainly fit for a Queen.


The interior - as I expected - was nothing short of astonishing. We started our tour in the cellar, hewn from the limestone bedrock. In places the builders used the natural strata of the underlying limestone to create shelves in the cellar for storing food.



Some of the original hand-hewn beams kept company with much-needed modern replacements.



I loved the tiny perfect kitchen tail

furniture original to the house - gorgeous settee

I love the light in the front hall; wonder about the
glazing in the transom - later?

The east side of the house was used as a tavern around 1802; a door opened into the tap room, the corner cupboard moved to the dining room.









The dining room features the dining tables (2 D-ends and a drop-leaf section), chairs belonging to the house, a corner cupboard originally in the tap-room, a wonderful painted floor, and a fine high mantel with panelling and built in cupboard above..
The verandah was added in the mid-1800's.  The French windows which lead to the second floor gallery were contemporary, as was the division of the east bedroom into two by a panelled wooden partition with grand double doors. Could this space have been a ballroom, when the occasion warranted?



The same shelves of limestone that line the shore pave the front yard (good for an inn-yard, bad for a farm) and combine with quarried stone to create the cellar walls/foundation.




the east bedrooms have become exhibit space



The gleaming painted floors were reproduced from a c.1850 sample discovered in recent years.


It was amazing to see the painted wainscoting of wide boards, the plastered walls, simple balustrade, stairs and door mouldings which have been in place for such a long time.


Fairfield at lilac time - a treat for the sense


Outside again, I stand and watch the waves of Lake Ontario roll onto the limestone shelves on the shore a few yards distant, across a lane which would once have been the Danforth Road....and time-travel.










If you've never been to Fairfield House, do go.

Now I get it...thank you Marc Shaw

The name rang a bell.
The front of the July issue of Foundations, that fine publication of the Frontenac Heritage Foundation, promised to tell the story of Annandale.

Annandale, I said to myself over the couple of days until I was able to have a look inside. Oh, Annandale! From the first words of Marc Shaw's in-depth article I recalled the appeal this building had for me when I did my Earl Street walkabout in June. How nice to have a chance to know more.

This is just a brief visit...let me share these photos while I read. And if you want to know more before I get back to this post, have a look at the Annandale Chronicle for current and historical photos, and an in-depth history. Really, need I say more?