Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

too much of a good thing

We found this great building in Glen
Williams on a forsythia-brightened
afternoon exploration in May. The owner was gracious about my interest, pleased to have me take photos and offered the bit of history that he knew - that the building was the home of the town's protestant private school at one time.

But I must admit that my interest was not in the structure's story (for once) but in the uniqueness of its construction. I love how it's perched on the hill, settling back against the slope. I appreciate the tippy rubblestone foundation, the deep set wooden frame windows, the nice line of three windows on the west, the board and batten doorway, and the double shed door on the second floor....would need a second opinion on its use. Likely a storage loft with a crane beam and hook, but I saw no signs.

As the stucco cladding falls away from the wall underneath, we get a look at a very rare type of construction. This method, according to my construction resource guy Thomas McIlwraith is called 'plank wall' or 'horizontally stacked dimension lumber' style. Obviously not a building style for today, when 2 x 4's at Home Depot cost as much as diamonds. But this contemporary of log building shows up occasionally in locations near early sawmills, in lumber-exporting areas such as Peterborough, where unmarketable, low-grade lumber was sometimes pressed into service as building material. McInwraith describes the plank wall buildings as a "nail and labour extravaganza (which) could be put up by two people of no extraordinary talent."

The rough lumber was always covered, with stucco, boards or bricks. And they were sturdy. Unless this worthy succumbs to the inevitable gravitational pull down the hillside, it should serve for many years. With luck, long enough for me to go back, to ask for a closer look.

By the way, I strongly recommend the book I've been quoting from, the worthy Mr. McIlwraith's Looking for Old Ontario (University of Toronto Press, 1997), to any backroads prowlers and old house enthusiasts in our wonderful province.

1 comment:

  1. Had to look Glen Williams up on the map, then discovered that we've been fairly near it on several occasions. What a little gem this stop was for you. I MUST know about the second-floor shed door! Get on that, will you?