Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sophie's Choice

On my way home from Picton this week, I took a road less travelled and found myself tracing the south shore of Fish Lake in Sophiasburgh township. Having missed David Bentley's ACO tour of the historic houses of the area earlier this spring, I decided to follow my nose and seek out a few of them on my own.

Easy. As soon as I made my turn off the road to Demorestville (where I was planning to check out the state of the Greek temple houses), I fell in love.....with the c.1837 Van Blaricom/Gorsline house (according to my tattered copy of The Settler's Dream which introduced us).

Tom Cruikshank talks about the extraordinary width of the brick house's gable, which of course, gives it that solid footing on the ground. Solid in 1837, and looking pretty solid 174 years later!!

The house has an incredible doorway - deep panelled reveals and a panelled door, elegant fanlight, moulded pilasters and sidelights. The window openings are the same as in a 1955 photo - no picture window improvements - although likely modern sash windows. Refined cornice treatment and eaves returns. There was once a shed (summer kitchen?) at the back which has been removed, and a simple deck has been built at the east - "the kitchen door" as we would have called it. And at the back (which I didn't see) is a unique 'chimney dormer', a local innovation . I just wonder what state the house was in before this recent tidy-up?

And oh, the setting. Small woodlots and meadows. Lovely trees along the road. Split rail fences. Everything light and shade dappled. Rich green and wildflowers. Rural, bucolic, undeveloped but somehow domesticated. Nice scale. Somehow felt like a trip back in time. Oh, my Sophiasburgh. You've stolen my heart.

And did I mention that the house is for sale?
Saw lots of historic and beautiful homes and farms on the rest of my trip, but they couldn't move heart had already been stolen.
I can only hope that the yearning in this post is viewed by someone looking for a home, who will invite me to visit once they're established.

With good old house viewer etiquette, I always view homes from the roadside or sidewalk. What I failed to realize as I was falling in love with this house, was that it had lived a tragedy of immense proportions. Inside these brick walls was a yawning empty space... a contractor had "gutted the interior, stripping it down to the bare brick walls", obliterating the unique early layout, with slip rooms, an irreplaceable winder stair and a unique box hall. Mouldings (including horizontal beadboard wainscoting in one room), doors, a staircase...all removed. The couple who purchased the home have laboured for years to effect an authentic recovery of this lost historical detail, while dealing with the challenges created by modern building codes and integrating modern conveniences. The blog account of their journey starts here.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, pick me! Pick me! I'll buy it! And you can visit. Now, where did I put that lottery ticket?

    Isn't it a beautiful property? Who wouldn't want to live there?