Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lunch with Willard - summer visit revisited

shorts and trainers seem so...underdressed

We need a warm and sunny memory to counterbalance the "uh-oh it's downhill to winter" feeling that the fall turning back of the clocks brings.

I think I will recall the splendid ploughman's lunch my guy and I had at Willard's Hotel, the traditional eatery at Upper Canada Village.

Somberly attired Denis and his equally formal companion

Our tummy clocks tend to go off later than most folks, so we had the place almost to ourselves, and I could wander at will and love the 1832 fireplace mantels with their well-bred pilaster trim.

I turned to PS Stokes' 'A Village Arising' (2011) for the background on this worthy building's move to the Upper Canada Village site in the early days of the historic village's creation.

The brick cooking fireplace in the back dining room

Stokes tells the building's story. It has always been an inn, built originally in formal Georgian uprightness in late c.18 or very early c.19. It started as Myers' Inn, and became Willard's after its new owner in 1832. It's thought that Willard added the gallery now sheltering the lunch crowd; when it was rebuilt, 24" roof shingles were discovered. They don't make trees like they used to, or shingles either.

The building continued into the present as the centrepiece for a family cottage resort. Glad its decline was halted, and its story is now retold for the historically curious (or at least the hungry) each tourist season.

Of the post sign, I defer to classic PJS: "originally painted with the Myers name then painted over with Willard's for verisimilitude, probably now fails to register that subtlety."

Notice how Myers/Willard's Hotel's steep roof resembles that of the Fairfield House along the front at Amherstview west of Kingston? This is the profile we see in our earliest Loyalist buildings, which later deflates to the low pitch of buildings of the 1830's and 40's, rising again (but never so high again) by the 1870's or so.

Fairfield House (1793), Amherstview


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