Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Slip sliding away....

Picton's finest Gothic Revival cottage in decline...and on offer

There is so much good news these days around preservation of our built heritage.
There, I said it. That statement certainly flies in the face
Cause for optimism: a good roof
of many posts (rants) on this blog, and a great deal
of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.

A visit to publications like Built Heritage News or The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario might confirm the pessimist's stance.

I base my optimism on a month spent touring PEC with my camera, collecting photos for a chapter in Orland French's (he of Heritage Atlas of Hastings County and Lennox and Addington) new book on Prince Edward County.  The new book is called Wind, Water, Barley and Wine.

During this junket I saw so many fine old buildings, beautifully restored, with sensitive well-proportioned new additions, fine grounds with heritage plantings, and the enduring, iconic locust trees.  

Nevertheless, a few historic structures are causing me some worry.

The Gothic Revival cottage fantasy at the top of this post, which I wrote about one miserable January day in 2011, is still standing. That's the good news. It's for sale or lease still. Great, nobody's giving up on it yet. But the c.1858 home of John Pepper Downes, early artist chronicler of Picton, needs a new champion. Soon. Come on Picton, let's not lose another one.

A browse through 'The Settler's Dream' will reveal the esteem in which PJ Stokes held the houses of Greek Revival Revival influence which once distinguished the booming village of Demorestville. John and Diane Brisley recommended this house to me. If you can see past the ghastly dormers and the discouraging paint, the building's pedigree becomes apparent. The house was built by Peter Demill, one of the sons of Isaac Demill a Loyalist from Vermont. Built in the mid-1830's, this beautifully detailed frame house still bravely displays its exquisite eaves returns, and pilasters at the corners and the doorcase (not shown) with entasis,yet.                                                                                                        

A fine rare Greek Revival inspired house in decline
Rare South Marysburgh stone (c.1855)
 unique Marysburgh gable
Stokes and Cruikshank also commented on this very special stone house, with its unusually wide gables. "This triple-gabled not found on any other building in the County", asserts no less an authority than PJS in SD (p.70). The place is beautiful even in decline. It would be a real shame to lose this exceptional home, and the link with its first family the Minakers - connected to mine somewhere along the line. And I fear we're going to lose both house and history soon.

Robert Miskin house (1829), one of the fabled Weller houses
 of The Carrying Place

The Robert Miskin house at the historic portage route, The Carrying Place was built by Sarah, daughter of pioneer stage operator Asa Weller,and her husband Robert Miskin. The formal Loyalist style symmetry and the warm hand-made brick tell its old story. The poor condition of the shutters suggests things are being neglected.  This early house is an architectural treasure.

Here's a challenge. If you're visiting from  the big city and you have succumbed to the allure of this historic little county, why not put some of your considerable buying power into the acquisition and preservation of one of these important early structures. Become part of the history yourself. We'd be forever grateful.

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