Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, November 3, 2014

You never know how many friends you have...

...until you rent a house on the beach." Or in Cobourg, my new favourite town. I could visit you.

Hard as it may be to accept, those majestic old houses with masses of architectural detail are a burden for many owners - the taxes, upkeep, repairs to architectural details, heating costs (which may or may not even result in much heat), and the fact that modern lifestyles and mobility don't always mesh with the responsibilities of a fine older home.

Nevertheless, it's always a surprise (and a cause for a great deal of "wonder what's going on here?" pondering), when I see on the lawn of a well-maintained stately home,  a sign announcing 'For Rent.'

Now who would be a good tenant for this building? Pick me, pick me!

This fine red brick house in Cobourg was built in 1878 by Robert Mulholland, who was a well-to-do merchant. The house is considered the finest Italianate or Tuscan Villa in Cobourg, and one of the best in Ontario. It show off the characteristic square tower in the 'ell', and the asymmetrical massing typical of the style.
Bellvue, Kingston

I'm thinking that old Victorian eclecticism is creeping in here. I'm comparing Mullholland House to that sunny Tuscan countryside feeling I get from Bellevue, one of the most perfect Italian Villas in Ontario, and I'm just not having that cypresses on the hills, wine on the piazza feeling.

I'm seeing Gothic, Renaissance and classical elements all adding to the splendour. And what's not here - the bracketed roof typically seen in Italianate architecture.

I consult with Shannon Kyles' site Ontario Architecture, because she sees detail better than I - and knows the names of all those bits. She mentions:
-tower with 4-sided pediment, steep roof, and orb
-Gothic Florentine arch over central window in the tower (looks like a bishop's hat)
-pediment over the door, with carved pilasters and brackets
-Tuscan arches with roundel or medallion design over main floor windows
-blind roundel in gable
-bay window with oversized cornice and iron cresting
-windows on second floor connected with a band of dogs'-tooth brickwork (so that's what it's called)

Dunno, the house just seems more urban, more ornate, more formal and haughty than I associate with the Tuscan Villa - but then, do cypresses do well in Ontario?

I've just planned my next visit to my friends in Cobourg - it will be interesting to see if the sign has been removed, and this wonderful house is in the hands of knowledgeable, caring and grateful tenants. Wonder what time they have tea?

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