Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

It's a Long Story

 This red brick, white trimmed Gothic-inspired home is not just another pretty Victorian face. It is the home of the UEL Heritage Centre in Adolphustown, Ontario. It is situated in an expanse of green park which extends down to the water's edge. And it's not just any park, or any shoreline. For this spot is the site of the landing of the first group of United Empire Loyalists, under Major Peter VanAlstine, which took place on June 16, 1784.

The house includes a museum dedicated to the home's owners the Allison's, and a first rate UEL genealogical library.
The first Loyalist cemetery, established the year the Loyalists arrived (sadly, it was already needed), is a short thoughtful walk away under the trees.The park includes a campground (Family Camping since 1784!) which is a source of revenue for the UELAC Bay of Quinte region. A big job for a lot of history-minded volunteers.
great  entrance - herringbone brick

The reason for my visit? I was 'on assignment', come to St. Alban's Church in Adolphustown to hear local history writer Orland French, who was guest speaker for the annual commemorative service which marks the anniversary of the arrival of the Loyalists each June.
carefully preserved Loyalist ancestors' gravestones

bateau replica - imagine the 1784 trip from Kingston?

The Loyalist park is beautifully maintained, and the UEL monument was restored this year by the tremendous folks at UELAC Quinte Branch. A lovely spot to come ponder your history.

a picturesque Gothic Revival church - inside, the famous
Minton encasutic tile UEL commemorative frieze
St. Alban the Martyr Anglican Church was the vision of the Reverend R.S. Forneri of St. Albans. He was distressed by the (then) crumbling monuments in the old UEL cemetery, and wanted a lasting monument to the Loyalists. Cynics abounded even then, and some suggested the church was about glorifying his tenure as much as God's. Not for me to say.

It's a lovely English village kind of church, built from the Church of England playbook. A round tower with open stonework and a conical roof, an irregular silhouette: it resembles a medieval church. The picturesque Gothic Revival elements continue inside - massive open timberwork, stained glass, and the rare impressive Minton encaustic memorial tile frieze.
a small part of the tile frieze - this church so worth a visit

St. Alban the Martyr is a must-see kind of place - and welcoming. Folks are proud of their church, and you might find someone inside cleaning or practising or tidying, who would be delighted to show you around. If a virtual visit it all you can manage, here a a couple of suggestions. Church history committee member Diane Berlet and photographer Graem Coles have produced an appealing book about the tiles, and the UEL individuals they commemorate. It's called  The Loyalist Tiles of St. Alban's.

For a less impressive, but equally fond look, you could find the Autumn 2014 issue of County and Quinte Living and have a look at the article I put together after several wonderfully welcoming visits to folks in Adolphustown late last summer.

Old Hay Bay Church 
At the St. Alban's service, in one of those interesting connections so esteemed among the curious, I sat beside Katherine Staples. Kathy is a dedicated trustee, treasurer, and resident volunteer summer custodian wrangler for Old Hay Bay Church a few kilometres away.

Orland - who with wife Sylvia has enjoyed several summer weeks as resident guardian at OHBC - referred to Kathy in his talk about Old Hay Bay Church. I popped by the plain and simple 1792 Methodist meetinghouse afterwards - one of many visits I have made over the years - quite a change from the tiny perfect elegance of St. Alban's.

If you, too, are curious, you may want to read more. The Winter issue of CQL takes you on a return visit to Adolphustown, its history and the wonderful people who live there. In this issue, I return to visit Daverne Farm (1816) and Alice and John, the lovely couple who have given it new life.

And finally, a visit to the UEL Heritage Centre ("the old Allison place" as they say where I grew up). Back to top of page.

See you in Adolphustown - its heritage buildings are waiting to tell you their story.

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