Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Proud Mary

the Hadden House (c,1895)
Picton Ontario, my home town (well the place we went to when we "went to town" from our 12 mile distant farm) has some fine neighbourhoods - its red brick character used to bring me to bitter tears whenever we left to return to our timber-built world in south-central B.C.  Some of Picton's grand homes have taken well to their new lives as inns and boutique hotels. One of its best is an outstanding museum. Others stand on their merit as fine examples of Loyalist-built family homes - their Settler's Dream cred. The town features several leafy neighbourhoods, and I love 'em all.

However, one of my favourite spots in the town is not the domain of the well-heeled founders, but a higgledy piggledy neighbourhood  - early, new, decorative Victorians and workmanlike foursquare homes living comfortably together, with the occasional grande dame among them. The neighbourhood is loosely centred around Ferguson, Mary, and Glenwood cemetery area. Here's a Streetview look at a central intersection, and as good a place as any to begin. Walk this way. Carefully, because you might be carrying a Tim Horton's coffee from Picton Main Street just behind us.

The imposing house at the top, the c.1895 Queen Anne style red brick, has undergone a needed facelift and additions in recent years, whether for inn-keeping purposes, or just to provide the space for modern living. Never quite sure. Have always loved it; do I remember a massive spruce tree on the front lawn? Removed, the better to see you, my dear. A 1999 walking tour guide mentions iron cresting on the tower and south verandah. Perhaps it's in for cleaning? The house retains two lovely verandahs one with a charming conical roof, a decorated gable, a square tower, two storey bays to north and east. Exquisite.
1898 Methodist Church (post card E.Pierce collection)
I've always found Mary Street appealing, as it twists and turns along a route roughly parallel to Main Street. It's composed of West Mary, East Mary, and in some books, Short Mary. Mary Street West and East are separated by the phlegmatic limestone presence of Picton United Church . I'd love for someone to confirm my theory that the street was once continuous, but for this divine intervention. For today, we'll hover around West Mary and environs, for there's plenty to see. Famous houses, noteworthy houses, and a few houses that I just plain like.

This red brick is 20 Ferguson Street, a Victorian with two double storey bays, wide eaves with brackets and acorn drops, segmentally arched windows, a decorative porch with iron railing above, creating a balcony outside the matching arched doorway upstairs. Good chimney.

No, this is not the same house. Had me fooled for a bit. The spruce trees, and the pink doors distinguish this wider, but almost identical house two doors away. It was built around 1880, in red brick with some Italianate hauteur, and a great entry porch with round arched doorways, on main floor. Great balcony with iron railing above. Love how the owners have restored and maintained the property, and the side porch sheltered by towering spruces.

There are several sweet stone houses along Ferguson Street. The double house with the wide gable, above, was once the carriage house on the property of wealthy industrialist Charles Wilson, whose c.1875 Chapel Street mansion Maplehurst was destroyed by fire around 1940. I would love to have seen it; the best I can suggest is to consult pages 239/40 of The Settler's Dream. Oddly, this long vanished house gets more coverage than the rest of the neighbourhood, in the book.
Isn't this lovely? This beautifully kept Ontario farmhouse of rubblestone, with a prim doorcase and triangular arch above the large centre gable window. End chimneys, practical steel roof.

The view to the left is taken from a delightful side-street, Jackson Lane. It shows the side elevation of the house at 23-25 Ferguson. Note the arched doorway to the woodshed, filled in later. Love that square window! At its opposite end, Jackson Lane ends in the trees; a path leads over the edge to Marsh Creek, the cemetery, the parks. (Edna Street is parallel to Jackson Lane; they're joined by Burns Avenue which runs along the edge. Neat walk.)

This c.1857 brick house is likely the most well-known spot on our tour. It's one of the locally famous Welsh row-lock bond houses - bricks laid on their edges, to conserve materials, giving the impression that they are larger than conventional bricks. There's been lots written about them, including my post from 2013.

This worthy house has gained a great following in recent years as Bee & Bee bed and breakfast. Nice to see the restoration of this great house into something so loved.

76 West Mary Street

I love this little blue-painted brick house, with gables on each side, a great central chimney, refined doorcase, modest gingerbread and great porch and plantings. I recall the sides are stucco, but I do believe the facade is in row-lock bond.

Whenever I walk around the neighbourhood, I spot another little house to love. Look at this plain little blue one, with its vestigial kingpost, a brave little bay with its plate glass windows, the modest square window above the porch. And a huge tree and country lot next door. Small town feel.

Here's another. I like how these two houses adjoin in a neighbourly fashion, a lone street tree creating a welcoming little garden outfront.
 The area's streets have to cooperate with the topography, heading up and down hill, careening around corners, and ending abruptly at the edge of the bluff overlooking Marsh Creek flowing from Glenwood cemetery to Picton Harbour, a lovely walk dad was proud to show me when once we visited.

The advantage of the terrain are the picturesque properties and  hill-side homes. These two double houses, at 41 and 43 Ferguson, are sited on large sloping lots just before the cemetery. Love the driveshed behind #41.
Last words:
One special house is missing here. I don't seem to have a photo of pointy little 8 Ontario Street, where our mom boarded in the 1940s, to attend Picton high school, with a relative who did not believe in heating bedrooms for silly school-girls. That's my only personal connection with the neighbourhood.

In time, we'll continue east down Mary Street to visit some unique terraces. But in the meantime, I have to run on ahead and grab a few more photos to share. One in particular, the elusive c1859 cottage with the unusual brickwork at 42 Mary Street, was still standing at the time Streetview slunk past. Wonder if it's still there?


  1. Rich in detail and beautifully written as always. Especially great to see my part of town in a story on your blog, Lindi! (We're at 41 Ferguson, the white double house.) Coming back from walking the dog, I ran into my neighbours in the Hadden house just now and told them to check out your blog for a nice surprise. I so admire your work. It is much appreciated.

  2. Great of you to leave a comment, Alex! I so seldom know who's out there reading my little self-indulgences.

    1. Alex, I meant to ask the age of your house. It looks for all the world like a Loyalist Georgian farmhouse.

    2. It's 1880, but it looks a lot earlier, doesn't it? We've always thought it looked "farmhouse," but it wouldn't have been. One day, I would love to rebuild the chimneys that were originally at each gable end of the main block and would have made the building look quite handsome.

  3. Not self-indulgences! I have learned a lot from following you. You should get a medal for the service and entertainment Ancestral Roofs provides.

  4. This little self-indulgence, as you so modestly call it, took me back to last year's pleasant ACO scavenger hunt along the very same streets. You give these houses so much life with your descriptions, Lindi. Thanks for the tour of a charming neighbourhood.

  5. What a wonderful evocation of Mary Street! My family used to live around the corner on Prospect Avenue, so we travelled via this architectural museum every day. The United Church certainly was an important part of our lives too, especially given that my great grandfather was the minister there many years before. The family story is that he came out retirement to take over from the departing minister who had left town with the pregnant organist....

  6. Thanks to Alex Schultz for posting a link to this facinating blog on the Prince Edward County community Face Book page. I love your work Lindi (although I'm sure you don't think of it as "work" at all!) I know a little bit about your family history which Eric shared with me a few years ago. It's wonderful to have all this information preserved for future followers of County history. I've been reading and re-reading 'Settlers Dream' for the last twelve years and can often be seen walking or driving County roads with Beldan's 1878 Atlas under my arm! Looking forward to more posts from you soon.

    1. Hi Chris and Alex ~ I'm glad so many folks liked Proud Mary- there are lots of other Picton posts on the blog. I'm no authority, just a person who loves old buildings, studies their history and passes on the stories they tell.