Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Suddenly Last Summerhill


I've visited this lovely spot in Kingston many times, and wrote about it here 6 years ago. Some of the photos I borrowed for that post have disappeared, as it turns out, so it's time to retell the story. But I did a pretty good job on that post, so I encourage you to have a look.

This is Summerhill, the oldest building on the Queen's University campus, a graceful Neoclassical villa built as home for George Okill Stuart, Anglican Arch-deacon, in 1839. Remarkably old. Changed over time, but in recent years, much restored and nicely maintained. 

The image at right is from an interpretive panel installed since my last visit. Summerhill's pure Palladian form, (here's one now) a central block with flanking pavilions and linking colonnaded porches, is evident in this 1858 drawing.

Folks must have felt fortunate indeed when in 1854, the home was acquired by the still new and struggling Queen's College, established in 1848 by Royal Charter issued by Queen Victoria. Queen's was the work of the Presbyterians of Upper Canada, desirous of a College for the education of Presbyterian ministers.

 The College had begun in a wood frame house on the edge of town, with 2 profs and 13 students. Despite the classy new digs, the college continued to struggle financially, and suffered growing pains as it strove to establish identity and direction.

The interpretive panels go on to explain the challenges, and principals who made a difference. I won't. For me, the visit was about taking in the beauty of the place and the day.

Do drop by yourself, and swot up.

So, can you spot the changes? I'm just going to let you do the thinking, and revisit my warm early fall day euphoria now. 

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