Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Friday, May 28, 2010

The 'richly sculpted bulk' of Victoria Hall, Cobourg

Spent a lovely late afternoon wandering around Cobourg yesterday, with Katherine Ashenburg's excellent Going To Town tucked under my arm, camera in hand, reading/walking/looking/snapping photos (awkward but do-able). Ashenburg writes an especially useful preface to each walking tour of the 10 historic Ontario towns featured in the book. She describes "two Cobourgs" , one "a Tory town with great expectations and repeated frustrations" and the other, a summer retreat for wealthy nineteenth century American industrialists - a fascinating invitation into research on the social history of the town. We strolled the short boardwalk through a preserved beach ecosystem beside a placid Lake Ontario, prior to a dash around town to catch the fading afternoon sun on some of the buildings constructed when Cobourg's star was rising in the early and mid c19. Victoria Hall, designed in a style as grandiose as the aspirations for national importance held by the city fathers, was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1860. Shortly afterwards, the death-knell sounded - the Cobourg Peterborough Railway dream (and its bridge) collapsed and the town fell into decline. For another visit - Cobourg rises from the ashes as "Newport North."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Look, Jerry, look. Look and see!

Did anyone learn to read from the Alice and Jerry readers when they were in Grade one? Siblings Alice and Jerry prompted each other, albeit in a rather stilted language occasioned by the limited sight vocabulary of their readers, to look about themselves and see the world. A study of architecture makes one a looker, and a see-er of details. As an individual with a global-holistic style learning style, I have always experienced exquisite old houses in their entirety, and my response has has run to wonder, longing, a sense of loss, response has been deeply emotional. I've noticed that after a winter of study and revisiting my history of architecture library from as far back as my undergrad art history courses, my response is changing. It's no less emotional, but now it's supported by a rational checklist of ways to see ....what style, what roof, what doorway, what windows, what brick or stonework, what finish details....Look, look and see!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

So many houses, so many experts, so little time...

I spent a lovely few hours yesterday sorting my architecture photos into 'style' folders. Admittedly, that sounds a teeny bit OCD but it's actually a wonderful exercise in really seeing detail and consolidating what I learned in my Mohawk college course about architectural styles in Ontario. In the course of some Internet research into a few hard-to-identify houses, I came across three wonderful sources - one fellow has more photos that I will EVER produce, in a Flickr slideshow - and he responds in an erudite and gentle manner to all comments made by visitors to the site. His name is John Fitzgerald and he's based in Toronto. Two other ''go-to" sites feature great photos and spot-the-style lists: HouseProud at hosted by Brian R. Booth, which is also a Canadian site, and which is part of the wider empire. I look for Canadian sites, as the terminology is used differently in the US in many cases, and the last thing I need is to be more confused! But despite all the help, I can still post photos of a few houses that are, for the moment in my "guess the style" folder. (I expect when I find the answer, it will be a Homer Simpson "doh" kind of moment.) Have a look and help me out!
Left - This old stone house started life as a 1 1/2 storey, with a magnificent trellis verandah (photo in Peter Stokes' The Settler's Dream) so I'm wondering- could it have started out life as a Regency cottage? It's got Georgian presence, but the roof's wrong, and Italianate brackets without a wide cornice. And the state of decline is sad.
Centre - (I don't seem to have any control over where these photos land when I upload) was built of marble in 1857. Again presence, but no ornament.
Right - I'll admit the dark second storey makes me think of period revival, but is this just a sedate Queen Anne? I think it's quite lovely.
Off to take more photos.