Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Time for Tea?

Doors Open Belleville today. What a great celebration of local heritage, and such a great opportunity to visit places seldom seen. On what other afternoon could I stand in the original attic of Belleville's 1872 Gothic Revival red brick City Hall, lean on the rough wood railing and float out into the building's massive wooden skeleton, revealed by an inspired renovation in 1988, then upward through the open space, through the sky-light to the top of the original clock tower? We should be proud of our city - somehow somebody discovered the idea of reworking the building's interior space, added another 10,000 square feet of working space - INSTEAD of tearing down a heritage structure to build a roomy box for city business!

And that was just my 'break' from my Heritage Belleville duties in the building, engaging and networking with many visitors sharing my experience!

Later that afternoon, we got to wander the lawns of the exquisite Montrose Inn, a 1918 Colonial Revival mansion associated with one of the city's leading citizens in its day. It's now a luxury bed and breakfast, tea room, and the site of many memorable weddings. Innkeepers Wayne and Dianne Campbell opened their house for hundreds of visitors - us among them. Dianne was gracious as a queen as she toured us, and tempted us with a return. I look forward to high tea in the quarter-sawn oak panelled dining room - soon.

We ended a busy day in a peaceful spot, the Belleville Cemetery. Took some photos of evocative old monuments, and was pleased to find the resting place of many of the folk associated with our city's stately homes (including the builder of Montrose), and with our area's history, such as Susanna Moodie and her sheriff husband Dunbar (Susanna Moodie wrote Life in the Clearings here, after she exorcized the trauma of her years as a Peterborough area homesteader by writing Roughing it in the Bush). A former Prime Minister, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, much ignored in this his home town, rests under the shagbark hickories of the lovely site by the bay. Developed in 1872, one of the picturesque garden cemeteries which began with Paris' Pere Lachaise in early c19, the Belleville Cemetery is a wonder, and a place of repose for living and dead alike. Jennifer McKendry has a wonderful book on Cataraqui Cemetary, one of the best of the Victorian rural memorial parks - Weep Not For Me, 2000). A lovely place to spend an afternoon, or eternity.


  1. We enjoyed Doors Open as well. I think P was pleasantly surprised. Montrose Inn, well...just not enough superlatives. Decisions, decisions: should I arrive by carriage or in the Bentley?

  2. I think the lady in the mid-1800's dress was misleading...the place has a Great Gatsby feel to me...I would have preferred less Victoriana inside, but maybe that's what B&B folks expect.