Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

You're not from here are you?

This place on the Old Trent Road (few folks call it that now, more reason to use the old name) has always spoken to me. There's just something special about it. I like its simplicity - on a street of homes with grander pretensions of various eras, from the 1880's to the 1980's.

I'm intrigued by the long setback from the road. Makes me think that it was once on its own down there, or neighbours with other homesteads close to the reliable water transportation route. Plenty of room at the front door for a domestic orchard, a vegetable garden or a few sheep. The low profile, small plain windows, serviceable stucco cladding, narrow eaves all speak of a sensible and serious builder/owner, from a time when show mattered less, and shelter from an inhospitable new country was paramount.

Then last night I came across a bit of the house's story, in a Belleville heritage publication I'd often leafed through.* The writers describe a "Scottish cottage" dating from the pioneer days of Hastings County. The builder was Alexander Chisholm, a Scot by birth. (I am avoiding the predictable cliche), a Loyalist and one of the area's first settlers. Alexander had emigrated to Albany, New York, but his decision to fight with the British in Quebec during the revolution changed all that. A land grant in Hastings County made up for the likely loss of his hard-won homestead, and he began again.

I am full of respect for the family in this home - they have resisted the tendency to modernize, to subdivide, to tear down and rebuild. I can only assume they are proud of the history of which they are guardians. I would like to meet them and express my humble thanks.

* Historic Belleville by Nick and Helma Mika, 1977

1 comment:

  1. That bit of speculation on our part put to rights, then. Thank goodness for Nick and Helma Mika.