"In Praise of Older Buildings"
Thursday, December 29, 2011
House and Gardens
These are two places I would like to be today. Such a contrast to the motionless, sepia-toned frozen field outside my study window, the only signs of life the flit of chickadees at the feeders and the hyperactive fits and starts of the raiding red squirrel. I'll spent some time in the tame wilderness of these English style gardens.
I'm digesting a tasty and interesting little book I've just finished reading. A History of Domestic Space by Peter Ward (UBC Press, 1999) explores the history and sociology of privacy in the Canadian home. He talks about all the rooms in the house (assuming there is more than one, which in much of our history, there was not), then the space around it, and how we have changed in how we use and think about those spaces.
In the chapter 'Gardens and Yards' Ward discusses the evolution of the space outside our front doors. At one time, all "classes" of folks, whether blessed with wealth or not, stepped from their front door directly onto the street (think Georgian terraces in an English town). Over time the houses of those with property moved further back on the site and a green semi-public space of lawn and secluded verandah evolved. At first, especially in rural areas, this space was just an extension of the work-space, the verandah for food preparation, the space in front for a kitchen garden, wood-splitting and chickens. Eventually, the more prosperous farms (read, farmers' wives) began to cultivate flowers and lawns like their urban and suburban 'betters'. Good spot for a book in the shade, a hammock, a wander to gather flowers. Great spot to be today.
Left: Macauley House,Picton
Right: an Ontario farmhouse in stone near Marlbank