Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Service with a Smile

Super-service, 1928, Mahone Bay
I don't usually photograph service stations, but this one In Mahone Bay, morphed into an artisan market, insisted. Looking at it this morning made me hungry for more images, when there was variety and character in these utilitarian structures. I did a quick search and found a wonderful collection of images on a great site ''. I strongly recommend a visit!

To see lots more nostalgic images, and get you thinking about planning your road-trip...

More....from Mahone Bay

Double-dog dare you not to smile!
Blysteiner House, 1860

Another riot of colour, this time from Mahone Bay.

Grayfield, 1880

 If this doesn't bring back the sun, what will?
Mader building, 1901

Zwicker House, 1870
It just makes me happy to look at these places, and recall strolling about in this delightful town on Mahone Bay.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rainbow challenge

OK, I am throwing down a paisley gauntlet, and issuing myself a personal challenge.
Only colourful houses for the next two posts.

The five-sided roof of the Scottish Dormer

Morash House 1888
Feel like dancing?
Do the "Lunenburg Bump".
Now that was easy...just go to Lunenburg!
What joyful structures...not great photos, not great architecture maybe, but joy enough to compensate.


This image just flashed up on my screen-saver, which cycles through my photographs and occasionally surprises me with something good ("Did I take that?"), or something forgotten ("Was I here?")
Scottish dormers aplenty, Lunenburg
This house, appearing on my monitor on a dark night in a dimly lit study, following a post about sombre though beautiful log houses, just made me laugh. What a joyful structure. What great colour. How could you have a dull dreary day in this house, ever?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Purdy party

These days I am fallen under the spell of Al Purdy - his poetry, his life, his influence, his A-frame mouldering in Ameliasburgh, the passionate efforts of good folk to save this place I am so drawn to. I hear Pinsent's wonderful voice declaiming the boozy lines. Purdy caught the spirit of this area. I can't think of anyone who drew the hard land north of 7, as we say here, so clearly and showed its beauty so defiantly.

 In homage, I say their names aloud - a  litany of hard northern places from 'The Country North of Belleville' : Cashel and Wollaston... Elzevir... McClure and Dungannon, Herschel... Monteagle...Faraday...and post these photos of log buildings from O'Hara Mill Homestead, to honour the folk who conquered these lands on the Canadian shield, while it was conquering them.

My Queensborough friend Katherine has done a fine job of capturing Purdy's work and his spirit in her blog-post. A must-read. As is Purdy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Harrowing Experience

We visit Harrowsmith often. I always look forward to revisiting the village's unique limestone buildings. I dare say a great deal has been written about them - I haven't come upon any of it, to date.

What I love about the stone-builders of this town is how they used the two colours of limestone available to them, to create buildings which celebrate that fact...'stripes' and 'checks' (because really what else can you say?), contrasting door and window lintels or quoins. A quite unusual grouping of fine stone buildings, which I look forward to seeing, each time we drive through on our way to Richard's.
Some time I really must insist that we stop, to get the skinny on this delightful stone town. And I'll try to pick a moment when a long evening sun warms these old stones, to try to capture how beautiful they are.

Where there's a Mill there's a way

Carpenter's Shop, O'Hara Mill Homestead
 Carl Sagan is reported to have said "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch you must first invent the universe." Bread-making is an art taken for granted in our day. Even at our most virtuous when we get all 'back to the land' and bake up a few loaves, it's very likely that we start by opening bags of whole foods store flour.

As I learn more about the history of Hastings County my respect for our foremothers deepens - the appalling hardships of pioneering women have been described by Moodie and Traill, but our modern minds can but fail to capture the fear and despair of these tiny outposts of humanity along the colonization roads - and women's struggles to provide a basic meal for their family each day, to keep children well, to keep men fed for the brutal work they undertook.

Mill with working English Gate Upright Frame Saw
Creating a plumping mill or hominy block (beside the carpenter's shop above) to pound wild rice or wheat into meal was a first breakthrough.

With the development of a water-powered grist mill in an area, a whole new life became possible. Massive stone grinding wheels reduced stubborn grains to cooperative flour...a great convenience if we overlook the fact that men walked through barely passable bush roads, or dragged their meagre havest over (relatively) smoother winter hardened paths, over impossible distances. So many forgotten terrors and hardships, their daily bread.

Last weekend we paid an amazing visit today to O'Hara Mill Homestead near Madoc. We chatted with some outstanding people - with energy, vision, and passionate committment to maintaining and handing on the past.

The folks at O'Hara have recreated the mill (a saw-mill in this case) and rebuilt a dam to power it. This post is a tribute to those first entrepreneurs and altruists (maybe) who harnessed the power of the area's many waterways - for domestic convenience and  for industrial growth....and to the women working in log shanty kitchens, hoping for a brighter future. And a tribute to the people who work so hard to pass this history on.

Blacksmith's Shop

O'Hara House

Carriage House

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hobbit houses

Round-headed doors are not all that common, but when they do crop up they're usually on Period Revival style homes. I'm not talking about the elegant cool neo-classical ellipse, but a dear cosy little round-headed door and doorway. They're often set in a little cross-gable porch or projection, to complement that cozy cottage feel.
Period (Tudor) Revival in Picton - note hood moulding
Another, in Belleville
Round-headed doors make me think of hobbit houses, all warm and sheltering -although technically, their doors were completely, perfectly round. These round doors make me think that warm cozy folks live behind them, ready to throw them open invitingly, with tea on the hob and something warm ready to eat:

"In the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats – the hobbit was fond of visitors. " 
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Old East Hill welcome
Bell cast roof
Queen Street welcome home
 Belleville's Old East Hill has a significant number of round-headed doors on English Cottage/Cotswold Cottage/Period Revival homes.

I love how the little front gable entry on this nice stucco home looks like a tiny perfect playhouse. 
I want to give the last word in this post to another quite different round-headed door in another quite different style of house. The house is a red brick Victorian farmhouse. It stands close to the United Church in Queensborough (the village I came to love last last winter). This house is special because it is the United Church manse - the home where the minister and his family lived and served their community. I know this because a lovely friend (one I have yet to meet) grew up there. Katherine Sedgewick was one of the children of the United Church minister, and grew up in the house in the 1960's and 70's. Now Katherine lives and works in Montreal. Just recently, she and her husband made the loveliest journey back in time - they bought the manse, and are lovingly restoring it as a weekend home...falling in love once again with the village, the people, and the house.

The manse has a round-headed door! Not a front door, but a second floor door leading from the room which was her father's study. I can imagine a little girl standing at the hall door watching a dad at his desk, crafting a sermon. She's reluctant to enter. Her mother's appeal -"don't disturb your father"- deters the dutiful child from a snuggle from this beloved parent.

This warm cozy story continues daily. Katherine is a wonderful story-teller. Her tales of the Manse can be found at her blog 'Meanwhile, at the manse'. Do visit at

the little round-headed door at the Manse - thanks Katherine

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Coming up Roses

root fence
Between visits to PEC waterfalls on Sunday afternoon, we visited a few favourite places. It's always so reassuring to see this old place well-kept. There's new roofing and flooring on the not-likely authentic porch (and I quote no less an authority than Cruikshank in SD). The house is dated c.1830, is now part of the PEC museums system and does a fine job of portraying the simple farm life of the nineteenth century.

I love board and batten - not overdone as in a conspicuous neighbourhood updo on Paul Street in Picton, but the 'just-folks' red barn painted practical wood cladding of this house, and of our drive-shed at the farm. (Board and batten is somewhat rare in Prince Edward , according to Tom C.)

And this place has a connection to that drive-shed. Before they left the farm, dad donated a hand-sleigh, built by ancestor John who was a blacksmith in a shed attached to that building. I remember his annoyance at not finding the sleigh displayed on a visit to the museum. I have, somewhere, a photo of mom and a group of her contemporaries in their home-made 'Expo' pioneer dresses, on hand for some event at the museum house. I had, until a recent ruthless 'reduce and hand-on' campaign in the closets, two handwoven rugs made on a loom at the museum.
local flavour - woodhouse to the side, angled window, 'county' chimney
The house was built by the Rose family, likely a second home, as the first would have been built on the lake-shore far below, where today a very beautiful old cemetery in the pines tells the story of pioneer Peter Rose, an American Quaker, and his contemporaries.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Faith of our fathers

How complex and interesting the sky-line suddenly became, as I shuffled along College Street in the heat. Suddenly two evocative towers loomed through the trees. In the shade of the north wall of the many-gabled brick and stone Gothic church, I learned its story from the familiar Ontario Heritage Trust plaque, and travelled back to the growing year of 1858 when a prominent family donated the land, and an influential architect built it. Back to when this busy chaotic unlovely corner of Bathurst and College

They called the church St.-Stephen-in-the-Fields, because it was.


St.Stephen-in-the-Fields - in its remote rural setting, 1850/60
When you think Kensington Market, think of this old-world oasis, an English country village church transplanted to one of the world's most multi-ethnic neighbourhoods.

Archival photo courtesy: Toronto Public Library