Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Friday, August 10, 2012

dealing with Aging

Another last look at my little Mouck house

The Miller's house, VanAlstine's Mill (now Lake on the Mountain)
Most of our friends are dealing with aging. We decry our unreliable memories. Occasionally we head to the doc for a tune-up. The ladies grab for fans.
No less inevitable, but less emotionally charged (perhaps!) is the aging of buildings in our memory. Our past is present in these structures. We may have known them in our youth, may have passed by vaguely aware of something unusual about a
particular building. "The old Pringle place" of my youth, a weathered frame eyesore to our dad, turns out to be (thanks to PJS' sensitive eye to such things) "a well-proportioned timber-framed farmhouse of the 1820's" with "sophisticated joinery." (Settler's Dream p.21) It's long gone. Sorry I didn't pay more attention. The old war song "Johnny I hardly knew ya" plays in my head. Likely we laughed at your unpainted condition and your old-fashioned trim, with its implied lack of industry scorned by our industrious parents.

Sometimes we just tidy up. And demolish the old thing. I happened by the day a satisfied team of workers had just finished smoothing the earth flat where the very significant little Mouck house had once stood in South Marysburgh. Had, in fact, until earlier the same day.
But there are some happy (though guarded) outcomes. The Miller's House, at the top of the escarpment which fed VanAlstine's extensive mill complex at Stone Mills (now Lake on the Mountain/Glenora Ferry) sat unattended for years, and is recently the scene of renewed industry. I had a chat with a fellow working inside the old structure earlier this summer. Told him the place had been a somewhat notorious  dance hall in the 1940's (for they had engaged 'negro' musicians and caused a fuss), and later the restaurant and activity hall for the resort which operates there still (and the scene of my first formative experiences as a waitress in high school). The chap believes the owners of the fine restaurant in the old stone store opposite are planning another eatery.

Hope they don't fail to notice the fine Greek Revival detailing - easy to overlook with the distractions of insulbrick siding. The eaves returns, the deep cornice. This place looked pretty good in Belden's 1878 Atlas (image scanned from SD, as the mighty Belden wouldn't fit under my scanner). The house is top centre, just in front of a toy sailboat on the lake, to the right of the stone store. A temple form building, dated 1850. 

Watch this space.

1 comment:

  1. Nice piece. Thanks for writing it. I hate to go all ethereal here, but I find there's something of an analogy between these structures and the human body itself. They are the temporary, tangible sides of our lives, housing the spirit of communities and individuals. We spend alot of money and effort propping them up, sometimes for very practical reasons, sometimes for vanity.

    40+ years ago I first rode a bike and crashed into a cement wall. The upshot was a scar on my hip that I still have to this day, and that I sport like a badge of honour. I liken it to a colonial cannonball that still remains lodged in the front wall of a house, for all to see. These are slateboards for history, and when they're gone there's something else that goes along with 'em.