Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mrs. Shakespeare's other son

'Brandon Manor' (1840) near Port Hope
Earlier this summer, while doing research for a piece for Country Roads magazine, I ventured outside of Hastings County to meet a visionary. Log house lovers and those afflicted with post and beam disease may know of Mel Shakespeare. He is known throughout North America for his work rescuing old log structures and post and beam homes and barns, dismantling and reassembling them as homes 'with all mod cons'. Often additions are created, or two former dwellings may be joined, to satisfy our modern demand for space.
centre hall - special plans for that extra door pending
Mel's home and the headquarters of Tradition Homes are located in an exquisite Georgian house, a former inn outside Port Hope, which he found in ruins and recreated, rebuilding from archival photos the doorcase with chinoiserie sidelights and transom, windows, cornice and eaves returns, faux ashlar cladding, plus all interior mouldings, sourcing doors and fixtures, finding creative solutions for many challenges. The place has the serenity that only early c.1900 woodwork and furniture can evoke. And Mel knows his early furniture. Thanks to his advice, I am working my way through my own copy of The Heritage of Upper Canadian Furniture by Howard Pain.
anyone need a Georgian mantel?

centre hall serenity

Tradition Homes 'to go'
I am still thinking about my visit with Mel Shakespeare. His story has been told many times - I don't intend to repeat it. Suffice to suggest you visit his website at By the way, he has a sale on at the moment.

The highlight of my morning with Mel was when he left me on my own in a field of wild-flowers on a back concession road. The place is his compound of rescued log houses - piles of logs, and lumber, sometimes doorcases and doors, and the shells of former log buildings awaiting reassembly. The sun and breeze seemed to infuse the place with creative was a special place to spend a quiet hour.
How many stories could this door tell us?
What will its next incarnation be like?

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