Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Flashback: happier days at Hotel Quinte

 In the early days of the Hotel Quinte, the south entrance facing the Armouries was the grand main entrance. A massive portico led into the lobby where patrons were greeted by hotel's luxury appointments. The impressive marble mosaic floors displayed the hotel name, proudly emblazoned in mosaic at the entry. Stories say that both the marble, and the mosaic craftsman, were imported from Italy by Henry Corby, one of the entrepreneurs who built the hotel.

location of 1907 entrance visible behind white sign, centre
The entrance, a massive Romanesque Revival inspired portico,was removed and the entrance blocked over in the mid c.20. Until very recently (sniffle) the scar was visible, a large patch of pink modern brick on the southwest corner.

At the same time, the west entrance was changed and modernized.

During the summer of 2011, dedicated hotel staff painstakingly removed carpet that had been glued onto the mosaic floors and revealed this wonderful marble welcome mat.

Hotel Quinte, RIP

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Visitation, Monday and Tuesday

The police officer said "it's been like this all day. Yesterday it was non-stop people coming to look, take pictures."

He and Denis chatted about his unhappy Christmas day duty shift, while I wandered around this hotel I know so well, taking farewell shots.

 The day was dull, and although I had wished for sun to accent some of the loveliness that still remained, perhaps the day fit the mood.

People came and went, smiling to each other in silence. Supportive silence. Each of us paying our respects. Remembering our memories. Thinking how her presence will impact us all, our downtown, our history. A wake if you like.

 Tomorrow heavy equipment removes this damaged south wall. Four walls support each other...three walls, no roof? Inherently unstable.

A wake is a community goodbye.

Because we all kind-of know.

She's not going to survive this tactical demolition. This is goodbye.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas used to be so simple

A Night in the Stable

(Hey if even the best poets re-issue, why not bloggers?)

Friday, December 21, 2012

They don't make 'em like they used to

Luxe, 1907 style

 In 2011 I had the great pleasure of working with Angela Cartwright, manager of Hotel Quinte in Belleville, and the staff, developing the application for heritage designation, which we were all excited about bringing to City Council. Then the hotel's fortunes changed and the process was halted.

Overnight, the hotel's fortunes changed once again. Tragically. These days when there's been little success with getting the viable building up and running again, there's likely to be less enthusiasm for resurrecting its burnt-out shell.

 Here are some photos of winter/spring 2011, sunnier times for the iconic Belleville hostelry.

a corner we'll no longer visit

Hotel Quinte 1907 - 2012

I just called my friend Lois. At times of loss, we reach out to people who know and understand. A few minutes ago I got an email from our man at city hall, telling me that the Hotel Quinte had burned overnight. Brick walls standing. Massive smoke and water damage. Walls in danger of crumbling. An inestimable loss of local heritage.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Raise a Glass II

I love writing for (and reading) local magazines!

My work on the re-purposed mill articles has taken me into all sorts of great spots I might never have visited, and a couple that I had been longing to see all my life.

The current issue of County and Quinte Living magazine, available at selected locations around the area (and online), gave me an opportunity to enjoy food and libations at two great local gathering places.

Cascades Pub and Grill occupies the old grist mill in Consecon. The original majestic stone mill burned many years ago. There's a photo of it in 'The Settler's Dream'. *

Denis chatting up the barmaid/proprietor Deanna

 In fine weather you can enjoy the sun on the deck  overlooking the creek. The day we had lunch there a massive heron whomped up the creek, just feet  above the water. His place.

a working dam at Cascades

 The old millpond extends as far as Main Street; as you travel beside it (should you be looking for vestiges of Greek Revival detailing in the oldest and 'unimproved' local houses) you can't help but notice the numbers of trees being felled by beavers.
sign on the dance-floor
creekside window/open mike stage

Rick and Deanna Furber are the hosts, and they are dedicated to the place. Nice folks. Go have a chat. A Waupoos Cider. A Molson's. Some pub food.

Meet the locals. Kick your feet up on the dancefloor. Play a free game of pool.

* In the unlikely event that you are unaware of this resource, here's a nice backgrounder on the new edition and some good heritage advice, thanks to

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Raise a glass - Old Stockdale Mill Restaurant

Taj Mahal's  'Fishing Blues' would suit me fine about now
County and Quinte Living magazine has just published an article I wrote about two local mills repurposed as community hubs offering eats and drinks. And great good times. One of them is the Old Stockdale Mill Restaurant. Visit Peter and his team at the website.

The dark and artistic mill photo in the magazine, taken by the fabulous Daniel Vaughan, shows one mood of this historic building.

These sunny Sunday afternoon snaps conjure a different Stockdale experience. Enjoy it with us?

The mill pond above the dam. The old sawmill across Cold Creek. Please buy it and ensure the longevity of this iconic mill view. The late summer sun puts the pond in a reflective mood.

Den enjoying a glass of Beau's on the deck under the ash trees overlooking the dam.

This spot makes me think of an old Wild West movie set

A sunny day welcome at Stockdale

A room with a view - and what a view!
A good spot for a good read
Den and I enjoyed a beautiful early fall Sunday afternoon on the patio at Old Stockdale Mill Restaurant. The sun does lovely things to old buildings - we old girls are always looking for the right light to make the most of our best features. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


David Gibson house, 1835-40
Had a nice chat about this house this afternoon. It's fun when you discover someone who knows exactly where a favourite house is, and has a good sense of its story and its possibilities.

This worthy house is for sale. It needs someone who really understands its value, and has the skills and the resources to restore it properly. I expect it will need a lot of work. It needs its wonderful trellis verandah restored. According to Stokes and Cruikshank in the Settler's Dream, the interior woodwork is of the finest quality, with a mantel rivalling those of prestigious houses like Tara Hall. I so hope that interior detail remains.

This house has a feature which makes it rare among the relatively rare stone homes in PEC. It sits on a jog in the road, its local limestone presence nestling up to a rare Canadian shield inlier, a pink rock bluff rising up above it.

I am so hopeful that this home will find a good home, with someone who knows its worth. I keep driving by...

Party house

Henry Parliament house c.1850
Just home from a wonderful friendly open-house chez lovely friends Brenda and Peter. Among the grand chats which took place over too-tempting eats and tasty bev's were the inevitable (for me anyway) old-house chats.

Funny how old house stories connect people. Help us discover kindred spirits. I think it's because old homes have so many stories to tell...they're happy when they've found folks who value them, want to tell them, and hear them.

Today I had a lovely long chat with a woman who visited (I think it was) this old  house on Consecon Lake, while she and her husband were looking for a home in Prince Edward County. She talked with admiration about its linoleum covered plank floors, its pressed tin ceiling waiting under acoustic tile for someone who loved old houses to release it. About how big the old centre hall houses were.

So there it is. A moment shared. A rainy December night in Madoc takes me back to a day I spent with my lovely man and our dear Aunt two years ago, "looking" as she says, because she likes looking. Because we all like to be around old houses, listening.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Look up.
On a day where bad things happen to good little people.
In an era of cynicism and bad behaviour.
In a season drowning in commercialism and greed.

A thought to a simpler time, when the Gothic architect directed people's gaze upward...
to a source of strength and hope that no-one doubted.

And we are left with an architecture that inspires, despite everything.

Plus ca change...

Yesterday I took a journey back in time, thanks to the lucky discovery of a pile of 'not needed on the voyage' magazines in the recycling pile at Glanmore NHS (just got a flash of the youthful and reading-addicted Al Purdy winkling reading material from strapped bundles of paper in Mercer's junkyard). I am now enjoying a pile of Acorn magazines from the late 1980's and early 90's, paying special attention to the ACO Quinte columns.


Built heritage proponents will echo the sentiments in this post's title. The more things change, the more they stay the same. In the Summer 1988 issue noted local architectural historian Roger Greig optimistically recounts the hopes of the heritage community regarding the future of the Bogart-Carmen Building (by then called the Cableview Building): plans to create a stylistically sympathetic development incorporating the building's historic front and carriageway, "where demolition once seemed inevitable." This property had been associated with the newspaper business since 1873 as the home of various local papers - the Weekly, then the Daily 'Ontario', then the 'Ontario Intelligencer', later the 'Intelligencer', our current paper which was published at this building until 1965. 

However, celebration appears to have been premature. Sold to developers Teddington 1988, the building collapsed in April 1990, while being prepared for an extensive development which was to incorporate the John Forin designed building. Oops. The facade was retained, a "one-storey free-standing screen" fronting the river-side parking lot adjacent to the strip club.

Here are the once-upon-a-time plans, printed in Issue XIII:2 of Acorn, courtesy of the Intelligencer. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Small house....big story

This beautifully restored simple frame house sits on a quiet green back-street in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It's humble, but it represents a huge achievement on the part of its owners.

The Ontario Heritage Trust plaque commemorates William and Susanna Steward (or Stewart) who lived in NOL from 1832-47, in a close-knit community of former Canadian slaves, black Loyalists and African American refugees. The plaque tells the story of Niagara's early black community, who resorted to activism to prevent a black fugitive (fleeing a reality familiar to many in the community) being extradited to Kentucky.