Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, July 14, 2013

See you in September

Today I feature a clip from the venerable BBC's nature program Walk on the Wild Side. Forgive me, but this YouTube clip is one of my favourites; I think it's hysterical. Now what it makes you think of me, not so sure.

But the Black Heron playing 'Daytime-Nighttime' reminds me of the peekaboo I went through trying to catch a glimpse, much less a good photo, of the famous octagonal Barrett House in Port Hope recently on a misty English countryside kind of day.

For a really good look, consult Tom Cruikshank's Old Ontario Houses, with John De Visser's lovely exterior and interior photos. The home's origins lie with Orson Fowler. Its builder was William Barrett, Jr., Port Hope miller and business magnate, who created this fashionable octagon in 1856. The grounds are huge, running downhill to the river, with massive old trees. I would LOVE an invitation.

I confess to a bit of an obsession with the form. I've written before about my interest, in a post on this blog, and a short article in the Hastings County Historical Society's newsletter Outlook.

For me...have to return in the fall, when the leaves are golden, to complement the siding, or even later, when bare branches finally permit a closer look.


  1. Like a coffee partner on that day?

  2. This is an interesting topic. I was crestfallen, having read that there was an 1841 octagon house in Leaside(Toronto). But it turns out that the house, now gone, was more likely built in the early 1850's. I don't know of any octagon examples in Canada from before 1850.

    That other octagon house which you talked about dating from the 1840's, then, seems like something of an outlier in that it predates Fowler's book, and predates all the others. But it gets interesting when you realize that a number of octagon buildings were constructed well before 1850, mostly in NY, VT and other northern states. It lends legitimacy to the possibility of that early octagon house to which you refer. here's a couple examples...

    1842 schoolhouse:

    1825 stone schoolhouse:

    a few houses 1829-1849: