Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

For Want of a Nail...

1859-2013 The Henderson Building

"For want of a nail the shoe was lost
For want of a shoe the horse was lost
For want of a horse the rider was lost
For want of a rider the battle was lost
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail."

1870 Mansard roof and dormer added

Heard today that the Henderson Building (1859), this worthy Second Empire commercial building, is slated for demolition. This because - horribile dictu - some stones fell out of the back wall during last winter's freeze-thaw cycles.

Now, I'm no engineer, but I'm thinking stone walls need regular maintenance. And I'm looking at this building, and wondering when that last happened. If we want something, we look after it right? If we want to get rid of it, we leave it to decay til bits start to fall off, and play the 'danger to life as we know it' card.
architectural elements in cast iron

This is an ornate building with some significant history. It's also very expensive to maintain, and nobody has cared enough in recent years to put the money into its survival. Hence today we read in today's Belleville Intelligencer of its demise.

a blank wall telling many stories

A darned shame. But the building's been left to decay for too long, I'm told. Wouldn't likely happen in Port Hope. Or some of the cities in Europe to which folks flock for the atmosphere and the historic architecture.

And with this November 7 update, the future isn't looking any better for the Henderson Building.

Wonder how long before the Nathan Jones and Albert Filliter buildings suffer the same fate?

Nathan Jones Building 1862
Albert-Filliter Building 1846/90

1890 cornice 

cast iron lintels


  1. "[They] treat it like a hired house, they won't keep it in repair; they neither paint it to preserve (sic) the boards, nor stop a leak to keep the frame from rottin; but let it go to rack sooner than drive in a nail or put in a pane of glass. It will sarve our turn out, they say."

    The Clockmaker c.1835

  2. I don't understand the reference, but I have a clue.... In any event, it is indeed a shame. It seems like a grand old bldg., one worthy of paint and pane.

  3. This is such a painful thought. Are all the would-be protectors powerless?