Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Unchurched

Last Sunday, on my way from one heritage location (St. Alban's UEL Memorial Church) to another (Old Hay Bay Church), I decided to drop by yet another OHT plaqued location, on a cut-off bend in the county road. I turned onto Quaker Hill Road.

Unfortunately, there is no old church to tell this story of past congregations and their early desire to build a church in the wild new township in which they'd arrived to begin again.
The plaque reads in part: "Quakers had settled in this district in 1784 and at first held religious gatherings in private homes. In 1798 a frame meeting house was authorized and shortly thereafter it was erected on this site."

A second meeting house was built in 1868 but closed in 1871. Only this burial ground, its stones rescued and preserved in a stone wall, stands to tell the story of these pioneer UEL Quakers.

John and Sarah Clapp story

Nearby, laundry flaps on a line. The sign on the gate reminds us not to play in the graveyard.

My maternal ancestors include the Clapp family in Prince Edward County. I have seen them referred to as Quakers in some sources. I wonder who these folks were?

Seems to be the day of my Quaker quest. Not long ago I borrowed Former Days and Quaker Ways (1965) by Arthur Garratt Dorland. Another good PEC Quaker name.

We know many folks arrived in Fourth Town (one of the earliest townships surveyed, after Cataraqui) before moving onward into Prince Edward County and further west, so who knows, maybe a connection?
When I was at Old Hay Bay Church, on the recommendation of a woman I sat beside at St. Albans's, I purchased Adolphustown 1784-1984 by Katharine J. Lamont.

That may answer some questions.
Another place to look for resonance.
Time to stop talking and start listening.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Boogie down Bagot

I am having such fun reliving my June 1 day in Kingston. After all the wandering and looking and snapping, I reluctantly turned myself in the direction of the Frontenac County Courthouse under whose leafy trees I had left the car, hopeful of the possibility of a public convenience in the shaded expanse of the city park.

So, I turned at this house, and headed down Bagot Street. A feast for the eyes. Have a peek.

Here's Lookin' (Down) at Ya, Kid

mansard roof, false dormers, iron cresting
Second Empire/ Italianate collaboration

Towers and turrets.They catch our eye first as we try to take in the rich detail of picturesque structures. Just recently I walked the entire length of Stirling's Main Street to get a closer look at this imperious bit of architectural snootiness.

Not long ago, I came upon a great article by Anne Brightman in a March 2000 issue of my cherished Century Home magazine collection. Anne at that time was Managing Editor of the magazine.The piece is titled 'King of the Castle:Towers and Turrets - Architectural Fancies' and it was all I needed to take a stroll back through my photos to see how often they appear 'ready for their close-up' in my collection.

Here's a useful fact: "Generally, a tower starts at ground level and can extend up to three stories in height. Its summit usually stands higher than the rest of the roof-line. Turrets tend to be smaller and more slender and may be corbelled out from a corner or projection partway up the wall." Thanks for that Anne.

And of course, towers and turrets were subject to the same architectural influences as the houses that bore them.
There's the Italianate, "inspired by the rambling, villa-like houses of Tuscany" with their campanile or watchtower. Very important for the mid-1800's landowner, not for watching out for enemies, but for looking down on people - and looking important.

Stationed at the main entrance, providing the wow factor vestibule, the Italian villa tower showed its flat bracketed roof well above the roof-line. Picturesque. Dibs on that tower bedroom.
Bellevue, Kingston (1840's)

Riggs House, Belleville (1855)

Lewis-Wallbridge House, Belleville (1865)

Then the French Second Empire influence. Ingredients: tall and stately with mansard roofs and iron cresting just like mom, roof treatments of polychromatic slates, tiny dormer windows with heavy surrounds, extra gables for extra style.

Towers added to the drama of the stately style's alternating projecting and receding planes.


Queen Anne Revival extravagance would not have been likely to overlook the impact of a tower. The style is so exuberant with "verandahs, porches, balconies, bays, turrets, towers, tall chimneys and steeply pitched roofs." (Brightman p. 79, CH). What better than a lofty tower to proclaim the wealth and social standing of pater familias?  Brightman speaks of the style's "rounded graceful examples" and continues: "Towers and turrets were offset, typically located on the corners of buildings, and were circular, polygonal or octagonal in shape, with tall conical roofs."
Glen Miller

Brightman finished the essay with a nod to  Medieval romance, the Norman and Gothic castle, French chateau and Roman fort  recreated as an urban power statement. "Built by the exceptionally rich, as symbols of success and wealth, Victorian 'castles' tended to be huge and ostentatious, featuring large round towers with crenallated 'battlements' or tall turrets and spires with steeply pitched, conical roofs." Thanks Anne. Wish I'd said that.
She mentions Casa Loma (1911/14) and Victoria's Craigdarroch Castle (1890's).

I suggest the Romanesque Revival homes of Toronto's captains of industry deserve a nod (well, a submissive and respectful bob). I need to capture some of the big ones, like the Gooderham's.  Romanesque Revival (with or without other Victorian inspirations mixed in) definitely have the Rapunzel
Leadlay House, 25 Augusta Avenue Toronto

Toronto's Leadlay House, which became home to the Felician sisters, and now houses a community outreach centre, demonstrates the full flowering of the Italianate villa. There are some neat archival photos at this SpacingToronto link. (It's here, because Blogger would not let me put it where I wanted it - you pick).

The fascination with the tower and turret has not left us. Look around any modern monster home subdivision. Derivative towers and turrets. Same motivation.

 I like the following two, which I will avoid categorizing, having just delved into Old Toronto Houses and gotten side-tracked by 'Annex Style', 'Shingle Style' and other distinctions made by the venerable Mr. Cruickshank.

Arts and Crafts influence, nr. High Park

As the naturalist said, I don't have to know their names to love their song.

By way of ending this ramble, I'll acknowledge that I have intentionally overlooked the civic and religious buildings who resorted to towers and turrets to announce their importance, and the Canadian hotel chain which set out to make a Canadian 'brand' from medieval elements (what was that about?) If you can't get a visual picture of that, think those chateau-on-the-Loire hotels Chateau Frontenac, Chateau Lake Louise, Chateau Laurier. Another time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Lawrence Creek
 For years I have been intrigued by glimpses of warm grey limestone, a grouping of houses hidden in the trees, a short death-defying dash across Highway 33 from the Armco-protected shores of Collins Bay. But always the moment passes, the convenient and safe pull-off isn't found, and we speed by. But this time I was determined. Assuming that the surrounding 1980's 'not-gated but wishing we were' subdivision on the rise above the highway was severed from an original land-holding, I looked for a new street to give me clues. Sycamore. Tamarack. But no. Nothing but large comfy family homes, large comfy people. I parked the car, to dip into an old house history for a clue.

And looked up to see a couple emerging from the woods between two of the hillside homes...there was a trail! So I parked, and took the steep stairs down into a soft spring maple wood carpeted with Bouncing Betty...and exited into sunlight onto the slim path bordering busy highway 33, and the way to those stone houses.

So I politely snapped from the roadside, the only pedestrian for a suburban mile, and later made the acquaintance of these lovely homes and their stories in Homesteads (1979) by McBurney and Byers.

4111 Bath Road
Remove the gingerbreaded porch, the modern verandah, the boxy addition and the roof dormers and you have the 1854 limestone house of bachelor businessman Anthony McGuin, grandson of UEL Capt. Daniel McGuin, who arrived with Michael Grass. Anthony's father built a number of the first mills in the area, and young Anthony managed them well.

beautiful wall, gates, grounds

An 1860's wing, and a later stone cottage and carriage house (see the filled in carriageways?) were added. The verandah, which masks the early character of the house, and roof dormers joined the establishment even later.

Italianate porch on housekeeper's addition
patterned sidelights and transom

4097 Bath Road is the 1862 home of David John  Rankin, nephew of Anthony McGuin Jr. McBurney and Byers suggest the home was an enticement to prevent young David from yielding to the call of the California gold fields. Built in two stages, the formal L-shaped limestone house preserves its privacy in wooded grounds above hectic Bath Road, behind a stern limestone wall.

beautiful stonework and doorcase

4403 Bath Road, yet another limestone in the neighbourhood was the c.1860 home of Samuel D. Purdy. My Al Purdy antennae start to tingle. "Samuel was a member of a prolific family which settled in the area after the Revolutionary war. His grandfather, Gilbert Purdy, had been a guide in the British army. After Gilbert's death in 1788, several of his children and possibly his wife left their home in New Burgh, New York, and came to Upper Canada." (Homesteads, p. 19) Samuel was the son of one of those children.

This sweet house of neatly cut and dressed pale grey limestone, its beautiful door-case, round-headed window in a demure front gable, Regency style windows, its lovely grounds and large for sale.

So many glimpses of limestone among the trees continued to tantalize, even after my trudge. There's Bayview Farm at 4085, with its deep lawns, treed avenue, and massive gambrel roofed stone house, almost invisible behind a screen of trees.               An internet search advertised a market garden at that address. Would love to visit. Next time. I'll be needing fresh produce.

Old stones, old doorcase, new second storey. Who are you?

Could this be grandfather McGuin's house?
overlooking Lawrence Creek at Collins Bay - old stone rebuilt?
Kingstonians! Feel free to contact me at the blog email, and put me out of my curiosity!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Watch for it....but do it quickly

This is Stonewatch, the pre-1813 home of one of the earliest Ernestown Loyalists, Joshua Booth, who served as a sergeant in the Revolutionary war, and found it advisable at some point to emigrate. Booth went on to build numerous mills and become a prosperous landowner. His large stone house sits at 4423 Bath Road near Amherstview.

Well, not his exactly his. When I visited the spot on June 1, I noticed a for-sale sign. Today I looked for the listing, as it's a great way (the only way, usually) to get a wander about inside. Well, not to fall in love with this one - it appears to be sold.

Even without a feature sheet, we can tell a good lot of good things about this house. Rock-faced evenly coursed Kingston limestone with ashlar window sills, soldier lintels. Steel roof. Half-sidelights, divided transom. We can see that the eaves sport modillions and dignified eaves returns (PJS called them birds nests). The gable-end chimneys have been maintained, stonework ditto. Don't know if the sash windows are reconditioned or replica - look pretty crisp. Portico recently repaired. Window surrounds in good repair. Love the surround on the second floor centre window - classical influence.

period fence
McBurney and Byers report that this fine stone house (well, Joshua and Margaret) raised ten children, and was  named Stonewatch as it served as a lookout for roguish American ships during the 1812 awkwardness. And that the place is haunted. Doubtless, that didn't appear on the feature sheet; hopefully nothing has appeared to the new owners, either.

the view, oh did I mention the view?

The view across to the bay is astonishing, but the home's location on the primary waterway would have been a functional more than aesthetic decision, I'm guessing.

The one thing that the photo cannot convey is the noise! The traffic is very heavy - I had to dash to cross the road from my scrap of parking space, to get some close-ups. That would have to detract from one's enjoyment of the garden with its historic fence, mature trees and sunny lawn.

A last look. Going...going...gone! To the folks with $339,000. Asking price in a Googled listing. Less than one would need to purchase some truly graceless new monster home in the area's subdivisions. But then, I'm prejudiced. And I don't have to keep a 200 year old stone house warm in winter.