Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The old Couldery place

 Tonight I have Glamore on my mind;  we have had several meetings at the museum this week. It's been a while since I posted, and I have been wanting to tell this old house story, so this seems like the right time.

Anyone aware of the story of Glanmore in Belleville may well know about this house, a contemporary, with a unique connection. This is "the Couldery house." Back in the early 1880's, a cultured well-to-do couple from Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, visited Canada. Their train was delayed in Belleville, they stayed at the local station hotel (the Docter's Hotel, which lost any pretense of posh in the last few decades of its life.) The hotel owner toured the couple, Bertram and Cecilia Couldery, around the town, and as so often happens when we travel, they decided to establish a second home here.

In 1888 they purchased two and a half acres along the Bay of Quinte, on the old Trent Road (today's Dundas Street) for $800.00 and built this home. When the Coulderys returned to England they took a souvenir; the young daughter of their friends the Docters.

Young Ann Docter enjoyed many advantages in England, and made a good marriage to stockbroker William Salaman in 1913. When the Coulderys died, they bequeathed an exquisite collection of  British and European fine art and furnishings to Ann. In 1955, she surprised (alarmed?) the council of her native town with a donation of about 1600 artifacts, now called the Couldery Collection, along with funds to house them in the manner to which they were accustomed. Today this incredibly rich and beautiful collection resides at Glanmore, just the perfect spot, as Glanmore interprets life of the wealthy in the 1880's.

A few Sundays ago, on an ACO Quinte walkabout on Dundas Street, we learned another chapter of this Queen Anne style red brick home.

On the death of her benefactors, Ann Docter inherited this house. She later sold it to James Anson Wheeler.

It was subsequently sold to Ann Wilmot (1918) whose son Eardley was a man of legend - Royal Flying School graduate, 7th man in Canada to earn a pilot's license, WWI flying instructor for the Royal Flying Corps in Deseronto, Texas and England, and chief pilot of the Handley-Page flying mission in the Argentine. To catch his breath, he became Mayor of Belleville in 1927. He was killed during WWII, while serving at Camp Borden, in a ghastly accident involving an airplane propellor. (For more on this legendary character, check out Dancing in the Sky, Bill Hunt's fascinating account of the Royal Flying Corps in Canada , Dundurn Press, 2009)

His ghost is said (who says these things?) to haunt this house at 293 Dundas Street West.

These days, the old Couldery place is under renovations. I take heart in the fact that the new owners are preserving the band-shell verandah roof. Perhaps they will restore the home to its former elegance.

Many thanks to David Bentley, long time president of the Quinte Branch of ACO, and even longer guide of the branch's well-loved Sunday walkabouts, for the use of his notes from the Dundas Street tour, for this post.

Incidentally, there is a painting of this house at Glanmore, likely painted by Bertram. Worth the price of admission alone.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Empire Strikes Back...the sequel

I know, I know.
The Empire Strikes Back was the sequel.
This is just a rather hokey way of revisiting Second Empire sightings this week.

On Saturday we visited a favourite aunt in Peterborough.
On the way out of town, with the sun on our backs, we decided to navigate the one-way system to find Rubidge Street (it's divided into three pieces, like a robin-tormented earthworm.)
And there, holding its head proud above a sea of tarmac, sat the impressive Cox Terrace.
centre pavilion with convex Mansard

Cox Terrace is a rare multi-unit residential terrace built in the Second Empire style, 1884.

According to the Historic Places site, Cox Terrace contains seven two and three storey residential units (although I didn't venture indoors, so it may be that some subdivision has taken place over time.) Each of the original units has its own entrance.
end pavilions have straight-sided Mansard roofs

We parked. I braved the cold wind, camera in hand, and did not do the place justice.

But neither, in fairness, did many of its rent-paying residents,  judging by the proliferation of bad window treatments and the not at all harmonious business signage.

But they do pay the rent. I hope. And the owners did achieve a fairly recent paint job, and a creditable retention of heritage elements. Well, it is a National Historic Site, after all.

Like Glanmore, it was designated for its Second Empire style - the mansard roofs, projecting bay windows,  dormers both hooded and round, the pavilion massing, the complex roofing with two sorts of mansard roof combined with regular gable roofs with cute little hip roofed bays, between the pavilions. I'll quote this bit from Historic Places: "prominent eaves with decorative brackets, a balustraded pseudo-parapet (!) over the central block, hood moulding over dormer windows, and corner quoins."

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Empire Strikes Back

Second Empire, that is.

I'll admit it.
I have been immersed in early house stories lately.
My visit to the stone houses of Moira, and subsequent virtual conversations with hamlet residents started it off.
Reconnecting with the owner of the c.1812 Huffman-Smith house, in advance of the sale to what we hope will be a knowledgeable owner kept it going.

However, sunny day visits to two Second Empire buildings that I have long longed to capture brought me right up to the 1880s.

Friday, after a great story interview with a couple north of Madoc, I dropped in on friend Brenda for a walk around her historic village - the one with barns here and there in back lawns that used to be fields, the village having grown out to meet them. New bungalows coexist with front-porch former farmhouses in Madoc's sleepy suburbs.

Close by, the impressive buff brick three-storey Dale mansion inhabits the top of a hill; it would loom were it not for the encircling trees which dwarf  it. Its polychromatic slate mansard roof with pronounced cornices and brackets (but no iron cresting, although I suspect it once had some) rivals Glanmore's. Plenty of hooded dormers. A chunky decorated portico. Oriel window. Not one, but two bays ending in turrets. A bull's-eye window peeking through the roof slates. Shannon Kyles reports that the builder was Thomas Hanley, who also built Glanmore.

Glanmore's iron cresting
The website Building provides some detail. Although I disagree with their assertion that the house is of the Queen Anne style (for the bird-watchers among us, I believe it to be solidly in the Second Empire camp), I appreciate the detail they provide.The steps which lead down the terraces to the west of the house were once part of twelve acres (the family which currently maintains it has a large lot, even today) featuring tennis courts, a bridal path (could they mean bridle?), orchards and a walkway, the whole encircled by a stone wall.
photo courtesy B. Skinner

John Dale, owner of a private bank, built the house between 1904 and 1910, says Building Stories. That's late for Second Empire, which is generally thought to have petered out about 1900. But perhaps style changes, like seasons, come a touch bit later north of here. The website reports that his bank went under in 1914, shortly after the house was completed, and the family left town, later reimbursing most of the money to customers. The house was divided into apartments, and used as a barracks in WWII (probably the finest house many of those young fellows from the township would have seen.) Likely still is.

photo courtesy Madoc and Local Area History Facebook

I just learned of the wonderful Facebook page hosted at Madoc and Local Area History, and recommend a visit!

Thanks to them, I have seen this photo of the side lawn below the stairs, and have taken the liberty of sharing it with you. Looks like a playing field, but the grouping is very formal.

Notice the conservatory on the verandah along the rear wing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


This is Chisholm's Mill north of Belleville, just off highway 37. Most painters would know the way, as it's a popular spot for local artists. I see its painted version often - the rather utilitarian structure with its picturesque rusting metal cladding and weathered signage, its varieties of forms and the elevation change of the river, with its weir and rushing water call out the poetic in most of us.

There's even a Manly MacDonald version (1949),by that celebrated local painter of the ordinary, at the National Gallery. Just discovered this lovely video about his work.

But what endears us most to the mill is that it's still there, and still working, an important and evolving part of the local economy.

A week or two ago we followed the sound of rushing water to greet spring at a number of favourite spots along the Moira and Salmon Rivers.

We founds what remains of the mill at Lost Channel, a back channel of the Moira, I suppose. A circuitous road off the old Hungerford Road got us there. There is a sense of an old village there, but it was hard to read.

The mill ruins are a garden feature on an idyllic modern estate, which is for sale. This is as close as I could get. In summer, just the sound of the rapids would be evident.

Later the same day. This is the Salmon River, at the old dam site at Forest Mills. The falls are called Buttermilk Falls - I wonder how many waterfalls got that name?

Forest Mills was once called The Falls; it had a rare bridge providing a vital river crossing. The first house was built in the 1830's.

Archie McNeil built a saw and grist mill here, so the name changed guessed it. McNeil's Mills.

In 1868 the name changed once again to Forest Mills.

The place smelled wonderful - we could breathe in the river, as the mist hung in the cold air. Across the river was a modern home with a huge workshop which held Den's attention for a long moment - until we discovered that the property (which appears to encompass the falls?) has just been sold. Hope they share.

Hidden in the sumacs was the stone ruin of one of the mill buildings.

Buttermilk Falls - what else would you call it?

A few steps further along was this picturesque barn. A large square brick house stood opposite, I should have recorded it, but it was no longer lovely.

Say Cheese

I grew up on cheese.
Cheese appeared, as did bread, at every meal, even those ample Sunday dinners at Grandma Striker's. Apple pie and cheese, oh yes.

Strikers were a 'cheese' family; ancestor Isaac was one of the county's first cheesemakers.
As a little girl, I remember one visit inside the cheese factory nextdoor to Grandma's - didn't care for it. Cold, dripping wet, smelled like fresh curd. The factory was in family hands until 1910, and closed finally in 1956.
Today the plain building is fancy Exultet Winery.

Even after the cheese factory closed, the Striker grandfather and uncles belonged to the farmer's cooperative which formed Black Creek Cheese Factory (yes, today's marketing grew it into a River) in the 1870's. Their website tells the whole story, so I won't go on, except to note that the place is still farmer-owned, and uses the old-fashioned open vat method and natural ageing to make cheese. It's nice to see something so darned wholesome do so well.

Early on, dad shipped out milk from our small dairy herd. I remember large cylindrical milk cans and smaller curvy cream cans left on the milk stand half-way to the barn. Underneath, in the summer's lush weeds, my playhouse.

But it was just the other day that I finally "got" cheese. Somehow, it was coming upon this building on a trip down Grills Road, Hastings County, winding my way cross country from Marmora, that finally connected me to the story.

For the building with its tall pitched roof (for ventilation, I've read) and the loading dock with canopy for unloading cans from farm wagons, told me the story.

Of farmers on isolated small holdings taking their milk, by horse and wagon, long distances to have it made into cheese.

Then the building of a factory in one's own rural community,  the convenience, the pride in building one's own plant close to home - of getting ahead in the world.

Now of course, 150 years or so later, they're mostly closed.

The buildings still stand in lots of former communities. Mountain View, Prince Edward County (c.1900-1970's) is one I pass often. A bit of dignity remains in its stucco, fancy lintels and quoins. I'm sure I recall it being in operation. Notice the old County Road 14 running right in front, now replaced by faster and wider #62.

Cheese factories sometimes morph into flea markets, antique barns or machine shops.

Once there were 26 cheese factories in Prince Edward county; 82 in Hastings (though maybe not all at the same time, thanks Orland.) There was a factory every couple of concessions.

Old cheese factory at Melrose
By 1867, Hastings Co. cheese was winning provincial honours at agricultural fairs, by 1872 a cheese board took on marketing, and 4 million pounds were shipped from Belleville. During the 1890's, in the Moira watershed alone, there were 33 cheese factories. (thanks for the facts, Gerry Boyce.) The industry peaked in 1900.

Farmtown Park in Stirling does an amazing job of interpreting the growth of the cheese industry (and every other facet of farming life.) Here's an account of a Farmtown Park we made some time ago, with some photos of the cheese biz.

A couple of years ago, the Hastings County Historical Society ghost town bus tour stopped to pay homage to the Melrose cheese factory in Tyendinaga township. The foundation wall of aggregate was capped by a row of fieldstones.

The old factory, built around 1875, burned in 1957. The fabric of this small community, begun so hopefully, named by the first storekeeper, Mr. Duncan, for his hometown in Scotland, was beginning to unravel.

Metcalfe cheese factory, South Bay
I wonder if the c. 1875 Metcalfe cheese factory is still standing? I took this photo a couple of years ago, in South Bay, admiring the old board and batten and the pedimented window trim. Cruickshank and Stokes deemed it "one of the oldest still standing" when they published The Settler's Dream in 1984 (page 79).

There's a lovely photo of the original Ben Gill cheese factory on page 19 of SD also.

Lunchtime. Fancy a grilled cheese sandwich, somehow.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ingredients list

My trusted four-wheeled companion Blanche.

Fascinating old buildings anxious to reveal their secrets.

Silence and solitude.

Sun and warmth.

An historic river in spring flood.


A sun-warmed stone wall on which to spend a half-hour watching the river run.

And a story to sleuth out for my esteemed editor.

And across the charging Moira, its feet stalwart in the current, silhouetted against dark pines, a tree bursts into flower, while I watch.

All the ingredients for a perfect April afternoon.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tales of Huffman

super Victorian verandah...
 Today I heard from the delightful fellow I wrote about last June in the post Highway 33 Revisited.

And he has NEWS.

At the time of our meeting, Malcolm Smith was travelling regularly from Winnipeg to visit his ailing mother and maintain the family home - the incomparable Conrad Huffman home, built of brick fired on the farm, in about 1812.

...slightly obscuring  the elliptical fanlight...
...and distracting a touch from the Georgian character
Fast forward to 2015 - this rare 200 year old house is now coming onto the market. It needs an informed owner who will treasure its heritage and preserve its character.

The house and 41 acres of farmland sitting on Highway 33, across the road from Lake Ontario, on the way to Kingston from Adolphustown, will be listed with Gordon;s Estate Services ( I don't see the listing there yet, but will come back and add it when I do.)
the door alone, worth the price of admission

In the interim, here's something important to know. Gordon's has also been entrusted with the task of preparing an auction of effects from the home. The auction will go live this Thursday April 16 at 5 PM and will close Thursday April 23 at 12:30 PM.

Here are a few shots I took of the interior, so you may get a sense of the exquisiteness of the joinery, the taste of the owners and the wisdom of viewing both contents and home.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hope or Heartbreak?

As we explore the back roads of Hastings and L&A counties, it's impossible not to think constantly of the folks who arrived so optimistically in this hard land, and worked to establish a home and a farm to sustain their families and their hope.

Today folks cynically refer to them as 'rock farms'.

Just thinking of the building of these fences can break your heart, as they may well have broken the spirit of some of the first settlers.

On Easter Sunday we grabbed our road atlas, and struck out on a rural route which led us up the Old Hungerford Road. We got lost finding Lost Channel, squinted through the underbrush at the 1890 cement company ruins at Marlbank, but found an open coffee bar to compensate (thanks Trudeaus.) We teetered along Hog's Back road to circumnavigate Lime Lake, enjoyed the open countryside and the cement block church at Westplain, missed Pinegrove on our way through (so many former communities are just crossroads on a map now), and made our way to Forest Mills to enjoy the magnificent Buttermilk Falls.

 But all along the route, we viewed in dismay the small fields carved out from unyielding forest, their borders formed by piles of stones carryed or dragged there, to open the poor soil for cultivation. And each spring, as even our farmer father who was blessed with a good farm and deep soil would do (with our without our less than enthusiastic support), they would pick even more stones which the winter frost had heaved to the surface.

I wonder when the satisfaction of building a sturdy fence to contain cattle, or protect crops - that hope for the future - gave way to despair.

Imagine these fields! This endless work. The poor results for all that. Yet this farmer built a fine barn, and a brick house across the road.

 And few hundred yards down the road, the community built a school house in 1870. My guess is, it's built of logs.

More hope for the future.

My heart is full of admiration for these settlers, whose road we travelled yesterday.