Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

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.


  1. Nice recollection of a pleasant, though brief, walkabout. Maybe someday we'll get invited into this beauty for a tour of the rooms.

  2. Lived there 1970_1993 all i can say is the house is beyound haunted,i cant begin to tell how many stories juring my time there.

  3. my grandmother Ross (nee Mary McKenzie) lived here, and my father John D Ross and his siblings, Hazel, mabel, Doug, Laura, Walter, Jean, Allen

    1. I'm glad you got a chance to revisit, if only on this blog.

  4. I lived in Madoc as a child, we would always walk around the block to see Huffman-Smith house, (the haunted house), went to high school and drew the house in art class. At our high school dance we left to go see the outside of the house, not to cause any trouble, we were just fascinated with that house. 38 years after high school, I don't live in the area, I am still memorized and think of that house. I googled, and found this site. I would love to see the inside. I only ever caught a glipse, as a child on a walk, I seen the front door open and seen a big stair case, if memory serves me.