Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wartime Wednesdays

Two things popped up on Facebook lately, which have a connection to each other, and to the incredible collection of WWII buildings at the former Camp Picton, now called Loch Sloy Developments. It's a place I have special fondness for.

Krista Dalby, a local artist, has just posted about  a quarterly networking event called Creative Rural Minds - the Loch Sloy Edition. Worth checking out.

Then there was the astonishing Facebook post this morning, about a 92 year old former Air Transport Auxiliary veteran who had a chance to relive her wartime experiences and fly a Spitfire. Made me think of Camp Picton's role in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan during WWII.

I did a post back in January 19 titled Camp Life, about Camp Picton and Loch Sloy.

And there's one more piece of miscellaneous wartime aircraft news. Don't know why I have a special interest, as a generally pacifist type, in military aircraft. I guess it's the history, the romantic appeal of the flyer, the desperate days of the war that made everyone a hero. Or maybe it's Den's post war stories about the abandoned aerodromes in Lincoln.Dunno.

Do know that when a couple I interviewed recently told me about Elinor Florence's blog Wartime Wednesdays, I was in. The story that hooked me was the author's account of living in a surplussed DND prairie aerodrome building, as a child. Here's yet another link, to her post.

The photos of the Lancaster were taken at Hamilton's Warplane Heritage Museum a few years ago, when Denis realized a childhood dream and took a flight on a Lancaster Bomber. Here's a neat account of the museum's Lanc story.

It's a terrific spot to get up close and personal with military aircraft. As is Trenton's RCAF Museum.

Cobblestone Encounter

I'm loving my new road atlas.
It makes heeding the siren call of a new side-road that little bit easier, as it reveals just where one might end up, and what discoveries might be waiting.

But the side-trip off the Stirling-Marmora Road along King's Mill Road - well, to be honest, I was pretty sure I would come across King's Mill at some point, but I didn't expect this!

Another Hastings County cobblestone.
I thought we had them all.

I wrote a piece for Country Roads Winter 2011/12 issue on Hastings County's cobblestone houses. This was the first ever I wrote for editor Nancy Hopkins, who tracked me down via a piece I'd done on the same topic, in Outlook, the Hastings County Historical Society newsletter.

 I had as a source, the cobblestone house files of the estimable building historian Lois Foster, as well as an early ACO driving tour guide. I wrote about them all, even the one that was demolished!

But here, at 460 King's Mills Road, is another. Somewhat neglected, but pretty fine nonetheless. Large 12x8 sash windows, a great doorway with small panes in transom and half-sidelights.

 A beautiful setting on a rise, with loads of great old trees and flowering shrubs.

A pretty creditable job on ashlar quoins, and an awning verandah roof, covered in steel.

Nice moulded cornice and eaves returns.

And the cobblestone work. Evenly sized multicoloured cobbles, regularly coursed, with some relatively unsuccessful changes around windows and door-case.

So, who are you my lovely, and what is your story?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cottage Life

I have been going to the lake a lot lately, researching a story. I have enjoyed several wanders, and conversations with some super people.

A recurring theme of our walks and talks has been regret at the loss of the 'old' cottages. Seems we all want something more now. Cottages used to be small; life was outside. And simple. Four walls, a roof, a screened porch. A few chairs around the yard. A place to clean fish and tie up a rowboat. An outhouse. A firepit.

Another change at 'the lake', in addition to the proliferation of a new generation
of cottages, is the transition of many early cottages into year-round homes. That usually means adding to/modifying the old cottage beyond recognition, or (with great regret, when the original cottage owners make the decision, I'm guessing) demolishing and replacing it with something sturdy that can be insulated, ensuring any number of creature comforts - most notably water pipes that don't burst in winter, and heat, blessed heat.

A lake-dweller who spent childhood summers around the lake took me to see a few of the originals. These two in particular have a story to tell. Their so typical cottage architecture, the simplicity of the surroundings, and their state of near-collapse tell a story which has an ending, coming up quickly.

We discovered a hand-built table that had seen lots of family meals and crokinole games.
An icebox that held plenty of potato salad and fried chicken in its day.
The shore road is home to a number of new modern homes. These lots are likely next to sell, their cottages and cottage stories lost forever.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Free to good home

Well, not free exactly, but I made you look didn't I?
The 'good home' part is very definitely true.
I have written about the very historic Huffman-Smith house on Highway 33 between Adolphustown and Collins Bay, several times.
In my last post, I promised to let readers of this blog (and their historic house loving contacts) know when owner Malcolm Smith had listed the home.
Well, that's now.

Here's a link to the Gordon's Real Estate listing, with 61 photos of the place, the historic (c.1815) hand-made brick Conrad Huffman home, the Lake Ontario shoreline out front, the 50 acres of farmland surrounding it.
Muster up, heritage types.
This property needs to go to someone who will restore the rooms, value the historic detailing, keep its history alive, use the farmland for what it's intended...there are several vineyards in the area. Just saying. Not a housing development.

The link will give you all the details you need.

Like the $289,000 price tag. (Not to be indelicate, but if you sell your place in the Beach and buy here, you'll enjoy the leftover cash for life in your pocket.)
Like the Open House on May 23.

Thanks to Malcolm Smith, and his visionary hard-working parents for preserving the house, and its history.
Let's pay it forward.
Heritage house types, now is our hour! Let's be sure this house goes to the right owners.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Wharf Rats

Foster Ward Community Centre
I'm about to go off-line for a few days.
One of the things I will be doing is doing some research into the earlier times of Belleville, and one of its most colourful neighbourhoods, which lay between the tracks and the wharves;  an industrial neighbourhood of foundries and rolling mills, coal yards, oil tanks, trains, docks and some pretty tenacious folks.

The city's earliest houses (some of them hard fought for) are there. The old Foster Ward.

One of the streets was called Wharf Street; from it, the area's waifs and strays gained the nickname 'wharf rats.' Later, as folks were trying to change its (and theirs?) image, the street became St. Paul Street.

I have Bill Hunt's Dockside Democracy to give me a sense of the place, and David Bentley's ACO walking tour guide to assist. Then there are the fine house histories produced by the Hastings County Historical Society, and Heritage Belleville.

So I'm ready to start prowling the streets of the old neighbourhood. Just another Wharf Rat.

Lunenburg Longings

Regular visitor Mark joined the discussion about gambrel roofed houses recently. He queried my placement of  the gambrel roof's appearance at late 1700's in New Amsterdam, citing even earlier examples of the form in the Maritimes (can't recall where I got that date.)

Mark is an east-coast house nut, so I defer to his point, given that he included some incontrovertible evidence, in the form of photos and links (hey, I'm an informed enthusiast, not an expert.)

Here's a link to the venerable 1761 H. Romkey House,  a wonderfully old house in Lunenburg. My heart melted, and I was transported back to that incredible long day we walked every street in the town's heritage district, falling in love. I did go on about it somewhat, with posts in October and November 2010.

We will go back.
But for now, just to indulge myself, I'm posting some Lunenburg photos, and travelling back to the east coast.

Back in 2010, Blogger was less permissive about photo excesses.

Oddly, not a gambrel roof in the lot!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Comfortable Pews*

 "The better the day, the better the deed," our mother would say, on the rare occasions when she did a load of laundry or other chore on Sunday, her Methodist ancestors requiring some sort of accounting for this breaking of the sabbath.

St. Michael the Archangel Church (1905)

Sunday is church day for many folks. Last Sunday it was church day for me. On May 2 and 3, Belleville organizers held yet another wonderfully successful edition of the city's annual Jane's Walk, to commemorate that champion of the urban community, Jane Jacobs. I wrote about her after the city's first Jane's Walk, if you want to read more, or just look her up under 'urban activist.'

Victoria Street Baptist Church (1906)

The Hastings County Historical Society sponsored this Sunday event, a walkabout of the city's churches along (well, did you have to ask?) Church Street. Tom Plue led the tour. I had been looking forward to spending time over these wonderful structures, and to figuring out why the heck the walk leader's name was so familiar.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church (1895)

It came to me, just as we were entering St. Michael the Archangel church - I'd picked up a book written by him and dear P.J.Stokes, at an ACO event in Castleton. The book was a church preservation handbook titled Moisture the Menace. Although I guessed it unlikely I would be called upon to restore a church, I knew there was stuff to learn between its easy-to-clean covers. Correct. Like, never never cover up the vents in your attic. Tom Plue runs Sky-High Restoration, an exciting company which specializes in historic restoration. In fact, Orland French tracked him down to lead the tour, after inquiring about who did the restoration on the front and steeple of Belleville's wonderfully Gothic brick St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.

St. Thomas Anglican Church (1858-1876-1975)
 Two of the threads running through Tom's excellent narration were good and bad mortar, and comfortable and uncomfortable church pews. St. Michael's had the most uncomfortable pews, but Tom, a Catholic, resigned himself to that fact, as "we're up and down often through Mass."
stunning interior - a courageous recovery after 1975 fire

 I dawdled behind, catching some of the architectural detail, the bricks and stones the builders selected to raise their congregations' hearts and minds upward. I'll let my (totally inadequate) photos speak for themselves. Maybe I will pass on  more of the stories I learned at church with Jane.

Bridge Street United Church (rebuilt 1886)

  Words fail. Go occupy one of these pews soon.

*Apologies to Pierre Berton for the title, a take-off on his blistering condemnation of the church's relevance to contemporary society. The Comfortable Pew (1965.) From the amount of social engagement in evidence during each of these church visits, I would say the churches listened.