Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cake Decorating 101

Seems to me that Napanee must have had a house builder who specialized in decorative cornice friezes (or several copycat tradesmen.) I have often noticed these rich friezes, looking for all the world like iced confections,  on some of the town's wonderful Italianate homes.

Dropped friezes - wide bands below the roof cornice, lend these lofty houses an elegance that very few features can, panelled and ornamented to within an inch of their well beyond functional lives (their function being to support the roof brackets.)

Until this past spring, however, my admiration has been tempered by the need to keep the car from wandering onto someone's manicured lawn, or drifting through that tricky three way stop at Belleville Road and Bridge Street.

Finally I got a close look. Because May's installment of  ACO Quinte's entertaining and informative (and fiendishly difficult) architectural scavenger hunts, this one put together by Evelyn and Doug Sloane. The target? Napanee, a leafy and very interesting neighbourhood along Adelphi, Thomas, East and John Streets.

And although many of these cornice details were not on the scavenger hunt list of 36, for which my dear one was on a quest, I did manage to shoot a number of these very elaborate wide friezes. And what an astonishing array to select from, every way I turned.  Stokes and Cruickshank draw attention to a few details about the sheer Victorian excess of cornice friezes, in the glossary of The Settler's Dream.

Frieze decoration began with classical details, as one would expect, and blossomed into the large elaborate, paired brackets of the Italianate, with their acorn drops suggesting dripping icing just waiting for an impulsive child with itchy fingers.

Some of the photos illustrate the sorts of decoration which fills the vertical face of the cornice - applied detailing, panels outlined in moulding, the occasional example festooned with seasons of spiders' handiwork.

I was still spotting them as we followed the group down to the estimable Waterfront Pub along the river to cap off a terrific day.


  1. I was very sorry to be away on the weekend of the Napanee walk/scavenger hunt. But now I have a couple of BCS mates who live there and we are talking about the occasional lunch, so perhaps I can get some walking in there after all. How did The Dear One do on the quest, anyway?

  2. Napanee has a great architectural walking tour guide, just for you! LOML was less competitive than on the Wellington tour, but very tasky nonetheless! He loves these events.