Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Friday, December 18, 2015

Another day, another history book

116 King Street
"They're making more history every day," Belleville's beloved historian Gerry Boyce is wont to say.
Same is true of history books...or at least, I seem to be able to find one every day.
Last Friday was a red-letter (note the clever pun) day.

I visited the lovely people at Trent Port Historical Society, in the 1861 Trenton town hall and market building. I wrote about them recently; the building, the museum and the dedicated volunteer staff are well worth a visit. As is the terrific Facebook page updated regularly with historical photos and accounts - or with the history being made at this dynamic spot, every day.
178 Victoria 'The Gables' (1880s) 
Did I mention they serve a super lunch (they're open 9 - 3 weekdays.) Meet Laura (the power behind the successful campaign to get the city's support for the museum and theatre),  Connie (who maintains the Facebook page), Deb (who did some research for me) and Brooke. There are 2 students working on digitizing the photo collection. And members of the public - lunch always turns into a history chat!

My fascination with Trenton history grows with every visit - and is sustaining between visits with three wonderful books whose acquaintance I made that day. The first, by Quinte's publishing powerhouse Nick and Helma Mika, is Trenton Past and Present: An Illustrated Glimpse into History.
203 Victoria (preferred it with lawn and trees)
The title pretty much gives the game away. There I found house histories, albeit brief, of some of the places I have photographed; and encouragement to look past unsympathetic additions and changes to capture others, on my next trip to town. Connie and Deb were happy to loan me their pristine copy. It goes back today, but I can deal with letting it go, knowing I can borrow it from Belleville Public Library.
Mr. Thompson's house and fence (1880s) 108 Henry Street

Two others, I was delighted to learn, were for sale. Gunshot and Gleanings of The Historic Carrying Place, Bay of Quinte (1987) by the outstanding historians of the 7th Town Historical Society, gave me just what I wanted for an upcoming article. And how I wish I'd had it when I wrote about The Carrying Place in County and Quinte magazine last fall!

My other acquisition is a treasure. I've written before of the insights into people and their time that we gain from early newspapers - the turn of phrase, the issues that ignited them, the social mores, the sheer effusive boosterism of accounts of special events, or praise for local politicians. My new copy The Evolution of Trenton, Ontario, 1813-1913, by Thomas Jarrett, hits all those buttons. The book is a facsimile edition of the original,  produced by the Kiwanis Club of Trenton in 1986. Well done, you lot. Connie brought out a yellowing copy of the soft-cover original, which I handled reverently. The cover says it all.
Eurithe Purdy collection

Ironically, even in 1913, some proud history has already been lost. A photo featuring the "former door and woodworking factories of the Gilmour company, where several hundred employees once found work" appears just above a paragraph boasting "Trenton's Brilliant Future." It's an immense place, closed in 1910, lost to fire a year later. How often our history remains untold, as soon as the structures where that history was made are lost.

Incidentallly, the information about the homes in the photos is taken from the Mika book. The photo view from Mount Pelion is dated 1878. No doubt, with the right amplification, one could spot some of these proud Victorian homes.

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