Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Taken by the Wind

I'll be the first to admit it. I have a problem with architectural history books. I can never pass a used book table without scanning the collected titles for one I don't have. At the regular third Tuesday public presentation of the Hastings County Historical Society recently, I found two. Marilyn Hughes extended me credit to enable me to pack home Taken By the Wind: Vanishing Architecture of the West by Ronald Woodall and T.H.Watkins (General Publishing,Don Mills, 1977.)

I like how Woodall sums up the appeal of old buildings slowly returning to the earth:

   "Abandoned country buildings are monuments to laughter and grief and childbirth and death and the best and the worst of times. More than that, they are beautiful not just because they are old and weathered and picturesque and quaint but also because they embody the spirit of a noble and resourceful lifestyle. There is intrinsic beauty in the functional simplicity and craftsmanship that outlasts the craftsman. There is beauty in timelessness."

During my roadtrip in Northumberland County on autumn's last gentle warm day, I fell under their spell.

 As I have on many other travels through farm country. These travels feed the soul somehow. Just a few hours in the company of fields and woodlots, farm buildings and gentle livestock, creeks and knolls and sky is all it takes.

near Elginburg

These junkets recapture those childhood Sunday drives with dad and mom, we kids admittedly not so enthralled, in the back seat.
Dad pronouncing on farm crops, fences and building, the laudatory and the disparaged. Our dad was a man of strongly held opinions.
Frontenac Co.

Snow Road area
 But we kids would succumb to our gentle mom's diversionary tactics: count the train cars, not long 'til we get to the ice-cream stop with the bear, look at this, look at that.  imagine the stories that old house could tell. That last admonition contributed to a life-long love of our built heritage. as I explained in my very first post back in April 2010.
near Lonsdale
I have been enjoying sifting through my photo files; hope I haven't bored you. Blame it on Woodall and Watkins.

Salmon Point, PEC
Or on Orland French, he of Wallbridge House Publishing, and the creator of three fine historical atlases. Orland asked me to contribute on things architectural in the 2013 publication about Prince Edward County, Wind, Water, Barley and Wine. He figured 200-plus years in the neighbourhood gave me some cred. And he guessed at the depth of my obsession.
Orland especially wanted to highlight early frame building techniques, and I did my best to explain what I found in my photos of split lathe, hand-hewn beams, wooden pegs and home-built mouldings yielded by a close exploration of this lovely old ruin, one of the rare times I ventured onto private property (though whose, goodness only knows.)

Sandon, British Columbia

Although Taken by the Wind is published in Canada, the photographer travelled throughout the Canadian and American west looking for loss. I immediately looked for familiar spots. And found one or two. When we lived in B.C. we explored ghost towns whenever we could. In 2013, when we last visited, we retraced a cold trail to a favourite spot, Sandon. Not just a house, but a whole town, building by historic building,  being taken by the winds of time.

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