Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

We meet again for the first time

picturesque asymmetrical facade of Seymour House
I have been driving past this beauty for most of my time 'back' in Ontario. Regular visits to parents in Picton, from our near-northern Ontario home. Weekly commutes past the place, during my first 3 years in the Quinte area, when a contract job kept my heart in the north, my head in the south. Since then, whenever we accepted an invitation to visit friends then living in Madoc, or the call of the open country. But never once, never, did I stop and take a photo. Light wasn't flattering, or time was pressing. Too cold. Too wet. Too late.

But yesterday on a quest to follow the Old Hastings Road, I stopped for tea in this town that was once the southern terminus for 'free grant' immigrants heading north along the road to their future. More on that later, but for now, this.

I spent a bit of time admiring Seymour House. This outstanding house features in just about every  Ontario old house book. She's the cover girl for Cruickshank and deVisser's Old Ontario Houses. Shannon Kyles provides a great description of this Gothic Revival beauty on her ontario architecture website.

All the right Gothic bits - precipitously steep gables and roof , elegant pointed arch windows, finials galore, a great double chimney, king-post and pendulum in the gable end, and that porch with quatrefoil in the bargeboard, brackets and iron cresting  - and the lancet arch screen door. On the day of my visit, the coursed stone walls glowed in buttery autumn sunshine.

fish scale slate roof
a lance arched screen door
I love how beautifully the house is maintained - at what cost in labour and resources I cannot imagine. Notice how the  bargeboard is highlighted with a touch of yellow? Would love to have heard the planning discussion.

And then there are the grounds. The house is set on a hill, a driveway curving up to it among mature trees. Gateposts topped with darker limestone matching the bandcourse on the house admit only the best people.

splendid isolation behind its stone wall
The house was built about 1878 according to one source, late for the Gothic Revival style, but let's not forget that Madoc was further north in those days, and influences travelled more slowly. It was the home of Fred Seymour, son of industrialist Uriah Seymour, who opened Madoc's first ironworks, at the rear of this property. Madoc's glory days of  business enterprises and fine architecture are linked to the gold rush at nearby Eldorado starting in the late 1860s.

Another stately home across the street chose the formal symmetrical Italianate, a plan published in Canada Farmer in 1865 (more here, thanks Shannon.) Red brick, white brick quoins, paired round-headed windows, matching bays, large chimneys, projecting frontispiece with a cresting trimmed doorway above that impressive entrance. Did I mention the belvedere? This place can be experienced personally; a sign introducing Motley Manor on Lilac Grove Hill is fading artistically among, well, the lilacs.

Next door, only its finial peeking up from among the trees that screen it, sits another fine red brick
house, set off by a stone wall, and a bit down on its luck, I would guess.

 These homes and the Second Empire Dale House attest to a wealthy business class in the late c19. Several articles I've read mention fires in 1873 and 1890 which destroyed many fine commercial structures, much of Madoc's past glory.

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