Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, February 27, 2017

Not Bizet's... Carman

I've been in touch via email with three of the friendliest folks, community-minded people in the rural neighbourhood of Carman (no, not Carmen) north of Brighton in Northumberland county. Despite the fact that two of their number, Stephen and Shawnee, were in Florida (they offered assistance, in any case) I got to visit an historic rural school and church not long ago, and meet with Peter, a steward of local history.

Peter is a retired dairy farmer from along the third concession, who, like Shawnee and Stephen, has lots of history with two buildings in the neighbourhood, and is working very hard with a group of like-minded folk to preserve them.

 The  Streetview camera visited Carman Road late one autumn afternoon, so you can drive past the lovely farms with me. The Streetview people caught the same wonderful light captured by a painter whose work is on display in the school-house turned community hall. Her name is Ella VanSlyke and this was her homage to Carman.
Ella VanSlyke's Carman
maple tree planted by first teacher, 1885
The two red brick buildings are the school-house (now community hall and winter church) and church at Carman. School and church were often found in close proximity in early communities. In Carman, the school for S.S.#13 stood in several locations prior to its construction here in 1885. It made good sense to settle here, across the road from the 1879 Methodist Episcopal Church (United Church after 1925) with its churchyard nearby. Peter recalled playing ball in the cemetery (or did he say the game ended when a ball went out of bounds there?) and trudging through the woods behind the school to skate on a pond that appeared one day. Now there's a story.
sunny days were welcome; electricity installed 1941

The hall is warm and convenient. The kitchen additon replacing the original porch was built in the 1950s, and has hosted lots of community 'bun feeds' (Dad's word) over its history.

As I mentioned, the small congregation moves across the road to the warm hall for church services during the cold winter months, which explains the pile of hymn books and the collection plate in the foreground.

Peter pointed out the original indoor school washrooms, which eliminated that long trudge through the snow. Inside each, beaded pine walls, and surprisingly large windows. The boys' washroom displays the old water cooler, which the big lads would fill daily after their hike to a neighbouring farm to get a pail of water. The grey panels at the end of the room, beneath the Queen's portrait, cover the blackboards.

A display case containing old school books, and a number of artifacts requiring explanation caught my eye: evocative old photos of two sweet young teachers, and a grand silver cup won by Edna Maybee for her entry in the Brighton School Fair in the 1930s. And a tempting cupboard below...

Carman School closed in 1963, after 79 years of continuous service to the community. Many memories were made in this one-room school.

Peter next introduced me to artifacts telling Carman church's story. The worthy gentleman in the photo is the Reverend Bishop Albert Carman, General Superintendent of the Methodist Church from 1884 to 1914. The new church, opened in 1879, was named for him. He was also the principal of Albert College (not named after him.)

The reverend gentleman was guest speaker at the October 1879 opening of the Carman Church, originally called Pake's Chapel, named for several local adherents, who originally attended church in the earlier white frame 1851 chapel at this location. Early Methodist days: no organ, choral singing only, separate men and women's seating.

The first wedding, in September 1939, united Stirling Stewart and Edna Maybee (Peter's parents.) His roots run deep in this little church, which itself became United, in the exciting church union days of 1925.

These days, the congregation is shrinking, and sadly, the serene little church may have to close its doors. Happily, there are always volunteers ready to put together the special events for which Carman is well-known. The  1979 centennial church history A Century of Sharing recounts a century of feeding people:  pie socials, garden frolics and fowl suppers. There's a spaghetti supper scheduled in the near future.

A note about the red brick Gothic revival style church, lovingly re-roofed in 2009. The photo to left is the underside of one of the steeple shingles removed and replaced at that time. Though it's difficult to see, some of the stencil reads: Cedar...Shingle Mill,  No. 1,
T. Heaton (?) Codrington, On.

If you can fill in the blanks, drop me a line.

The steeple was reshingled, complete with white-painted fish-scale shingles, and steeple top decoration recreated in copper by a talented local artisan. A  heaven-reaching steeple, corner buttresses, stone corbels, bull's eye window,  louvred pointed arch windows. Lots to maintain. A labour of love.

The sanctuary is a serene place, painted in cream and gold; tall pointed arch stained glass windows to east and west fill the space with light.

A browse through A Century of Sharing, a wonderfully detailed  church history published on the occasion of Carman United Church's centenary in 1979, revealed Peter's name among those on the centennial committee. Indeed, there seem to be plenty of  Stewarts in the area, and Maybees, Morgans and even a Chatten.

 One lovely sentence stood out among the accounts of the new (1928) church shed -the venue for countless fowl suppers (65 cents a person in 1929), Sunday school picnics (the summer's highlight),  Mission Band pie socials, dime socials, the 1930 garden frolic, adult Bible class and young peoples' union, women's missionary society, later U.C.W. That sentence? "For almost a century the Sunday School was a determining influence in the church and community for young and old." Our world is so changed. But that spirit is still alive in Carman, almost 40 years after the 1979 publication of the book.

Makes me long for those simpler days of community, and nostalgic for my growing up years around the former Methodist church at Bongard's Corners. And glad that it still exists in spots like Carman, Northumberland County.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Miller's Tale

One of the loveliest things about writing stuff, is that folks occasionally suggest places and people to me. And those people (and their places) make me welcome, and share their stories. Not long ago, friend Catherine sent me an article from a local paper, about a project in Castleton.

Now if you've been along on the journey for awhile, you know I love this village. I wrote about it here. The pedimented windows of the village occasioned another post, and I recalled my first visit, a talk by preservation giant Peter Stokes, the day we lost him.

I've shared several of Castleton's distinguished buildings. And there are more. Last Friday I met Candace Cox, and had a tour of a very important one - the village mill.

Let's start with some history - then I'll let you in on a project which is making history.

We start way back around 1806 when teen-aged Joseph Abbot Keeler, founder of Colborne (his fine house still stands in the town,) built a mill at Piper's Corners, on the creek of the same name. Although that mill no longer survives, nearby stands the second mill in the village - Purdy's Mill. The Purdy family operated the mill from 1875 to 1948.
J.A.Keeler house, Colborne

The 1878 Belden Atlas of Northumberland and Durham Counties features an image of the 20 acres of property surrounding the mill at Piper's Corners, as the village was once called, attesting to the importance of a mill in creating a community. The mill was powered by the waters of Piper Creek, dammed upstream and directed through a flume and over the wheel, which was housed in an extension at the back of the mill building - no longer standing.

The Belden's image (to which I'll provide a link shortly) also depicts the miller's house, bridges, homes and horse-drawn vehicles in that typically bucolic Belden setting.

the miller's house at Piper Creek
Not too much has changed. Once powered by water, the mill is now powered by the dreams and plans of Candace and Mitchell Cox and their talented offspring Lochlan, Caelan and Cachell, who landed on this spot in 2011 after years of research, from their former home in Edmonton. The former Purdy's Mill has been renamed the Mill at Piper Creek, in deference to the creek which still flows through the cedars on  the hillside property.

Here's the Cramahe township heritage information about the mill.

The family lives in the former miller's house on the hill above the mill. They are all active in the village. Last year Candace, Mitchell (a professional pianist,) daughter Cachell and friends worked with the youth group of Castleton United Church, to show what community spirit looks like. Here's a link to newspaper coverage of their 2016 'up-cycling Castleton' project.

photo by Candace Cox

They decorated the village with donated brightly painted bikes and flowers, and produced a calendar featuring the photos of Erich Bojarzin and other villagers (I am very proud of my copy) to help cover costs. Thanks to Candace for allowing me to post part of one of her photos, a bike posing with my favourite general store.

As you know, I'm a fan of making heritage buildings pay their own way. Not every important heritage building can be a museum. We are amply gifted with house museums and pioneer villages in our province.

We have to find a way to preserve and repurpose the best and most iconic of those which remain. And this mill at Castleton fills the bill.

the mill office
Candace and Mitchell, their not-for-profit board of directors, and supporters are working to raise funds to restore the mill, and give it back its life as the centre of the village - this time as a performance space. They are giving the area hints of what is to come, in a series of fund-raising events at Castleton's historic town hall. Here's a recent newspaper article.
So. I know you're going to want to be in touch. To follow progress. To check on upcoming events to attend. To pledge support - or encourage others - for this wonderful project which will bring new life to this historic village.

Here's the mill Facebook page.
Here's their terrific website - it provides more info on the vision, the history, and Candace and Mitchell's own work. It also shows you that Belden engraving I mentioned above. Do visit. On-line and in person.

You might also want to connect to talk about equipment and furnishings. Candace and Mitchell realize they cannot retain all of the milling equipment. They will rescue and rehabilitate some pieces to add character to the venue. They have also been contacting museums to ascertain interest.

Most intriguingly, they also recognize the potential for repurposing some of the pieces into furnishings for studios, shops, homes. I particularly like Candace's idea for converting the 1890 Silver Creek Centrifugal into a kitchen island. Just takes some imagination.

Like the folks from The Mill at Piper Creek.

the future is bright for the Mill at Piper Creek

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Head for the Hills

Not long ago I wrote about hills so I'll take the liberty of creating a somewhat corny segue to an introduction. I'd like to make Ancestral Roofs readers aware (if you aren't already) of the worthy blog Hills of Heritage

Not long ago, I received an email from the editor, Ian Anderson, who had linked Ancestral Roofs to their blog list, wondering if I might reciprocate. And I hastened to do so, for it is brilliant.

Hills of Heritage "is a guide for residents of Southern Ontario and their neighbours, to the physical, written and oral evidence of our shared past." The blog adopts the mandate of heritage preservation and education.

The earliest entry is from June 2013. Topics range from the politics of heritage preservation to coverage of Caledon and area heritage events. The editor invites readers to contribute items.

Like my recent gift The Grand River: Dundalk to Lake Erie, the blog Hills of Heritage reminds me that there are dozens of places I need to visit: to learn about their architectural history, their farming heritage and their natural beauty. The Caledon Hills, Albion Hills. Bellfountain, Cheltenham badlands (who knew?), Forks of the Credit have leapt off the page and onto my bucket list.
A few days ago, I changed my laptop slideshow to photos of Black Creek Pioneer Village. As they have been popping up, I have realized that with the exception of the Roblin Mill, I didn't devote any blog time to this wonderful place we visited a couple of spring-times ago.

My first visit to Hills of Heritage created a link. Just last month, the blog announced a guest speaker on the topic of Ontario's devastating Hurricane Hazel of October 15, 1954.

The photos shown here seem appropriate, as Black Creek Pioneer Village grew out of  the period of damage assessment, the creation of conservation authorities and formulation of regulations prohibiting future building on flood plains - all in the urgent need to prevent the death and damage caused by Hurricane Hazel.

The log house here, the barn and the frame Georgian house sit on the banks of the Humber River, and have sat here since 1825/6 when Daniel and Elizabeth Stong and their family of eight dwelt and toiled there. Here's a history link on the Black Creek Pioneer Village website. Do go visit.

If you're arm-chair travelling instead, drop by Hills of Heritage

Farm Story

Our lovely friend Bill, the multi-talented "simple farm boy" was talking about barns the other day. He shared his love for them, and asserted that he could look at a grouping of farm buildings and tell their story. Bill's account resonated.

I have been meaning to "tell the story" of this wonderful collection of farm buildings for some time. Since I first encountered them, early on the morning of the last fine day of autumn, before the morning haze had lifted.

I hasten to add that my story is fictional. I don't know the history of this farm or its family. I do know, all too well, similar stories that have happened over my lifetime, in my home county of Prince Edward, among our neighbours and our family.

The day I stopped, there were no signs of life. No vehicles. No farm equipment. No livestock. Not even any rubbish. Just a grouping of farm buildings with a once fine house. Trees, a grassy lane. Empty, like perfect movie set for a turn of the last century farm drama.

So. What does this set tell me? It's a big house. Built as second, or likely third house, after a first log dwelling and a later frame one. By this time, the farm was prosperous enough for a large L-shaped house, and the family was sufficiently well-off to afford some spool and bracket frippery on the verandah. White brick lintels over segmentally and round arched windows. A door on the second floor suggests a roof balcony at one time, maybe? Elegant bay windows on the west side, and on the facade hint at taste and position in the rural society.

Did the family have sons who were expected to take over the farm, in the old way? Did this happen for a generation, maybe? There are two front doors; was this a double house shared by parents, a son and his family? But then did grandsons opt for city work and city lives, as in our own family's story? Or were there daughters only, who joined other red-brick farmhouse families along the road?

The old well pump still stands out front - someone proud of the old ways, wanting to keep a reminiscence? But there's a new concrete verandah and steps, likely replacing a failing wooden one contemporary with the posts and gingerbread. There was a time when concrete was the new best thing - but also a practical, low-cost alternative. Happened on our farm, when the aging wrap-around wooden verandahs became unsightly, and there were other places for the scant income.

The lovely gable designs haven't "seen a coat of paint in a while" as dad would have said, and spoolwork is missing. No time and money to keep up with these unessential bits of the farm. Chimneys look sound.
So. What is the real story of this lovely house and farm buildings? Are they going to stand here in solitude until they can't stand any longer, another bit of our rural past fading away, replaced by a spiffy faux craftsman style country home subdivision? Or are they waiting for a nostalgic family member to retire and return to this place of memories, ready to rehabilitate it and bring it a new life? Maybe even a young family who wants to put the good Hastings County soil back to work?

This farm is waiting.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Nothing Suspicious Here

Stauffer Library, Queen's University
 I have always wondered about the three red brick houses along John A. Macdonald Boulevard at Union Street, in Kingston. But never enough to get out of the car to take a photo, which is why you will have to resort, like me, to Streetview if you are to have a look. You may have noticed them too.
and a jay-walk away

And, like me, you may recall thinking there's something just not quite right about them. I've always assumed that they'd been a bit aggressively modernized, with verandahs and trim, chimney, trees, fences and landscaping absent. They always looked like they were planted, rather than built. Not lived in.

Turns out, these Victorian houses are not a home.

Should you (or I, for that matter) turn left on Union Street, then left again, you will be in a position to enter Correctional Services of Canada. Well you/we would, were the grounds open to the public. There sit the three red brick houses, at the end of a long driveway, in a parklike setting.

a campus survivor
I don't know what they're doing down there, but here's the story of how they got there. Just the other day, an outstanding photo popped up on Facebook redirected from the excellent Kingston blog The Kingstonist. The photo accompanied this story, which explained that the three houses were the lucky ones in a block of c19 houses demolished by Queen's University, in preparation for the construction of the Stauffer Library.

I've contacted The Kingstonist folks to see if they might give me permission to show you the photo. Until then, word pictures will have to suffice.

old new Lake Street house
viewed from old train station, Picton
Imagine if you will, crowds lining Sir John A Blvd. Three gigantic flatbed trucks trundling along, three red brick 2 and a half storey houses perched ignominiously atop them. "The route was circuitous in order to avoid as many trees, power lines and narrow streets as possible....The move took 16 hours over two days." (Kingstonist)

The heroes of the day were the building movers. I can't confirm that the firm was CDS Building Movers, but their name comes up in connection with some pretty high profile moves. Their picture doesn't show in the CDS gallery. The site details the relocation of the Lansdowne Park Horticultural Building, in Ottawa, for example. Front Page Media group will show you around.

I've often wondered about the house move in Picton, a refined early brick house relocated for the new LCBO, who wanted that spot. One of these days I'll grab a photo of 4 Lake Street (and some nosh at the Agrarian Market which now dwells there.) And another day, I intend to get an interview with a house mover, to learn how they do this thing.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Family Photos

This lovely black and white photo of a house in Picton is a gift from my brother Eric. It's the result of some rummaging through his old negatives, motivated by a lovely invitation to visit the home on Friday.

There are so many layers to this great story.

Energetic, creative and immensely talented couple Dale and Laura bought the house last year. They are in the process of turning back its years. Back past seniors home, girls' group home, family home with apartments...and likely some lost years. The couple are removing the layers, and returning this elegant Edwardian doctor's home and surgery into their own.

Another layer. Laura and Dale made a walk-on appearance in a County and Quinte Living article back in the winter of 2013. I told the story of Fogorig, a stone mill, barn and house complex northwest of Belleville, and the families who had occupied it since 1834, when Thomas Allan built it. We ended by wishing well to "the new owners of Fogorig." Turns out, that was Laura and Dale.

Patience, friends. This will all fit together eventually. In the fullness of time, Laura and I connected on Facebook (as one does) so I was treated to Laura's post of the red brick house one day.

Seeing the photo took me instantly back to the 1970s, when our parents Ralph and Doris purchased that very home, 62 King Street in Picton.

I wrote a few years ago about the various homes mom and dad purchased, improved and sold in the years following the sale of the family farm.

gorgeous radiators

One of the apartments upstairs was to be home for our increasingly dependent Pierce grandparents. Brother Eric lived in this house his last year in high school. Over the decade, I visited from Vancouver a number of times.

Last Friday, Eric and I visited the house again. Laura and Dale showed us around. We were astounded at the work and care going into reverting the house to its original state.

a salvaged Edwardian staircase now graces this corner

And they were likely amused at our excited reminiscences. These few images (these were film processing at the drug store waiting for two weeks for the photos days) connect me with those emotion-filled visits home.

It was a delight to wander the house, and see the care with which old elements were being preserved and cherished. And how the broken up unloved rooms were being restored to gracious light-filled spaces, with modern amenities. A family home again.

Yes, it really did burn wood

We hope to return. Well, it will in time become easy for us all to do, as the couple plans to share the space, opening the principal rooms into Laura's weaving studio, teaching space and shop.