Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Queale Quality

Overthinking the shaped gables at Kemptville Agricultural College in a post just now reminded me of the pleasure I recently took, at finding time to contemplate this picturesque terrace along the Driveway in Ottawa. Numbers 304 - 312 Queen Elizabeth Drive are five units in this terrace just blocks from my down-at-heels student house on Patterson Avenue.

Queale Terrace, the brass plaque informs us, was built in 1912, for Ottawa businessman William   Queale. It's believed to have been designed by a New York architect. Adds cachet, I suppose, but this 5-family dwelling can stand pretty well, thank you, on its own merits. 

The plaque comments on the "sawtooth plan" which conforms with the curve of the driveway. Each unit is set back from its neighbour, so residents can enjoy front porch and second floor gallery (and the lawns and mature plantings directly in front) in relative privacy.

Better than having your own gallery has to be owning your own tower. Each unit has one, each with a bull's eye window and a different sort of cap - straight pyramid, shaped gable, bell-shaped dome, semicircular pediment and flared pyramid. (Thanks Andrew Waldron, for the language.) 

"the sawtooth plan"

Queale Terrace was built in 1912, as the area was becoming beautified by the Ottawa Improvement Commission. The Commission, created in 1899, was the precursor of today's National Capital Commission (NCC.) 

Here's a copy of a special Commission report from 1912. Photos of some of the new "improvements" are featured.

An astonishing photo on page 26 shows the newly opened barren subdivision along Monkland Street. Pages 37 and 38contain 1912 views of Clemow Street, a lush and architecturally rich neighbourhood today, bordered with twig-like new saplings. Bless the planners.

Old School

classical symmetry - Administration Building (1920)
My neighbour Elaine attended Kemptville Agricultural College. She is still spitting mad at the closure of the school last year. The college was overtaken by Guelph University in 1997, and closed just a year short of its 100th birthday.

I was in Kemptville recently, and had a wander. I have only a peripheral connection to Kemptville College, although I know several folks, like Elaine, who attended and found their life's work thanks to a program at this now-closed agricultural college. Kemptville College has also been a hub for the community, and will be sorely missed in this agricultural area. For farming will continue, more and more scientific and specialized. Seems like a training institute for agriculture-related fields might still be warranted?
Purvis Hall (1920)
Of course, I was as interested in the architecture of the original buildings, as in the future of the campus. Purvis Hall with its amazing chimney stacks, was built in 1919, the Administration Building,in 1920.

unadorned pilaster-like chimneys
I was intrigued by the bricks and mortar. Literally. The composition, and deep red colour of the bricks makes me want to know more about their chemical composition. They are rough and grainy, look to be poor quality, definitely machine made by that time. I had similar questions when we looked closely at the building materials at Sir James Whitney School in Belleville back in 2015.

Contrasting dressing in stone (or cement) appears in arches, corbels, lintels, caps on parapet cornice, and a band above the rusticated stone basement level.  Plain dormers, simple rectangular windows, a lantern on the Administration building. Lots to see.

I suppose the main buildings would be considered Edwardian Classical in style, although the shaped parapet on the centre projecting bay of the Administration building, and the two monumental porticoes of the Purvis building look Flemish to me.

The plaque reads: "Purvis Hall and the Administration Building are associated with the beginnings of the Kemptville Agricultural School. The provincial government founded the school to improve the quality of rural education and agricultural practice in eastern Ontario."

stylized keystone and imposts, brick receding arch

  Some later campus buildings. Food Science - looks 1950s.

I especially like the Alumni Hall/Cafeteria hall with its nod to half-timbering in the upper level. Students did, too. The bridge in front was erected by college alumni to honour six original staff from 1919 and 1920. That plaque moved me; the sadness of a school closure, with all the traditions and memories lost.
I've read several newspaper accounts of hopeful plans for repurposing some of the buildings. I am wondering if the 'building your future' promise on the banner at the back of one of the buildings, should inspire confidence. Time will tell. It's a rural community, still. And rural folks are nothing if not resilient.
A post script.

 I spent time near Kemptville AC back in the late 1960s. When I visited in August I drove streets and roads near the campus, my emotional geiger counter registering stronger and stronger resonance in some locations. I once stayed at a little house here - I think it was on a concession road running along one side of the campus - where dear friends Lizzie and Linus lived, while one or both of them did work at the school. And, I seem to recall Lizzie saying it's where their first daughter, now a clinical counsellor in Vancouver, was conceived.

So on this first day of school in my town, I celebrate this school which is no more.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The High Life

Back in 2015, I shared photos of some of my favourite apartment buildings, of another era, in the post The Apartment. The above link, and a key, will get you into the building.

At the time, I didn't have a photo of the 1937 Park Square on Elgin Street, Ottawa. Self-confessed history nerd Chris Ryan gave me permission to use an image from his sensational blog the Margins of History. I notice that Chris has a number of other posts about Ottawa apartment blocks that we would all enjoy. (Well of course I can speak for you. If you're reading this...)

I started my apartment hunting at The Fox and Feather, a good neighbourhood pub at the corner of Elgin and Maclaren. I was in great need of the ice water the server brought instantly (a bit of the first responder in her) after a forced march (that parking meter thing) up Elgin, over Wellington, and back along Sparks Street, snapping the while.

Here's a Streetview link, if you want to start the tour with a tummy full of portobello mushroom sandwich and Beau's, as I did. The second floor outdoor deck gave me a chance to watch my old street from a new perspective.

 The entrance to the apartments is from the Maclaren Street side, up steps vying with the Parthenon for impact, a classically accurate portico rising up the next three storeys.

Some architectural finery. Well what else to do during a solo lunch, armed only with a great camera and a fine walking tour guide?
Kincora (1938) Maclaren Street

Thanks to the gift of time in downtown Ottawa recently (and the discovery of an affordable spot to leave Blanche, in my old neighbourhood) I was able to wander many familiar blocks, and to visit Park Square for myself.

Queen Mary Apartments (1912-13) 
Andrew Waldron (Exploring the Capital, 2017) remarks that the Elgin Street apartment buildings are "a history of the apartment block, from walk-up to skyscraper." This form of housing evolved from shabby tenement to the up-market and desirable garden apartment during the second decade of the last century. And these fine buildings (at least from the exterior, not sure what secrets might dwell behind their classy names) still have cachet.

The Warrington's wonderful balconies (1910)

Elgin Streetscape

Annedale Court (1928 emblazoned on a parapet cartouche)
Kenniston Apartments (1909)
Sadly, over the years Elgin Street has become a loud and dusty traffic artery, a reality that even the luscious park around the (now) Museum of Natural History cannot entirely mitigate. But there is such street life, that one could ignore all that, surely.

My friend Ronnie once lived in the Kenniston Apartments, around the corner from the railway house I inhabited on Frank Street (which has become a inn, I noticed.) The forecourt which I remember as park-like, is now crammed with cafe culture. Can't think I'd enjoy living above it.

I walked Elgin from the Queensway all the way to Wellington Street downtown, enjoying my old route and familiar neighbourhood in a totally different way. A fine, if hot and exhausting, day.

Early apartment culture in Ottawa has attracted a lot of comment. Here's a link to a Robert Smythe article in a local paper, from last year. It contains some of the promotional copy for the (then) new apartments. Lots more gems like this: "Of truly imposing  appearance and possessing the latest and most improved fitments for home comfort..." (Ottawa Journal, September 8, 1928, as quoted in Smythe's article.)

Saturday, September 2, 2017


 From our base at Rideau River Provincial Park last week, we made several forays into Ottawa, along the river roads. A pause for a red light on our search for Long Island lock on the Rideau Canal, a quick glance at a sign inviting visitors to Watson's Mill, and our afternoon was planned for us. Manotick.

Manotick has always been part of my lexicon - from uni days, it was 'the country', on CBC radio it turns up in the afternoon traffic reports (yes indeed, the city has germinated south of the green belt, and is spreading as rapidly as loosestrife.)

the mill from A.Y.Jackson park across the river

But crossing the bridges - yes, two, one onto Long Island, the other off the island again - into old Manotick is a delight that we will seek out again.

 The exquisite stone Watson's Mill was built in 1860, and continues as a flour mill, if only for time-travelling tourists. Across the square is Dickinson House, built 1867 by the founder of Manotick, mill-owning Moss Kent Dickinson, called "king of the Rideau" in honour of  his extensive shipping and forwarding interests along the river.

 Dickinson and his partner Joseph Currier saw the potential of the river site, and in 1859 purchased water rights and land for a village. The Long Island mill complex was underway immediately, and soon a grist mill, saw mill, bung mill (I had to ask, too) and wool carding mill were operating on both sides of the river.

Currier's wife was killed in an accident while visiting the mill in 1861; he left the partnership shortly afterwards.The high-achieving Dickinson went on to serve as  mayor of Ottawa and member of Parliament under Sir John A during his career.

The house was our first stop - our history-minded guide introduced us to the family, the house, the early village.

 The mill, house and carriage shed were purchased and restored by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority in 1972. That was long before a lot of heritage projects got underway. Thanks to these folks and their vision, the complex is a delight. You'll want their web address to keep up with events: a perpetual booksale, the expected guided tours and milling demonstrations, and treats like whiskey tasting, music performances, and lunches and teas are just part of a full schedule of evnets from May into December, proceeds all donated to keeping this outstanding history location afloat.

our delightful student guide - a future archivist

Burgers at Billings

Billings House (1828/9)
Last week we explored Ottawa, from a riverside base at Rideau River Provincial Park. Eschewing the 400 series roads, we ventured one day into Ottawa along the river road, Regional Road 19 and back along #13. The next day I retraced our steps along the east side of the river, and revisited many of my old neighbourhoods, from a former life as an Ottawan, 1965-72.

matching rear facade overlooking the edge 
With us/me on walkabout was a terrific new publication, Exploring the Capital by Andrew Waldron (Figure 1 Publishing, Vancouver, 2017) which provided information and a whole new perspective on structures which were once just 'part of the 'hood.'

Here's an example. A trifle embarrassing one.

In 1975 I entered Carleton University, a green farm kid wide open to new experiences. (Some things don't change; you figure out which.) Tired of residence cafeteria food, my Renfrew House pals and I would often hike over the Bank Street bridge to Billings Bridge Plaza, to Harvey's, for real food. (Okay, so my taste in food has changed.) Oblivious to all but hot peppers and dill pickles, giggles and girl talk, I spent hours within paces of an incredible site, the Billings Estate.

Years later, I learned about our close call, but although I have known about the Billings Estate for years, but our recent week based in the area provided the first opportunity to explore.

I won't go on about all the features. Here's the listing  on the national register of Historic Places.

Suffice to say that despite the occasional drizzle, the somewhat needy condition of the house, and the fact that the museum was closed so we didn't get to hear its whole story, the property was well and truly explored. The house is built on a ridge above the Rideau River, and eight treed acres have been (miraculously) protected from development in this suburban area, including a forest walk to a pioneer cemetery.
The Billings family settled here in 1812, and were instrumental in most aspects of the early growth of the community. A remarkable story.
Like a few early homes (Young house in Carrying Place, McPherson house in Napanee) the Billings home features identical front and rear facades. The rear garden was a delight.
The Billings Estate National Historic Site offers a dizzying list of special events, here's a link.

Zucchini bites and other treats

A long over-due lunch and walkabout (well, drive) with history friend Jane found us in several charming villages along the Salmon River yesterday. I had wanted to explore Camden East more fully since D and I discovered a beautiful barn of heroic proportions on a too-wintry-for-wonder day in February. My soul was also drawn to picturesque little village, and I was delighted to revisit - and to explore the tearoom, which I had enjoyed once years ago, in another iteration.
courtesy Jane Lovell

 I think the loveliest thing about river towns (like Newburgh and Lonsdale, whose praises I have sung on many occasions) is the topography. Over eons, the Napanee River carved itself a deep cosy valley, and c19 town builders were obliged to honour the dip to the all-important water power, building down hills and along the twisting watercourse. Streets follow the twists and turns of the river, creating baffling intersections with roads out of town taking off in all directions. Delightful bridges cross and cross again, providing lovely views.
 I cannot find any Camden East history at this point, but for a Wiki nugget - first settler 1800, first sawmill 1810. Samuel Clark's wool and grist mill additions warranted the village's christening as Clark's Mills. Post office built 1832 (which building, the fine stone store/post office?) Name changed to match the township, which had been organized in 1787 and named for Charles Pratt, Earl of Camden. (Could have been Pratt's Corners, I suppose, which would have been unfortunate.)

 pugnacious looking St. Luke's
We crossed the inevitable bridge and walked up the hill along County Road 4 to Queen Victoria Street to have a look at 'my barn' and the lovely brick Mansard roofed house near the corner. The charming resident yellow lab trotted around the corner, and emerged hopefully with a stick. We didn't bite.

Shirley Memorial Hall - Sunday school

Beside the red brick St. Luke's Anglican Church  outfitted with battlements and machicolations against the possibility of attack is an OHT  plaque honouring writer Sir Gilbert Parker (handsome devil.) I knew nothing of this writer (whose father was storekeeper in Camden East) until several years ago when two local actors did a staged reading of some of his work for one of our Friends of Glanmore meetings. How interesting to find his hometown.

We had saved Camden East 'til last, venturing further up county road 1 to Yarker. More on that later. On our way home, thirsty after walking in the surprising heat and several hours of non-stop talk, we popped in to the old general store/post office, recently reopened as a tea-room, The Old Bookstore Cafe. If there were ever a spot - and a host - deserving of a shout-out (and of loads of success) it's this cafe in the old stone building at the crossroads.
As we sampled some very original thirst-quenchers, Bonnie called over and asked if we'd like to try her zucchini bites - "because my vegetable lady has a lot of zucchini." Toothsome. A brown bag to take home. Great with white wine. Guarantees of a return visit. Bonnie Goloway, Camden East local, was written up in the August 31 issue of the Napanee Guide. She is committed to creating a community space, as well as a spot for all day breakfasts and 'a modest lunch.' Bonnie is committed to using local producers for her ingredients, and to showing the work of local craftspeople. Music and workshop plans are afoot. Bonnie strikes me as a hard worker. All she needs is us, to make this a great success. Check out the oldbookstorecafe Facebook page for notices. And just show up.

The building itself is worth a close look. We were awed by the ceiling heights in the vast newly freshened gallery space with its gleaming floors, and huge windows with dado panels. The massive doorcase, the deep mouldings, the dizzying height of the staircase, oh my. Beautiful exterior stonework. Bonnie told us that the store and many of the area's beautifully crafted stone homes were the work of a fellow based in Odessa, who walked to various villages, and stayed there until each structure was complete.

The stone store was the headquarters for Harrowsmith magazine, from its founding by James Lawrence in 1976 until the 1990s - I recall the change in flavour when it moved to Toronto. I missed capturing the facade, but asked the folks at Streetview to give you a peek.