Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cover Girl

Since LOML and I visited Unionville a couple of weeks ago, I have posted once, and been working on a couple of draft posts, based on the intense connection I formed with the village. From a municipal perspective, Unionville, once a self-sufficient rural village, is now a suburban village in the City of Markham.

It is designated a Heritage Conservation District. Its historic buildings, streetscapes and character are under tremendous pressure from the city growing around it. I have been reading a document titled The Community Vision Plan for Main Street Unionville, a thoughtful response to the threats and opportunities of change.

I will leave those challenges to those wiser than I, and delight in the heritage character which was recognized early (1970s) and has been preserved in large measure. The neighbourhood south of the Toronto and Nipissing Railway (1871-1882) tracks is a long tree-lined residential block of intact heritage properties, which made for a delightful walk on the day of our visit.

What made the walk even more delightful (as I had been unable to find a downloadable, printable, foldable companion to advise my steps) was to find the book Historic Unionville online when I returned to my study - it wasn't long (measured in seconds) until I had it on order. I cannot say enough about George Duncan, the local history/family research and architectural history knowledge packed into this slim volume is astonishing. He was the man for the job; George Duncan was Markham's senior heritage planner..

This exquisite house is the cover photo for George Duncan's book, and a worthy choice too. This is the William Eckardt House (a significant name in this town) built around 1856, by the son of the operator of the family sawmill. William saw a great future for the village, and subdivided part of his farm (the other delicious old homes along Main Street sprang from his good idea) and benefitted even further when the railway came to town, across his land.

Unionville owes plenty to William Eckardt's vision and hard work.

William's house is a beauty, one which reminds us that appreciating early homes goes deeper than 'what style is this house?' For this Classic Ontario Farmhouse (I love that Duncan uses Marion MacRae's term for this form) with its Gothic Revival gable window with delicate tracery (love the winged shutters,) tall Regency casement windows, a sturdy doorcase with rectangular transom and Regency rectilinear glazing pattern is a delightful combination of the best of several stylistic influences.

Light and shadow from the mature trees, wide lawns and meticulous maintenance play their part. From the book I learned that the house was originally red brick with buff brick quoins and window trims, once sported curvy Gothic Revival bargeboard, and a Regency bellcast verandah with fretsawn brackets. You think you know somebody, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment