Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

New-to-Me Newboro

Blockhouse, The Narrows
One of the delightful day trips from this past summer was a visit to Newboro. Okay, not a visit perhaps but a thorough inspection of the place, thanks to the well-researched and beautifully written Heritage Tour of Newboro, published by the Township of Rideau Lakes. Here's your copy Come along?

The brochure describes the significant position of the settlement during the days of the unimaginably difficult carving of the Rideau Canal from the unyielding granite of the area. The town that became Newboro grew on the isthmus separating the Rideau River system from the Cataraqui. All that remained to achieve the strategic water route was to claw through the granite ridge separating the two drainage systems, hidden beneath the underbrush here. The keystone of the Rideau Arch. So many died. "The Isthmus" became New Borough, then Newboro.

Union Bank building c1903
I'll begin with a confession. Any local reading this will already be on to me. The defensive blockhouse along the strategically important Rideau canal, shown above, stands at The Narrows, on the road into Newboro. I intended to walk down Lock Road to the equally important and evocative blockhouse in Newboro, but it was too hot. The Newboro blockhouse (c.1832) stands beside the Newboro Lock, unsurprisingly. Despite my failure to record the lovely spot on this visit, here's a sweet video which will take you there.

Above, along Drummond Street (County road 42 that races through town) is the Union Bank Building, dating from about 1903. I love how small town banks of the day still mustered up a bit of Romanesque Revival 'your money is safe in our fortress' styling. It's lovely, with the residential second storey's porches cuddled up in the ell.

adorable false front shops, sadly empty
Newboro was a trade and travel hub, with a toll ferry, then bridge, and rows of shops and lodgings, wharves and warehouses parallel to the canal. The railway came in 1868, connecting Newboro to the world.

Like many neighbouring areas blessed with forests and lakes, Newboro became a vacation destination early - and continues to be, with at least one historic lodge still welcoming guests.

the John Draffin House (c1860)
home of John Draffin, merchant
A word of celebration for those local historical societies who do the research and print the walking tour brochures. Without my copy of the Heritage Tour of Newboro, I wouldn't have ventured off Drummond down to Ledge Street, and would have missed this gorgeous stone home dating to about 1860, home of a well-to-do Irish immigrant, and merchant. This is the two-storey addition to the original John Draffin family farmhouse. Love the gigantic trees, perfect setting for dignified Italianate cornices and round headed upper storey doors. The balcony (a restoration success) overlooked the lake.

While I was venturing off the main thoroughfare, I also spent time with these two limestone lovelies. On Brock Street (wonder how many early settlements sport a Brock Street?) I visited the c1840 Court House, with its two matching entrances revealing its use as a school at one point. Though humble in proportions, the workmanlike effort with the uncoursed limestone rubble gives it great dignity.

Down the street, I paused at the 1861 St. Mary's Anglican Gothic Revival church, in its peaceful setting.
Here are a couple of the Ontario farmhouses along Main Street (I tend to use this term for this ubiquitous style of  gable end house with the centre gable - a faint nod to the Gothic -  because of my grounding in Marion Macrae. While the tour guide calls them Ontario cotttages, I reserve that term for the hip roofed cottage form, a vernacular Regency cottage. In case anybody really cares...Well, Shannon Kyles does.

Above, an unadorned version, with siding, and an altered doorcase with original fluted pilasters.
Below, a yellow-painted version with a lovely recreated verandah. And a delightful garden. Both with round-headed windows in the gable.

Main Street was once the busy thoroughfare of the village - in the days of steamers on the canal, the Westport and Sault Ste. Marie railway (1888 -an over-ambitious project, as it turned out), the cannery - memories of teams of  horses pulling heavily-loaded drays and carts, or well-appointed buggies for the well-to-do, all faded now.

Several large house/store structures, and two which resemble hotels standing along Main Street assist with time-travel back to the day. Although I don't have much information about this substantial green clapboard store, or the stuccoed symmetrical building (photo below) at the corner I expect they were busy spots in the day.

R.O.Legget house and shop c1870
And then there's the important house I didn't shoot - somehow the parked pick-up and thicket of evergreens so detracted from the dignity of 15 Main Street that I can only show you this peek thanks to Streetview. But the link is useful, so you can swan about town on your own.

This house is the c1865 Dominion House Hotel, built by Thomas Kenny and son. Good enough for Sir John A. to chalk up a visit. The semi-elliptical fan transom draws the eye, for sure. Great to see this early doorcase still intact.

Another old beauty along Main Street is the R.O. Leggett house and shop, dating from around 1870. Mr. Leggett operated a furniture and undertaking business at this address (closely allied trades) and a livery service, for transporting the bereaved and the departed. He housed the family in the red brick ell, with that lovely verandah in the trees. It's great to see the original shop front intact, with the well-worn sandstone doorstep in place.
1 Main Street

This simple Georgian structure with the low-pitched roofline, close eaves, small windows, the altered half-sidelight doorcase (is that a round fan above?) and the quarter fans in the wide eaves, sitting at the corner of Main and Drummond, close by the canal,  just has to have been an old inn.

Despite silence from the walking tour brochure, I remain convinced. The empty corner fills up with pedestrians and loaded wagons and carriages, as I study it. Someone loves it - even the end chimneys endure.

John Webster house 1860s
I wasn't able to do this fine Main Street house justice due to the setting sun behind it. The c1860 John Webster house is definitely a morning person - I was tempted to return for early day photos to capture its lovely restored clapboard siding, windows and sublime doorcase. This barn-red house was also the friendliest - I had a lovely chat with the owners although they were rushing off on an errand. The couple were real Newboro boosters; their enthusiasm, and their appreciation of the town's heritage, and their care for this home must be an asset in the village.

The pamphlet reveals that John Webster provided accommodation for travellers here. Nice entrance, with half-sidelights and rectangular transom. The guide explains that the fluted pilasters and 'bracketed shelf" above the door were after-thoughts. Love the round-headed casement window centre top.

fading bargeboard beside Kilborn's
The c1835 Col. John Kilborn home is a significant frame home that stretches along Drummond Street. I didn't grab a photo, as so much of the historic detail has been lost in the modernization to an apparently very successful 'Muskoka type' lifestyles store. Here's a Streetview peek, and a link to Kilborn's website. If you shop, I'd strongly recommend a visit.

The house next door, with its lovely doorcase and Gothic bargeboard, caught my eye. Not sure about the strapping. Needs help.
Stagecoach Inn c1855

Here's a glimpse of two other Newboro businesses. The stage Coach Inn is part of the Kilborn's in the Rideau complex, and looks very appealing indeed.

Historic Stirling Lodge

Newboro early realized its tourism potential. The Historic Stirling Lodge still welcomes guests, and offers itself as "a fishing destination", catering to American visitors. Its guest-book entries give a hint as to its heyday - Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor slept (and fished, one assumes) here.

There's a stone section of the inn, vying for attention with blue siding. Love the no-airs flat roof. Interested to see that it's also under the Kilborn's banner - a full-service destination that suggests significant vision, means, and hard work on someone's part!
a pleasant By Street home
John Poole Tett house c.1896
This house is said to have been built in around 1896. Tall windows, outstanding chimneys, decorative cornice trims and a Victorian bay window - oh and a gorgeous treed property overlooking the serene lake.

The guide reminds us that it was not always thus - in Newboro's industrial heyday, a furniture factory, then a tannery 'graced' the lakeshore. Newboro early realized that their lakeshore was much better used for dwellings than industries.

If I had more patience with genealogical records online, I would check to see what the family connection is, with Benjamin Tett, who built the mill at Brewer's Mills. Even if they're only distantly related, it's worth observing that the 'nation-builder' gene ran in the family.

view from Poole Tett house, over Newboro Lake

But I think I would rather contemplate the view from the sloping property with its encircling wall, or seated on the huge L-shaped verandah.

Now back to 'the main drag' as my father used to call downtown.

J.T.Gallagher house, c.1885
This amazing Gothic Revival style house was the first (and only) one to catch my eye when we drove through town years ago. It stands above the rest, literally, along busy Drummond Street. One tall house. The two-storey bay at the front, and the steeply pitched roof - those multicoloured roof slates!

This red brick wonder was built around 1885 by J.T.Gallagher. Its said that Gallagher engaged in some one-upmanship with John Poole Tett, who was building his home on By Street (photos above) at the same time. Who won?

Limestone quarried locally for the curvaceous lintels. Showy brackets in the dormer, in the gable with king post, and under the eaves.

Treillage-trimmed verandah. What a wonder this house is - and what wonders the owners, who appear determined to maintain its heritage elements.

Stage Coach Inn c.1855
So there you are. A visit to lovely Newboro. No harangues about heritage preservation. No diatribes about government abdication of responsibility for its National Historic Sites. No rants. Not one.

Just appreciation for this lovely historic spot which seems to be doing quite well, thank you very much.

We plan to be back next year. Perhaps we'll run into each other along Drummond Street.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Getting into Inverarden...or not

Creative Commons attribution
One wonders just how optimistic to be. The headline on the Facebook page of Community Heritage Ontario reads: "The Auditor General has responded to the need for more funding on Canada's Heritage Places. Good news for heritage."

I checked out the Auditor General's report, hopeful as always that the wheels will spin into action in response to this challenge. But the wheels turn slowly, and they turn in many directions: there are always so many other Federal government priorities.

Here is the 'overall message' of the report:
"Overall we found that Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and National Defence did not do enough to conserve the physical condition and heritage value of federal heritage properties. The three audited organizations either did not know how many heritage buildings they had or did not know what condition the buildings were in.... because of the lack of funding for conservation work, more buildings may fall into disrepair. This means that present and future generations of Canadians could lose an important part of their country's history." Here's a link to the full report.

courtesy Fréderic Serre
Now maybe that doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. So many people no longer have a country, much less the safety and security in which to contemplate its history. Heritage preservation. A first world problem, you say?

Don't give up hope, Den reminds me. Think of Auchmar. From the first moment I learned of it, I had that uh-oh feeling. But the wheels continue to turn. In the right direction.

A recent post on the Facebook group Early Ontario Homes  kick-started a new story. A group member had shared a post from the Facebook page of the Vintage Cornwall Archives. The post contained a lament about the deplorable condition of Inverarden House (1816) and a series of photos taken recently. A second post with 1983 photos of the interior followed, and I was hooked. The post was labelled a 'conversation starter',  and indeed it was.

Regency perfection courtesy F. Serre
The interior photos were taken and posted by Montrealer Fréderic Serre, from a time when he worked at the house. Furnished. Public programs and interpretation! Sigh. Now I guess only trespassers can access the property, and I'm too big a wimp for that. I contacted Fréderic and he graciously granted me permission to use his photos in a post, as I had not yet made it to Inverarden. We had been nurturing a plan, motivated by Dan Buchanan's new book, to visit in the spring. Our plans were dashed when I learned that the property is closed, fenced off, and deteriorating.

On the Parks Canada website's Inverarden NHS page, we are treated to a lovely photo and encouraged to enjoy this view. We're to be reassured that Inverarden "remains a grand relic of Eastern Ontario architectural history." Although the house was restored in 1970 and served as a museum until 2000, Parks Canada now appears content to consign it to the "relic" bin. Here's a link.
casement windows courtesy F. Serre
But it's not enough. And it's not just me. Here's a lovely article called 'Why Do Old Places Matter? It's About Continuity', written by Tom Mayes of the U.S. National Trust. The thesis is that connectedness to history provides emotional and psychological benefits, providing people with a sense of "being part of "a continuum." Read on.

Here's Inverarden's page on the Federal register Historic Places .

Read it and weep.

Don't give up hope, Denis says. So I continue to research. And I unearth a Management Plan, twenty-seven pages dated 2007, enthusiastically endorsed by John Baird, banging on about the property's commemorative integrity. It appears that the entire plan (and the funding required) is contingent on finding "a suitable tenant."
 Let's have a look at Inverarden's most enduring presence - its Historic Sites and Monuments Board plaque:

elliptical fanlight doorcase view courtesy F.Serre
"This house, built in 1816, is a fine early example of Regency architecture and its interior is a pleasing expression of Georgian symmetry with excellent detailing. In a wooded setting and commanding an impressive view, this was a fitting home for a country squire.

Inverarden's exquisite entrance - F.Serre (1983)
It was built for retired fur trader John McDonald of Garth, an aggressive and successful North West Company wintering partner during the rivalry with the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1824 McDonald gave the house to a daughter, wife of retired fur trader John Duncan Campbell, and it remained in the Campbell family until 1965."

Parks Canada does good interiors - F.Serre

Funny this.

On occasion, I complain about not being able to step inside important heritage buildings. The irony at Inverarden is although the property is closed to the public, the interior is accessible thanks to Fréderic Serre, who agreed without hesitation to allow me to post his 1983 views of the house.

Inverarden - F. Serre

Inverarden entrance hall and stairs - F. Serre
When I got to the photo of the stunning reception hall I did a double-take (no pun intended.) Because I have stood in this hall - well not this hall exactly, but the hall of friend and mentor Shannon Kyle's Regency rebuild in Prince Edward County.

The Gryphon doorway

You can check out the story and photos on the home's website - as the rescued Regency functions very successfully as a self-catering accommodation dubbed The Gryphon. Shannon takes you through the rescue story on her website Ontario Architecture. Scroll down about a third of the way through the Regency section.

'The Gryphon entrance hall

I wrote about Shannon and her project to save and relocate the exquisite but doomed 1820s Regency cottage in 2012 in County and Quinte Living magazine. Unfortunately, their online archive of past issues doesn't extend that far back, so I can't direct you to Daniel Vaughan's gorgeous photos of the interior of The Grove, which was the name of the Regency cottage in its former life in Ancaster.

Instead, you'll have to make do with my amateur efforts.

The Gryphon - and the lady of the house

Inverarden - F.Serre

The casement windows at Inverarden, indeed the floorplan of hall, and entrance to the salon to one's right, on entry mirror the experience of entering The Gyphon (née The Grove.) Uncanny, but not surprising I suppose.

I don't know how hard Parks Canada's people worked on the interior, but recall from previous projects how true their restorations have been over the years. I do know that Shannon, a passionate advocate of rebuilding wooden frame windows, made sure that the casement windows were painstakingly restored. For the next 100 years.

I hope that Inverarden's majestic casements, and the worthy house that surrounds them, endure that long.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Och Aye, Auchmar

 Can't quite understand it. Checked and rechecked my list of posts, draft and published. And nowhere was there an account of our visit to Auchmar this past June on a mini-holiday to Hamilton. So much for the day's enthusiasm; I think it must have been promptly over-run by the summer's first camping trip.

Last post, I was holding my breath over Inverarden, near Cornwall. Now I'm recalling just how long I (along with a host of dedicated Hamilton heritage building enthusiasts) have been holding my breath over Auchmar. How much breath can one girl hold?! Auchmar is fabulous.

I've followed its genteel decline over years, buoyed up by occasional accounts of the work of Friends of Auchmar who are dedicated to its preservation and an ongoing role in the community. I will not insult them by a brief account of their Herculean efforts - check their site.

"complex roof-line of cross & parallel gables, dormers"
"complex roofline of cross gables, parallel gables, dormers"
But Auchmar is on four acres (some sources say 9) of some pretty toothsome property on Fennel Avenue West (here's a Streetview peek) not too far from the edge of the escarpment. A scan of the neighbourhood shows 1940s housing succumbing to development - condo towers, college and hospital campuses. Developers must be salivating, while this rather substantial property stands unassailed behind stone walls, in its picturesque Gothic glory among ancient trees and wide lawns, testament to the way things were in 1855.

Pre-Confederation, with excellent provenance. Would England be having an issue with its upkeep?

gatepost along Fennell West
It's complicated. Auchmar is owned by the city of Hamilton which has put thousands into restoration of important elements of the house. Re-roofing, stucco repair and painting, and repair/reproduction of wooden trim, the windows (those bay windows are gorgeous) are just a few of the long list you can check out here. A chunk of Hamilton's Canada 150 grant has gone into repairing/rebuilding the stone wall around the property (photos below.)

An impressive "Friends" group, and the battalion (13th Battalion Auchmar Trust) founded by Auchmar's original owner, Isaac Buchanan, are working desperately hard on the estate's behalf. Isn't there a song that goes something like 'we've gone too far to go back now'?

(As an aside, I am so grateful for Belleville's Glanmore National Historic Site. The house is owned by the City of Belleville, and is well staffed and funded, a strategic planning process underway to ensure its continued success, and future as a vital part of the area's tourism and cultural assets. Nice work, Belleville!)

Gothic touches in door panelling, labels
exquisite new wooden bay window surrounds

Enough asides already. Back to our visit last June. We had spent the previous night at the delightful RoseArden b&b on Mountain Park Avenue, peeking over the edge down onto the city. Not far away along the edge of the escarpment was Claremont Lodge, gatehouse of the original 35 acre estate. Here's a Streetview peek as we didn't learn of the place until later.

But of course the property would have reached to the 'edge' - no self-respecting picturesque estate could do any less!

Before we left town the next morning, we set out to find what was left of the Auchmar estate; I was determined to get a photo, expecting I'd have to thrust a lens through a chain link fence, to get even a glimpse. To my shock and delight, the gates were open, workmen and cameras were about, to keep us from vandalizing the place, and we were free to wander. So much to absorb: the natural setting, the house with its exquisite Gothic Revival detailing, the extent of the restoration completed, the work still to do. Millions more needed to make it useful, with all mod cons.

The entrance gates led us through what remains of the original buttressed stone wall surrounding the property which started out as the 190 acres of Claremont (or is it 35? Sources vary.) A large limestone carriage house and even a Gothic dovecote led us further into the grounds.

 And then there is that house! Auchmar is the 1855 home of wealthy Scottish born merchant Isaac Buchanan, political and civic leader, Presbyterian philanthropist,  abolitionist, railway promoter, military man and general mover/shaker. A nation-builder back in the days of new nation-builders.

house inspection, north side
Here's Auchmar's pedigree on the site Canada's Historic Places. It deserves no less. (occasional quotes are from this source.)

Auchmar certainly looks like the estate of a Scottish laird, with its brick manor house clad in rough-cast stucco, clustered chimneys and Gothic details proliferating. Originally,  verandahs lined the front of the house, adding to the picturesque aesthetic. They are missed.

How I would love to see the interior - 24 foot central hall with staircases at each end of the house. Here's a link to a fabulous entry on a blog I follow, with photos. A Gothic Revival treasure!

north side Juliette balcony
Auchmar has several pasts. As we continued undeterred around to the back of the house, we were able to inspect evidence of its recent past, which, admittedly adds little to the picturesque quality of the 1855 home.

A flat-roofed brick dormitory and rather attractive though unsympathetic mid-century modern chapel were added by the Hungarian Sisters of Social Service during their residency from 1946-71. Auchmar was renamed Mount Cenacle at that time, and operated as a retreat house.

The house and estate had passed out of Buchanan family hands in 1926 - the Young family occupied Auchmar until 1943 when they rented it out as a WWII convalescent hospital; the house changed greatly under medical exigencies, and the Young family did not return afterwards. The nuns purchased Auchmar in 1945.

For more of the estate's story,  visit the history pages of the outstanding Friends of Auchmar website.

Or if you prefer, just wander along with us.

historic rain-water head pending?
finial finesse

shades of the once-terraced gardens

unlovely but functional addition
a blessing of ivy

 random-coursed limestone wall with buttresses

pointed arch openings, restored
dovecote with lancet windows and gables?

carriage house

a plan is afoot

And plan to join us next time we get to Hamilton, when we try to find another of the city's fine estates, Balfour (Chedoke) House. (This link takes you to Hamiltonian Adam Wilson's outstanding blog Fresh Brick, which I've mentioned here before.)