Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Industrial Devolution

Friend Larry commented just yesterday that there was a demolition in progress along Keegan Parkway. The portents had been evident for some time. Abandoned buildings with a growing rash of broken windows along the street side, empty yards and buildings throughout the rest of the massive complex. The most optimistic sign was the proliferation of wild grapes along the chain link fences.

It's inevitable that the property evolve into something more useful, accessible, and (ahem)  attractive. Turns out, residential development has been under discussion since 2014, for the former Stephens-Adamson property. A proposal for parkland expansion into the area went before city council in 2003. I spent some time at the factory site today, in the bright late fall sun, to pay my respects.

After a bit of casting about online, I found some stories of the plant. A 1957 newspaper article enthused about the recent completion of a 200 ton ore sintering machine (prepares ore products for blast furnaces) for the smelter at Wawa.

(Ironically, when we visited Wawa a couple of years ago, the former smelter, which once climbed a hillside overlooking the city, was in the throes of disappearing, leaving a huge raw wound up the hill, and a good workforce going wanting.)

Stephens-Adamson was a Division of Metso Metals, their mission the production of heavy equipment for the steel and mining industries. Conveyors rose up often in the conversation.

The massive building across the road from the Bayshore Trail  has often come up in conversation, as we walk along the waterfront. Den often recalls his early worklife, as an apprentice at the huge Ruston Bucyrus excavator equipment manufacturer in Lincoln, England, working in just such a space, a massive crane in the roof delivering heavy components to workers in each of dozens of bays, each served by a smaller crane branching off from the main one. Not the workplace for quiet confidences!

I studied the building, and absorbed that sort of sadness that comes with any demolition, the sense of the history made here, the lives lived. I had noticed a couple standing at the roadside, watching the work going on, arms wrapped around each other, for the warmth, or the comfort. The fellow called out a question: "Do you suppose they're going to demolish the crane, or remove and reuse it? Turns out he knew about such things, and on my request, explained how the equipment worked. He pointed out the 10 on the main crane, 10 tons, and explained just how much such things cost.

Stephens-Adamson. Going, going, gone.

Community of Belleville and Hastings County HC00380B

After checking with the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County, I share this photo of what the company looked like once upon a time, in 1948.

Monday, October 29, 2018


What do these two places have in common?

Stay tuned, New to Newboro will reveal all.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

'Dirty Old Town'

We fired up the turn-table recently to play an anthem from Den's youth, Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger singing Dirty Old Town. Here's a link if you'd like to sing along. Denis grew up in industrial Lincoln, UK, in a terraced house on a Coronation Street kind of street, with allotment gardens along the railway tracks, a coal gas plant at the end of the street, and a genuine stone "gasworks wall" on which a  lad could lounge, while talking cycles with his mates.

I paired the nostalgic folk song with these photos of Gananoque buildings - water, reflections, textures of peeling paint, grey rubblestone and warm hand-made brick, and regenerating wild vegetation. These husks of buildings (and others like them) once crowded the banks of this lovely river.There's drama here - a sense they're poised for something new to come. I find old industrial structures beautiful, story-tellers evoking the day when they were the engines of progress in old Ontario towns. And many of them are waiting for repurposing, communities and developers making audacious plans. Gananoque is one of those stories.

Here's what the professional builders' journal Construction Canada has to say on the topic of  "sustainable solutions for intensification (read, we need more people living downtown to keep our city vibrant.)" Actually, the architecture press is full of articles about creative adaptive reuse projects. Here's another from Archdaily, one of my favourite news feeds.

15 Clarence Street
This article features 6 great projects in Toronto. You may have followed the press about the arts hub at 401 Richmond, which almost saw Margaret Zeidler's idea of an arts collective founder, when taxes on lofts and studios at 401 became untenable.

Your community likely has some adaptive reuse successes. There are lots. Here are yet more happy endings from Vancouver.

Allow me to digress. There are many more abandoned structures than repurposing ideas, and most, arguably, could be put to good use. Here's a site which purports to be archiving these empty spaces - although it must serve 'urban explorers' well. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the urban exploration movement. (and yes, I have made my 2018 Wiki donation): "Urban exploration, often shortened as UE or urbex, and sometimes known as roof-and-tunnel hacking, is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment."

  I met an urban explorer once. Not too many years ago I participated on an ACO-sponsored tour of every creepy nook and cranny of a dormant former ice hockey arena which has sat vacant for years, waiting for an adaptive reuse idea to catch fire. A fellow who tagged along was a self-confessed urban explorer who was happy to explain its appeal. Given that urban exploration involves trespassing into nasty and dangerous abandoned spots, the chances of my succumbing are small. This fascinating video from Business Explorer does a pretty good job of explaining the attraction, however.

Okay, the urban exploration was an aside. But that's what a lot of abandoned factory spaces have to settle for by way of attention, until the happy day that a plan such as Gananoque's begins to percolate.

A quick search of Gananoque news stories yields the 2014 consultants' report on the Riverstone Development, a  "residential rehabilitation of three former factory buildings." Turns out, the development will centre on the three buildings I photographed on a visit last year.

For the tapestry of brick and peeling paint alone I love this "early Modernist" structure at 15 Clarence Street (see the Heritage Impact Statement put together by Bray Heritage, for Brennan Custom Homes.)

The metal window dividers, shaped parapet and elusive lettering set it apart from just another abandoned building.

This was the 1912 home of the Parmenter & Bullock factory, producer of wire nails and rivets. When we parked in the lot just in front, the young attendant recounted that his grandfather had worked there.
185 Mill Street

This brick building started out in 1872 as a stone building, the St. Lawrence Woolen Mill and the Thousand Islands Carriage Factory. In 1892 the stone building was destroyed by fire, and 3 years later a brick building rises from the ashes, and sits on the ruined stone walls. Among the many tenants who have  occupied this structure over time were the McLaughlin Carriage Company of Oshawa (ancestor of General Motors) who set up here, after a fire destroyed their Oshawa plant around 1899.
And in 1938, Link who manufactured the famous flight simulators, the Link trainers, acquired the building.

Pages 20 - 24 of Appendix A of the Bray report show historic views of the factory.
stone foundation walls from 1872 stone mill
185 Mill Street

This imposing stone structure rose on the busy banks of the Gananoque River in 1871, home of the Leeds Foundry and Machine Works. Additions were constructed when the machine works merged with the Canada Nut and Bolt Company. It was being used for storage by 1947, and was later abandoned. It was in desperate shape (see pages 43-44 of the Heritage Impact statement) by 2014.
New windows and roof on this Georgian mill are signs of intent. In fact, signage on the west wall reads:   "Riverstone Sales Centre 75 King Street East."

Stay tuned.
 If you'd like some other suggestions while you wait for the fulfillment of the project, here are two.

Have a Streetview wander around the neighbourhood.

Devote some time to Appendix A which I've mentioned above. It starts at page 35 of the Riverstone report.  A Chronology of Gananoque emphasizing the Mill Street Industries, is a 50 page history of the complex, written by Dr.Jennifer McKendry, a Kingston area expert and writer on historic architecture.

St. John the Evangelist church across the river
I've talked about her books before. Were you to do a Google search for 'ancestral roofs Jennifer McKendry' you'd come up with a representative sample. I'm a huge fan.

a former industrial river gone recreational

former railway bridge now walking trail
view to the east bank

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Pinhey Homecoming

from a bedroom window
In my previous post about Pinhey's Point, I included this Pinhey's Point Foundation link. It outlines the proud chronology of a unique property. The 1800s were its growth years. The 1900s saw it losing ground. The last relative, Ruth Pinhey died in 1971 at Pinhey's Point. Story boards in the Pinhey manor house from that time show photos of an interior largely unchanged from the 1930s. Ruth used the once-imposing main hall as her living room; a black and white photo from the 1970s shows a humble interior, its dignity lost. Fortunately, the NCC heritage advocates realized the value of this property, and the wheels of preservation machinery began to turn.
interpretive panel in the former dining toom

The cool, damp windy day I visited, an intrepid group of older women, and one very senior lady, were picnicing under a marquee. Turns out the group was a  reunion, friends and relatives of Ruth Pinhey returning to pay homage to their ancestor, and to the home built by ancestor Hamnett Kirkes Pinhey in the 1820s and 30s. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the immense building, and the stories and artifacts in each restored room, always aware of the bustle of a group of women negotiating stairs (they are legion) and obstacles for their elder. She was determined to "see it all" even to the donations of children's books and toys, which had been her own, in an upstairs bedroom.

Beside the cast iron stove (of which there must have been many, judging from the number of stove pipe holes) in the 1820s ballroom is a display case with this sign: "The items in this shipping crate are representative of articles listed on the bill of lading for the Pinhey family on the sailing ship 'Barbara'. The family brought with them 55 packages containing specie [coins], plate, jewelry, music, furniture, wearing apparel and merchandise to a total value of 800 pounds."

 How to make a grand entrance in the Canadian wilderness in 1820.

The interior of the house was spartan, but preservation efforts over the years have made it possible for us to time travel from the 1820s through the 1840s to connect  with the lives lived in this (once upon a time) outpost of refined civilization.

Because of the crowds, I failed to get some of the photos that would help me tell the story, like the incredible staircase leading to the dining room on the half-level at its top, where today a maze of interpretive panels tells the story of the NCC and its rescue of the Pinhey's Point property.

This view from the upstairs bedroom hall, looking back down at the doorway to the dining room, will have to suffice. Notice the deep cornices, wood floors and panelled walls. How to give you a sense of the immensity of this house, the halls and levels leading off in all directions?

Behind one, down this hall, are family bedrooms and the 'sanctum sanctorum', Master Pinhey's indoor toilet.

The second floor dining room's interpretive panels recount the National Capital Commission's work in the 1960s to preserve important built heritage, like restoring the 'processional route'  on Sussex Drive near the Byward Market (where once flourished Le Hibou, a popular coffee house in my uni days.) Other important projects dating from that era of Federal Government involvement include the restoration of  Watson's Mill in Manotick, the Mill of Kintail near Almonte, the Wakefield Mill (now a swanky spa) and a property I haven't (yet) visited - the Symmes Hotel.

The funds raised, the levels of government involved, the discussions which must have taken place - exhaust me. What delights is what all that work accomplished for all of us.
interpretive panel at Pinhey's Park

An enlargement of the 'Biography of a House' text panel shows a sketch of the entrance hall as it would have been in the 1860s. The pine board floor was painted in black and white checker-board, to simulate marble. The illusions of grandeur continue with faux graining of pine interior doors and mouldings.

Notice the grand staircase leading up to the dining room. The doors to left and right hid corridors to the kitchen, pantry and other service areas. The portieres would have been especially helpful whenever the hosts flung open the north-facing front doors to guests, admitting wintry winds off the Ottawa River.
These are taken in the kitchen in the 1840s wing at Pinhey's Point. This was the second kitchen.

The kitchen standing to the west, today a picturesque ruin, was the original which became the domain of son Horace Pinhey's wife, when the senior Pinheys moved to this (ahem) new kitchen.

Although the restoration is incomplete, the removal of more modern elements has taken it back to basics. The massive cooking fireplace and deep window sills bring the stone-built story indoors.

To theleft of the centre entrance hall was a study which became a dining room in more recent years. 'Recent' is a relative term. The dark patterned wall-paper originated in Montreal somewhere between 1900 and 1935, the exoticed linoleum flooring was contemporary. The dull day outside contributed to the delicious 'brown study' effect.

the gold flecks in the wallpaper were hand painted
The former study seems like the right place to provide a link to Horace Pinhey's journal, which he kept from 1856 to 1865. These entries make fascinating reading, if the endless work of running a large farm and estate in the mid 1800s appeals to you.

 The east side of the house, where this room is found, was deeded by the elder Pinhey to daughter Mary Anne (the artist of the watercolour in my previous Pinhey's post.) She did not live here long, ceding her half of the house to brother Horace, upon her marriage and departure for Ottawa.

An artistic gene appears to have run in the family. The parlour features an exhibit of (quite lovely) paintings of Hamnet Pinhey's grandson John Charles Pinhey. His female portraits make me think of John Singer Sargent. The massive quarter-sawn oak rocking chair from the Black Forest was rescued from the fire which destroyed his eccentric stick style studio-residence at Hudson PQ, in 1921.

Husband, who was in the city the day I travelled to Pinhey's Point, has just read yesterday's post. A return visit to this incredible site are in the works. Maybe next time we'll have sun.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Precisely My Point

the manor-house of 'Horaceville'
I've loved this austere home for so long. I first saw its black and white image in Marion Macrae's Ancestral Roofs. The misty day on which I visited did its best to sustain the b&w effect. The austerity of the structure calls to mind a Cornish farmhouse.

This is the 1820s colonial Georgian home of Hamnet Kirkes Pinhey, English merchant who profited from his adventures in the Napoleonic wars, taking up a grant of 1000 acres of riverfront property in the newly opening Ottawa River area.
Pinhey's Point

His plan, well achieved, given the challenges of the era and the area, was to create an English community in the wilderness, with himself as lord of the manor, an industrious village around his feet. He called the place Horaceville, after his eldest son.

Pinhey's daughter did a watercolour of the estate in about 1837. Suppose it's public domain by now, so I'm sharing my imperfect photo of it here. Notice the church for which he donated land and funds. Very English gentry of him. He was a social and political leader, to be sure. The siting of his estate symbolized his social status.

I stood on the steps of the central bay of the conjoined houses, looking out on the Ottawa River, as Pinhey might have done, imagining myself lord of all I surveyed, and marvelling over what he managed to create in what would have been a wild wilderness indeed. Below him along the Ottawa River would appear occasionally the temporary shelters of the area's first peoples, and then the shanties of loggers (the trade in squared timber, made viable by Napoleon's blockade, was underway by 1806,  Philemon Wright proving the timbers could be floated down-river and rafted for travelling onward to Montreal.)
south wing to the right (1848/9)

The manor house is part of  the almost 200 year old estate. It's heart-breakingly picturesque with its wooded areas, grassy hillsides, stone and log ruins, a terraced home garden, and the point itself (currently closed for rehabilitation, so popular it is) on the edge of the Ottawa River. Throughout the property (a good workout due to the terrain) are interpretive panels with just the right amount of history and architecture.

Perhaps I should just leave you to wander and make your own connections. I'll leave a few hints in the photo captions.

To the right of this photo is the ruin of a good stone kitchen which once joined to the log section of the house.

I read that three exterior walls of the house were stuccoed smooth and scored in imitation of ashlar stone, a common enough strategy for uncommon early stone houses with pretentions.

Clearly, the manor house was built in sections. The right side in these photos was the 1822/25 ballroom addition to an even earlier log/clapboard section. The c1837 watercolour shows the log section, I believe, and the first  stone section.

The centre section, with the elliptical transom above a wide doorcase, was added in 1841/2.

Georgian symmetry prevailed. Notice how  the symmetrical three-bay sections to right and left, with their louvred false entrances and semi-circular heads, balance the centre bay with its latticed sidelights and "shallow segmental Regency arch, structurally sound but here, visually unhappy" (Macrae, p.75)

This doorway opens into the entrance hall. Rooms opened to right and left, the library leading further in to the drawing room. Just how far inside the door one got depended on one's social standing.

In another post, I'll show some photos of the interior, and tell more stories. What isn't obvious is the graceful processional stairway leading to a dining room on a half-level at the back. The whole place felt spartan and cold, echo-y creaking spaces with wood floors and panelled walls, bringing to mind that series with BBC's Amanda Vickery, At Home with the Georgians.

Couldn't find much information about the stable, built 1822. But the stone-work, of two colours of local stone, is gorgeous.
The Ash House is just one of many evocative and well-interpreted ruins scattered casually about the estate.
voted best view from an ash house, ever

ruins of the 1820s kitchen

main house kitchen lighting

The Pinhey's Point Foundation website contains a great chronology, and a 1941 photo showing the 1820/21 log house clad in clapboard. This log wing was removed after it collapsed in the 1970s and the stone kitchen to which it had connected was stablilized for safety (and historical) reasons.

Here's another site with Horaceville history. I'd forgotten to mention the church, the grist and sawmills, lime kiln, granary and malt kiln, housing for estate workers and the seven cannons.

Pinhey's Point is an Ontario Heritage Trust site operated by the City of Ottawa, with 88 acres of recreational space, special history events and the well-interpreted historic house.

And here is a parting shot, a final view of the kitchen tail added in 1848, turning the house into a magnificent L-shape.