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.

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