Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

When Plywood was King

photo credit: Eric Pierce
 One day this summer, my brother happened by the site  of the new Port Picton development which is beginning to transform the landscape above Picton Bay, along busy Bridge Street. Turns out, he captured a moment that had immense significance for us, and none at all for the developers or the heavy equipment operators. 
photo credit: Eric Pierce

Within minutes, this ordinary family home, which housed our parents for a couple of happy decades in the 1980s and early 90s, and could have provided (affordable?) housing for others, was rubble. Nothing salvaged. Time is money. Turns out this simple raised (well, built into the slope, with the coveted 'walkout basement') bungalow is one of several along Bridge Street which ended up 'behind the fence' and demolished as part of the 'vision' for this part of town.

photo credit: Eric Pierce

I compared the aerial view of the property in this 1919 Picton Gazette article with its tabletop miniature concept of Monopoly houses created by the architects and I see a few other casualties. Trees. Promises of parks and walkways must compensate. The stately Claramount, lawyer Edward Young's 1903 Colonial Revival mansion ( Ancestral Roofs post DIY) is being refashioned as a spa clubhouse. The fate of  lovely red brick Taylor home sheltered among well-aged trees is unclear. It has been moved as has the little gatehouse beside the Claramount. The stone wall has been removed, to be rebuilt later?  I have my hopes pinned on local developer Cleave, who is reported to respect historic buildings.

Here's a Streetview link dated May 2018. I hope it helps you remember the street as it was, for a while yet.

I had a look at the Port Picton prospectus. "Stylish living...benchmark for luxury living." European style kitchens, engineered hardwood floors, porcelain, ceramic, quartz, pot lights, bright white walls and expanses of glass in the file photos. Promises for "luxury in a natural environment", a confidence that the vast assortment of wildlife will remain in the area, and the birds that call the ancient trees home will be unruffled. Feeling a sense of loss, somehow. This is a new lifestyle and design aesthetic. 

I like to think back to that plain unfashionable bungalow. Wood panelling, patterned indoor outdoor carpet, hand-built plywood kitchen cupboards. Sears curtains, ivy printed wallpaper, harvest gold appliances, floral print sofas from a local store, piles of books and tchotchkes,  hand-quilted treasures, family photos, furniture from the grandparents and beyond. Trees planted and pruned by dad, a neighbouring lot lovingly maintained.

 A handbuilt deck where Dad held dominion over the barbeque. I remember visits to that house from B.C., and shortly later, from our first home back in Ontario. Big and small Picton events - the Villeneuve castle explosion happened within view of the picture window. A visit from a dear mum from England. 

 Warm welcomes always, and lots and lots of celebratory dinners. Christmas fare stored in the attached garage, a custom pocket door to the cold room Mom's biggest convenience. Dad always working on a project or other in the basement. So many warm family memories. I look forward to sharing this with my brother, and hearing his recollections too.

I wish the newcomers at Port Picton well. I hope their lives are filled with warmth and love, in the shiny new world they're creating for themselves.