Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Precisely my point

  I have an instinct for these things. A   mention  in a local tourism publication. An   interesting road snaking along a blue line on the map. NHS directional signage.  Interesting   road names or appealing  topography.

 I don't know what led me to Sturgeon Point,   but I do know what kept me there. Sturgeon   Point village is what people do when they band   together to preserve a way of life, and fine  buildings, from change due to bureaucratic contols and development. 

I assume. I didn't speak to anyone at Sturgeon Point, but I visited the Sturgeon Point Association website. And I wandered some of the charming narrow twisty cottage roads lined with majestic trees, bordering the lake. And I ogled cottage homes from the later 1800s and early days of the last century: simple frame cottages and stately family enclaves set back in wide lawns shaded by enormous pines. And I could see why the residents would want to circle the wagons to limit changes and maintain this lovely summer cottage communtiy. 

The place put me in mind of Point Abino near Fort Erie, which I visited years ago with my dear friend Judy, a fellow traveller lost long ago,  A gated cottage community (irritatingly, owned almost exclusively by Americans) from which we were shooed when we went to visit the historic lighthouse .

There is some interesting Sturgeon Point village history online. The first regatta was held in 1838 - and these exclusive events continue to this day. The point became a summer destination for locals in the 1850s . Excursion boats, everyone in their best collared and corsetted attire no doubt, started arriving for picnics in the hardwood groves near the water. The most popular such event, for a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta performance in 1881, numbered 3000! That's a flotilla of excursion boats! 

The village history site is worth a visit. There's the story of Crandell's Sturgeon Point Hotel, with marine and train traffic bringing thousands to the point. Built in 1876, it burned in 1898. George Crandell's story makes for an interesting read!

In the 1880s, the first permanent homes were built. And that's where I come in. The signage that led me to the point directed me to the beautiful rustic Sturgeon Point Union Church, built 1915. Its history is fascinating, the structure is unique. An octagonal building of Georgia pine, it was commisioned by a Lady Clara Flavelle, and gifted to the community as an ecumenical church. Although I couldn't get inside, the woodcraft is phenomenally beautiful. The website welcomes "residents, guests and visitors" and I felt that welcome as I found a spot to park, to set out on my wander through the streets and along the shore road.

The residences range from tiny original cottages to fine summer homes. All are beautifully  maintained, the roads are tree-lined with views over Sturgeon Lake. 

The whimsical canary yellow Cherry Tree Lodge, set in wide treed grounds, caught my eye. And as I did some research for this post, I learned to my delight that it has a story. Not only is the tiny cottage one of the first purpose-built cottages, and thus the object of my search, but it has a fascinating history. Cherry Tree Lodge was  built in 1887 by artist W.A.Goodwin (no, new name for me also.) The late Victorian cottage with Arts and Crafts influences, "built to evoke the appearance of the large canvas tents campers used at the time" (website) was home to sedate family activities and wholesome local youth events. And it served as inspiration to an artist unjustly overlooked until recently. A grand story, doubtless one of many told in this delightful little community.

So, Sturgeon Point Association board members and supporters, you have a precious legacy and a special place in your care. I wish you success, as burgeoning development pressures build on quaint and character-full places. They come for the charm, and destroy it in the process.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Lucy Maud's (not so very) happy place

 "Homesickness" replied the guide. I had just marvelled at the astonishing literary output of a former resident of this village, nostalgic stories based in a long-forgotten era in a seaside world she had left and longed for always.

On a July.stay in Port Perry I had the opportunity to visit a National Historic Site I had long wanted to see, in  Leaskdale, Ontario. This plain buff brick house was the home of the writer Lucy Maud Montgomery for 15 years. The manse and the lovely church up the road are now busy museums open to the public. There are quite a few houses in the hamlet which were standing when Montgomery (1864 - 1942) lived and wrote in Leaskdale,  a tiny place at the bottom of an impressive hill in beautiful (remarkably, still) open countryside.

Most girls of my generation spent at least some of their youth reading the novels of L.M. Montgomery. Here's a bio from the Canadian Encyclopedia Montgomery upon which I doubt I can improve.

My purpose in returning to these photos is to contemplate her life here, in this place even my hosts in nearby Port Perry did not know about. Getting in touch with the stifling Edwardian life of the wife of a Presbyterian minister suffering from major depressive disorder in the 1910s. It gets worse, but I'm not going there.

neighbouring farm where LM found her muse

Instead, because loss and longing have become part of my vocabulary, I want to think about how much Lucy Maud missed rural PEI and the ocean, and how she found her solace  and inspiration in the countryside here, which in a part of Ontario increasingly blanketed with graceless subdivisions, is still bucolic and lovely.

LM Montgomery's famous Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908. She wrote eleven of her 22 novels in this simple house with few conveniences and high expectations.

I've always found it interesting, though it's seldom commented upon, that although LM married Ewan Macdonald in 1911, she "kept her maiden name" (what a quaint old expression) in her published writing.

her statue in a lovely garden at the church

A really great resource if this story captures your attention, or your heart is the LMMontgomery Society of Ontario. There's tons more information there. 

And if this visit is not enough, I suggest you venture here. I suspect I will.