Friday, 21 August 2015

Arches and Lancets and Spires, Oh My!

     This is a lesson on Victorian architecture, specifically the Gothic Revival style (not to be confused with the goth style of today). Queen Victoria, whose birthday we celebrate every May in Canada with a statutory holiday, reigned in Great Britain from 1837 to 1901. During that time several architectural styles gained and waned in popularity - Italianate, Colonial Revival, Romanesque, Renaissance, Gothic Revival, Classical Revival, Second Empire, Beaux Arts, Arts and Crafts or Craftsman and Queen Anne Revivals.  You can google any of these to see a picture of each style. I recommend for pictures and information on residential Victorian properties still in existence in Ontario today.
    Pretty much all these styles were big on architectural details.  Some might say showy but I call it elegant and stately. Two wonderful examples are in nearby Picton and Madoc. Thanks to Shannon Kyles, author of the site OntarioArchitecture, for permission to use her photos.

 Gothic Revival was in reaction to the Renaissance and its perceived move away from Christianity. A revival of the Christian faith took place in 1841 to 1880 in the U.K. and North America  So this style had a lot of the details found in Gothic (Medieval Christianity) architecture - things like arches and lancets and spires, brick work and stone.  (Have I lost you yet?)  There was spiritual symbolism in these particular features.  The sharp peak points to heaven. Lancet windows (called this because they looked like the point of the medieval lance use during the crusades), stained glass and arches all echo details found in Medieval cathedrals.
     The Victorian interpretation of  the Gothic style also included detailed vergeboard (gingerbread trim) and an asymmetrical design  as seen  in the front view of the two houses above and in our wonderful example - on the left is a bay window and on the right a box window. The centre, second storey window is a lancet while the left, first floor, front  and centre door have arched windows. The window on the right has a brick arch over it and may have been arched at an earlier date.

Considering our faith, I find the fact that this house with its Gothic Revival design should fall into our hands more than coincidence. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Moving In, Moving Over, Moving Up

We moved in, boxes and belongings, to our new old house on July 10.  Daughter, Son-in-law and Dog lived on the more functional side of the house. They were due to move out at the end of July.  Because of the necessity of keeping the cats and dog apart, we and our two cats took the side with no working bathroom or kitchen.   Using a bathroom or accessing the kitchen meant John and I had to take the stairs down to the cellar on our side, cross over to the other side and take the stairs up to the main floor - kind of like a walk to the comfort station when camping except with stairs.

Using the shower meant another flight of stairs to the main bath on the second floor.

 On July 30 we moved over to the other side of the house. There was some muttering about being sick of moving furniture.  But it was good to begin making the house feel like home.  John got out his sawsall and went to work on creating an opening between the two sides so we wouldn't have to negotiate all the stairs. Notice his great safety gear!

When our children moved out they took their dining room table and chairs with them.  Our own 1980's set had been sold so we began the search for a new set.  We wanted something formal, beautiful, able to seat 12, in keeping with the age of the house and for a modest price. Some might call it luck but we believe in God's providence.  Last Wednesday morning I stopped at a local antique store in Carrying Place.  The owner, not normally open at that time, just happened to be there as he had delivered a dining set. This set was built in 1910 by Ridpath Furniture in Toronto - a company that had catered to the more well-to-do client. (The company, closed in 2011, had been in a building with a Tudor style front,) This set included a 6 foot table made out of walnut with two leaves that stretched the length to 10 feet enabling seating for 12, 8 chairs and a 6 ft sideboard for a fraction of the original value! Talk about moving up!  On Friday John checked out the furniture and agreed.  This was the perfect set for us.  

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Tell Me a Story
      Clean up is finished.  John and I worked a good chunk of last week Saturday throwing out junk, selling (yard sale) useable stuff, vacuuming, saving what we could, boxing the rest to be delivered to a local thrift store.  A way of life long past became a little clearer.

      In the basement there was a cistern as is common in many old homes. A hand pump in the kitchen would draw up the water - much more convenient than going outside to pump water from a well and carry in buckets.   We're guessing that when the house was converted into a duplex around 1910, indoor plumbing was added.

      Someone chopped through the stone wall of the cistern changing it into a storage room as well as a spot for the water heater. Water now came in through pipes from the city. 

     Spaces previously used as a bedroom and open hall area were taken over by two full baths upstairs - one on each side of the house.  Pipes and wires are outside of walls as they were added years after the house was built.




 The south half of the house as a two piece bath on the main floor that would have been added when the rear addition was built, probably in the 1940's. The pipes and wires of the addition are hidden behind the walls. 

        In another corner of the cellar there is a partially boxed in section.  Before the gas furnaces were added this house was heated by a coal burning furnace or a couple of stoves on the main floor and heat was piped up through the chimney's.  The "box" was for coal storage; delivered through a chute opening, now sealed up. (See photo below.)

        The last Butler (see History post) to own the house said he remembered, in the early 1950's, his grandfather going down to the coal storage to smoke his pipe as his wife did not like smoking.

Closets were added at some point.  People had fewer clothes 150 years ago. Wardrobes, hooks and dressers were used for storage back then.


 The outside access to the basement was converted  from a triangular shaped structure into a porch area off the north side kitchen.  The photos shows the lower part of the "triangle" beside the added shed and the cellar stairs with door.

     These discoveries left me thinking, if these walls could talk, what other stories might they tell?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Its About Time

June 16, 2015

      I'm in the middle with my arm across my little brother, surrounded by my siblings, mother,  aunt, uncle and grandparents, in front of their house.

 John is with his younger and older sisters, outside the old farm house.

      John and I met the summer of 1981.  After a two year courtship we married in the summer of 1983.  Being the children of Dutch, Christian Reformed, immigrants we grew up learning about faith in and obedience to God which included several things; three of them were hard work, frugality and do-it-yourself. John's summer jobs throughout high school and university were all construction related.  My mother had taught me how to find quality things at second hand stores and re-use them.  

     When it came time to buy our first home, John was adamant that he would not live in an old house.  His experience with old houses was a pieced together, leaning, uninsulated farm house while my experience had been in the beautiful Victorian house where my grandparents had lived in Hamilton.  The house was solid, square, brick with gorgeous, wide oak trim and newel post. That was the kind of home I was thinking about.  I was fine with John's wish in this area but I kept that dream in the back of my mind.

     For the first 18 years we were busy working and raising our four children.   As our children became more independent, some of John's spare time was spent on purchasing old, somewhat run down houses and renovating them to become rentals.  My hobby was anything creative - sewing, cross-stitch, quilting, painting, wallpapering and refinishing furniture.  This last skill came in pretty handy with home renovations. At three of our projects, along with painting, I refinished the wood trim, sliding pocket doors, newel post and banister and french doors.  During one of these renos we looked at each other and both said we would like to do this on a house in which we would live! 

     During the summer of 2013, the house of my dreams was on the market. After  much thinking, talking and praying, we put in an offer and it was accepted! We took the first step.