Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The A Team

22 Alexander (1890)
As I've been reading and writing about Great St. James Street, it's led me up the stairs  to Mount Pleasant Street, and the intriguing neighbourhood on the hill (is Mount Pleasant the name of the neighbourhood? Should be.)

25 Alexander (1869 with 1883 and 88 additions)
I am always drawn to neighbourhoods which eschew grid-like street layouts with 90 degree corners in favour of a bit of winding and intersecting. I love short Mount Pleasant and Hillcrest Streets, ending in a wooded bluff with a long flight of stairs. I admire Alexander and Forin Streets, which lounge on the diagonal across the map. Curved streets. Short streets. Narrow streets.
44 Alexander (1877-79)

It's a great neighbourhood for cycling and walking. Lots of trees. Mixed residential - gentrified and well, not. Lots of history. This was a popular neighbourhood during last year's Porchfest.
Have a Streetview wander for yourself.

A few years ago, when I was sitting on the Municipal Heritage Committee, we were assembling a list of so-called " buildings of interest," from a heritage perspective.

We tried several approaches to determining which addresses on a computer printout were the ones we thought the city should keep an eye on, in the event of demolition permit applications or the like. As well, the committee is always on the lookout for home-owners whose properties deserve commendation.

The first plan was to divide the list and have each committee member photograph 'our' neighbourhood.
47 Alexander

 The plan was later abandoned. But I, never reluctant to grab a camera and suss out a house or two, wandered Alexander, Albert and Ann  Streets (yes, I was the first one to put up my hand,) snapping away, and alarming the neighbourhood generally. (I heard later.)

So, on a windy freezing rainy day in February, I invite you on a walk in the sun of an August day, so I can point out a few of my favourites.

The neat Victorian Italianate brick house at 22 Alexander just kept getting better and better, and now it's picture perfect. I love the paired round-headed windows and iron cresting atop the front bay window and inviting porch. The Streetview photo shows someone working in the flowerbeds...how appropriate. We get to see the gorgeous results.

I love the expansive property at 44 Alexander; this massive brick house deserves all this dignified space.

Across the street is this imperious 1885/7 L-shaped brick house at 47 Alexander. The elegant porch and the double-leaf doors at the top of the tall stairs are very "Victorian dowager." The well-mannered ivy and other plantings, the brick path, the deep grey paint, mature trees...oh my. And just look at that roof dormer with the paired round-headed windows. Dibs on that room!

56 Alexander
The exquisite British Classical stone house at 56 Alexander was built a bit earlier than the rest of the neighbourhood, about 1860. It's one of Belleville's few stone houses. I took this photo some time ago...hope the owners haven't since succumbed to new door disease like another early stone house in the Old East Hill. The door-case with side-lights, transom, and panelled door is lovely. The house fronts on the side-walk in the old way, and is perfectly set off by a neat iron fence and sedate plantings. Waiting for an invitation up the refined brick path.


134 Albert St. (c1910)
The beautifully maintained Edwardian four-square in brick at 134 Albert is a cut above with stone quoins and lintels. It's had class since the beginning, owned by the Hon. Robert Reid, who distinguished himself as a director of the Grand Junction Railway, 1862 member of the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada (as we once called ourselves.) Post-1867 he became MP for Hastings East in the House of Commons and was later called to the Senate. The book refers to him as "first owner of the property." Lovely as it is, I suspect that by his Senatorial days he favoured a bit posher home.

I'm reading about 215 Albert - about all of these houses actually - in a favourite old house research book, Hastings Buildings East of the Moira (1991/2012.) It was produced by Heritage Belleville and is available at the local Archives. Just follow the "Bookshelf" link.
215 Albert

The house gets few accolades from the writers on the HCHS Building Research Committee, the workers on this inventory of historic and architecturally significant buildings. Just the facts, ma'am. But oh, my, since then this brick home has fallen into the right hands, and look at her now!



246 Albert (1872)

Another contender for the great place to spend an afternoon with a book and a bevvy is the front verandah at 246 Albert. Proudly waving its Canadian flag (funny how that's just not second nature to us,) this boxy brick is beautifully maintained. Nice entrance with side lights and transom. There's a gorgeous two-storey enclosed verandah on the south side. Looks like that spot would warm up in spring long before the rest of the city does.Some lovely mature trees about. Nice job folks.

Tour Guides

Proctor House - 1853 house at left
I mentioned recently the outstanding work of the Brighton Digital Archives crew which is rounding up local history - from information on local histories, to links to municipal collections, to documents and photos loaned for scanning by citizens  - and making it available at the click of a mouse (well, that identifies my technology of choice, doesn't it?) Just check out the beautifully restored 1908 Fenton marriage certificate here.

Proctor house putting its 1869 face forward



While Catherine Stutt demonstrated the power of the site, my gaze settled on the link to Brighton's Heritage Homes, which I assume is the municipal heritage register for the town.
The White House (1873)

 Armed with that, a camera and two walking/driving tour guides produced by the municipal heritage advisory committee which I picked up at the History Open House, one fine sunny spring day will find me side-walk snooping in this lovely appealing town and environs.

Hit the Books


  



















On the subject of digital libraries.
This just popped up, via friend Shannon, she of the enormously popular and informative Ontario Architecture website.
She shared a link to the Building Technology Heritage Library.
The home page of the site (which includes a blog!) describes it as "primarily a collection of American and Canadian pre-1964 architectural trade catalogs, house plan books and technical building guides" with its usefulness being to "document past design and construction practices" and "aid in the preservation and conservation of older structures."

1935-6
Oh what a way to spend a day (sheesh, my last post was plagued with alliteration, are we now to be annoyed by silly rhymes?)

As always, I am immediately attracted to the cover art and design, which gives us insights into how we looked and thought and wanted to convey optimism and progress, in the hopeful early days of the last century.

 As entry to the digital library is free, I suspect sharing a few examples of the cover art in the collection will not violate any rules...heck, it may even prompt some visits! See you there.

Linking up with Brighton

Last Saturday I attended a history hoe-down in Brighton. What a weekend! The event featured two performances of an outstanding Brighton railway history 'variety show', performed for appreciative full houses each time. Raconteurs, a delightful children's choir, the massively entertaining musical duo RandR, and a station-master emcee on a train station 'set' designed with Memory Junction Museum treasures, led us through the rich history of the area and related the central role of the Grand Trunk railway, and the town's 1856 station.

The organizers acknowledged the tremendous debt the area owes to Ralph and Eugenia Bangay, who created and maintain Brighton's historic Memory Junction Museum, popular with locals and tourists alike. Even Jimmy Wales is talking about the place on Wikipedia! This past year, a group of volunteers have stepped forward to keep the place rolling (oops, hands up, Fletch!) Here's an account of a fun and fruitful fund-raiser in August. I'm not alone in hoping for official recognition and a solid future for this museum. Must we leave the citizens to preserve a town and municipality's history?

The  Saturday event was a showcase of exhibitors all with a history perspective. The usual suspects of course. Researcher/author/genealogist Dan Buchanan, Susan Brose, another formidable Brighton history researcher/writer , event producer and history stalwart Dot Connelly and other principals in period costume. I met the authors of an area apple growing history, talked to the folks dedicated to keeping Proctor House astonishing, the volunteers working to preserve Presqu'ile's iconic lighthouse, and the Friends of Prequ'ile. Notice a 'volunteer' theme to this account?

I set out with the intent (and the $20) to purchase Susan Brose's impressive History of Brighton Businesses 1816 - 2009. But there were so many  folks selling raffle tickets....and my money dribbled away on good causes. The book will have to wait til next visit to my new favourite town (yes Mark I know. They can't all be favourites.)

All this and more! As soon as I arrived at home, I received a call from a lovely woman who informed me that my tiny contribution toward a ticket won me a Provincial Parks season pass! (Considering that we have 8 or 9 weeks of PP camping planned for this summer, it will get good use.) So, thanks Friends of Presqu'ile! If you have ever enjoyed this outstanding provincial park, you will have tasted some of the fruit of this group's hard work - from the magnificent boardwalk, to the NHE programs, to the tree-planting and trail maintenance. And if you have, you ought to become a member, and give back a wee bit in return. Attend the Waterfowl Weekend March 19 and 20, 10 to 4 to welcome some weary migrants.

Spent some time with the volunteers behind the Brighton Digital Archives project which my CQL editor Catherine Stutt and all-round fine sort Dennis Fletcher (he of Quinte Sailability) are working on, out of the history hub at Hilton Hall. Hmmm. Has alliterative potential that even corny old me will pass on.

So many exhibitors, such networking, learning, fun. Women's Institute munchies. A visit with my old Fogorig friend Florence. I'm still smiling.

And I am eternally grateful to the organizers. See you next year at Brighton's History Open House, held during Heritage Week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Unfinished Business - the Tennant tenant

What's wrong with this picture?
No, not the neon portable sign, which I agree is wrong, just wrong.
Especially when it's propped outside a dignified early stone house with a story to tell...none of it requiring a loud hysterical voice, which this type of signage always conveys to me.

This interesting building makes those of us who might have an expectation of  symmetry about a house of its evident early date, twitch.

suspicious circular scars just below the parapet wall
This house sits at the corner of Church Street and Great St. James Street, its north facade overlooking the door and window store which was home to the Coca-Cola plant from the 1920s to 1950s. Clearly it's seen some changes in the surrounding neighbourhood, given that it was built in 1835, and Coca-Cola came (and went) much more recently.
Great St James Street facade

According to Allen E. Montgomery's 2007 local history Great St. James Street: Graveyard to Grave, the house was constructed around 1835 for Mr. Coulter of Madoc. The plan was to build an extension on the Church Street facade later. Steel anchor rods left intact to assist the builders are still detectable.

Unfortunately the land on which the addition was to grow was needed by the Grand Junction Railway being laid (survey was done in 1852) to connect the lower (wharf) end of the city with the Grand Trunk Railway, so a thirty-three foot right of way was purchased from Mr. Coulter, around 1870/71.

Other owners include a Doctor Tennant, and later B.C. Donnan, Q.C. Around the time Mr. Montgomery wrote his little book, Mr. Abe Tobe, a local personality who owned a dance hall in Rossmore. owned the building. He was instrumental in the 1950s building of the Sons of Jacob Synagogue on Victoria Street, a lovely modernist building I have often admired.

Church Street facade - I assume the right-of-way is on the right 
Several other owners followed. After 1964 the rail allowance was allotted back to the owner, when the rail service ended. My guess is that the 33 foot section was at the right in the photo above, where the owner has a garden. You can see the open land of the railway right of way even today through the magic of Streetview.

But what still has me intrigued about the house is two asymmetrical facades, to north and west (Church Street) and two parapet end walls, one to the east, the other on the south. I womder if Mr. Coulter may have intended to grow the house on two sides?
I checked with a couple of great local references. Belleville's Heritage,* published by the Hastings County Historical Society in 1978 is one of two booklets on historic local buildings. The writers (the Historic Structures Committee of HCHS) provide a bit more information. The builder's name was John Coulter, a blacksmith; the date about 1840. After he learned the bad news about the railway needing his property, he abandoned his plans after building "one half of the house," and sold it to William and Margaret Tennant in 1871. William was a moulder at Brown's Foundry; son Robert became a doctor and practised from this address.
dentils under the eaves visible through the tree branches
The authors comment on the superior stonework, which has stood unmoved  for 176 years. They note the pyramid corbels supporting the south and east parapets with their wide chimneys. In the booklet photo, the 12x12 sash windows remained. They added such presence...albeit likely with some drafts.

*Incidentally, Volume II of Belleville's Heritage (1983) and a larger volume, Heritage Buildings East of the Moira (1991/2012) are available through the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County. Here's a link to their fine website. Follow the 'Bookstore' links to three hard-to-resist virtual bookshelves.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2015 - a big year at Ham House

I was wrong in 2010. At that time I spent some time worrying about this wonderful Loyalist neoclassical home in Bath. Its blue vinyl cladding festooned with spider webs was a concern; even more was the classical detailing beginning to rot away, and the likelihood that this impressive early frame structure (1816, it turns out) would one day yield to something 'better' in modern framing with brick facing.

I needn't have worried. Actually I was worrying along with someone with considerably more knowledge, skill, vision and fortitude than I. For as I described in another post (one which my Blogger stats tell me is the most-visited post ever at Ancestral Roofs) about that same time one Ron Tasker and life-and-work partner Bonnie Crooks undertook to rescue Ham House.

September 2015 (photo courtesy R. Tasker and B. Crook)
Not long ago I did a quick search to see if there was anything new in the news about the couple's project. And  yes! A website. Under construction. Your personal welcome to Ham House.  Home, History, Finds, Restoration. Links. Enough to bring you up to speed. Great photos along the journey, and a couple of archival views including a photo by the venerable Eric Arthur.

No coincidence, my guess, that the Ham House restoration has reached the stage you see in Ron's photo at right, around the time that an eagerly awaited website appears. Could it be that a bit of time has opened up in the couple's schedule?

So. Go visit to this welcoming website. Welcome to the crowd who is hoping that one day this location might become Bath's newest heritage asset. Future plans are still under discussion. Wouldn't it be great to spend time in this 1816 village store, learn about its history and its restoration - and to give back in some small way, to a couple who have laboured so long to preserve a War of 1812 era structure?

Neighbourhood Pub

I'm still savouring McBurney and Byers' offering There is a Tavern in the Town. I originally mentioned that most of the examples of early taverns that I have seen stand along the old Danforth Road. Later I discovered that a few travelled that very road themselves and ended up in heritage villages like Upper Canada Village. All good.

Last night I realized that I had grown up near (never in) a significant few significant early inns, one so taken for granted that I had to make a special trip to grab a photo recently.

So, off to 'the local.' Here are three Prince
Eyre's Inn, Picton (c.1835)
Edward County choices of which I am especially fond.

Thomas Eyre's Inn features in a lot of my reference books. Homesteads (same authors, U of T, 1979) describes the citizens of Hallowell Bridge meeting in an earlier structure on the site for refreshment and business from 1800 on. They describe this building as "stone with rough cast over" and point out its important location on the Danforth Road - a different sort of traffic hurtles by these days. The Settler's Dream comments on the double-pilastered doorcase with wide sidelights" and the french windows on the wraparound gallery. From what I can tell, the owners are doing a good job at what must be an enormously challenging property to maintain.
Hayes Inn, originally of Consecon
It's always a pleasant surprise to see this classical beauty on a curve in Waupoos. I recall mom talking about Roy Stevens, who lived on this property and had a cabinet-making and upholstery business right at the roadside when I was young. The structure, clad in barn-red painted board and batten still stands.

I can imagine Mr. Stevens, with his love of heritage and fine craftsmanship, could not bear to see the dilapidated state of the sophisticated Greek-Revival detailing on the timber-frame Hayes Tavern (1837/8)  in Consecon. In 1966 he arranged for the still solid Loyalist structure to be disassembled and transported - as only the truly dedicated can do; the work required must have been brutal -  and moved to this idyllic spot. An article in the February-March 1987 issue of Century Home describes the project, the exterior restoration complete and exquisite. The piece includes photos of the interior still in the early stages of restoration  - and domestic life going on around it. A salute to Mr. and Mrs. Roy Stevens is warranted!

Century Home Feb/Mar 1987 - uncredited
To the right is a photo scanned from the issue in my Century Home collection. There is no photo credit. The magazine is defunct. A Google search turns up a heritage paint company when I try to locate the publisher Bluestone House Inc. Tom Cruickshank if you're reading this, let me know who to thank!

The building's poor state is evident. It wasn't possible to restore the building in situ. The half that was rescued was in better shape than the later sagging addition. The sign Porter's Hotel shows up on the facade to the left; Robert Porter was inn-keeper from 1869-95 according to Tavern in the Town. Yet another owner may now be in residence. I note a for sale sign standing on the lawn the day the Streetview folks passed by.

Whittier house, Consecon
The Settler's Dream features other 'before' photos, including one around 1900 when the hotel was looking quite fine indeed, although Cruickshank and Stokes note that the original glazing pattern of the doorcase was missing - a restoration job for Roy Stevens.  The authors identify another Consecon building as the hotel's 'twin.' Lots of Greek Revival influence in Consecon and Demorestville, some succumbing to vinyl-ization others just succumbing. Surely I've posted something?

Stage and Ferry Inn, Glenora
Our final watering hole is the much-changed but very old (c.1815) Stage and Ferry Inn, built by Elephalet Adams, New Hampshire UEL, standing near the PEC end of the Glenora Ferrry crossing in the community then called Stone Mills. The standard 'Loyalist' form was distinguished by a massive stone chimney at the centre of the hip roof, which Cruikshank and Stokes observe was "not uncommon in the houses of eighteenth century New England where the hearths were clustered around the stack to keep the building warm, but is a rare find in Upper Canada." Never mind, gone now.

 The current appearance of the building is its recreation as 'Glenview' in 1912 according to The Settler's Dream. Byers and McBurney (Homesteads, UofT, 1979) relate that it was purchased at that time by John Green, owner of the ferry (and foundry-man at Stone Mills.) The original form did not have a verandah; I think this Edwardian era gallery is a welcoming improvement.

I've always loved the barn complex beside the former inn. Doubt it was as green and pleasant in the days of stabling and changing stage coach teams. According to Homesteads, these barns were built by John Green around the turn of the last century, though there must have been some stabling from earliest days. The buildings are beautifully maintained, even to the glazed lantern atop the barn. I featured their fence in my wee chapter in Wind,Water, Barley and Wine.

The inn was operating as a bed and breakfast when I took these photos in 2012. It's been well known as a hostelry since it was receiving bone-weary stage passengers along the Danforth Road.





Glenora has been a thriving community for ever so long. The prospect of trying to precis its long history is beyond me this morning. I did a pretty good job for County and Quinte Living magazine in Spring 2013 (page 27ff) should you want to have a browse.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bride on the Tracks

 Great St. James! Sounds like an expletive from a bombastic British army officer mindful of "the ladies." A bit grand. Not a name for a small Belleville street. Certainly not a street in a working class neighbourhood/industrial area with the Grand Junction railway running down the centre of it.
But there is a Great St. James Street, and not long ago I came back from taking its picture.

I have often shared my appreciation of local histories.
Self-published. Photocopied photographs. Editing errors. Inexpert in many ways.
But what I value most about local histories is the writer's intimate knowledge of the subject, as he or she is usually trying to capture a time and a place important to him/her, in the face of change which is taking that history away.
upstairs downstairs

















 This is so very true of a recent find, Great St. James Street: Graveyard to Grave, written by Allen E. Montgomery in 2007. "The stories were written as a tribute to the street where I first resided when I moved to Belleville," Mr. Montgomery states in the introduction.

Great St. James Street is snuggled under the edge of the great sand hill from which the neighbourhood above took its name: Old East Hill.
Meyers' house stood here overlooking the river and his mills

At the top of the stairs in the photo is the relatively affluent Mount Pleasant Road, the northern extremity of the posh OEH.  To the right as you exit the steps is a lovely property. Here in the 1790s the founder of the city, John Walden Meyers, built what many call the first brick house in what is now Ontario. (I expect that lots of other towns make the same claim.)

The author recalls Mildred Baker, one of the good wives of Great St. James Street climbing the steps to do house-cleaning for a family above.

the last Dafoe house standing
Now, everyone back down the stairs, and Mr. Montgomery will acquaint you with his neighbourhood, c. 1948. He worked at Belleville Creameries on Station Street, in a neighbourhood hopping with small industries, backyard mechanics and businesses evolving from Bernie Wheeler's junkyard to Harrison and Walton Sash and Door Factoy, to Mott's lumber mill, then Trudeau's Chrysler-Plymouth and Allis Chalmers franchise.

Allen describes the old homes, some well kept with rose-bushes and tiny lawns, others not so much. The railway track directly outside his boarding house was notable: "...no more than ten feet from the front door of the house. There was only about six feet of lawn, a thirty inch sidewalk, two more feet of ground and then the raised track." This was Belleville's own Grand Junction rail line (begun 1872.) The tracks were the backgournd for the lives lived there;  they appeared in photos with family groups, blushing brides and bicycling urchins with dogs. The writer describes the lengths to which neighbourhood wives went  on laundry days to evade the rain of soot from passing locomotives. He writes: "often as one opened their front door they would face a passing steam engine pulling several box cars." But you get used to it.

Mr. Stephensen, builder, early 1900s
The red brick house above is emblematic of the age and history of the neighbourhood, and its resilience. Mr. Montgomery boarded in a white frame house of similar proportions which stood right next to it. The houses were built by William and Zenos Dafoe. The brothers built the  famous  Dafoe Hotel, the city's most impressive hostelry to date, which burned in 1883 and was later replaced by not one but two Quinte Hotels (I told the Hotel Quinte story in several 2012 posts. Here's a sampling from  beforeduring and after.)

75 Great St. James Street - greatly changed home
of Elias Ruttan, blacksmith
Of his boarding house at 42 St. James Street, Allen Montgomery writes: "My brother Leon and I shared one small bedroom in the upstairs part of the home. One boarder slept on a cot in the upstairs hallway. Mike...[in] a very small bedroom off the upstairs hall. Two girls from Thomasburg used a bedroom at the front of the house next to a very busy bathroom....The downstairs was where the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Dafoe lived. They had a kitchen and a small bedroom...the living room was where their son Claude, his wife Ana and their young son, Billy lived."
No. 78.  Mrs. Alfred Harrow's house 1915 - brick beneath

Humble. But you never hear this man complaining. Doubt there was much of it in the neighbourhood.

So, here's a sampling of what is there, and what is not. I am fascinated by the industrial and commercial enterprises operating at various times, which Montgomery mentions, all long gone. It's a thing I do. The Coca Cola plant (1922-53). Ives Pottery Works. The Lott flour and woolen mill on the river, the lumber mills "directly behind" No. 42.

former Red Cross clearinghouse for demobbed troops 1945.
..moved from CNR property to 7 Burrell St. around 1947
There are lots of open lots, fenced off to discourage exploration. Homes or businesses, can't say. But street names like Foundry Street and Station (the former Mill Street) have industrious stories to tell.

Cemetery Street, the overgrown  eastern extremity of the street, was the route along which funeral processions used to travel to the now abandoned Catholic cemetery. Today you can see the green entrance to the trail, and the remaining business on the street, an auto electrics shop.

The book contains memories of the vegetable gardens and the fresh-water spring south of Stokes Street, where neighbours fetched water before the 1930s. Other neighbours, "the hillside mechanics" did their own car repairs under the trees. Horse-drawn milk wagons and ice wagons once kept the housewives happy.
68-70 Great St. James Street.

The writer challenges us to find traces of the old coach road that once angled up the overgrown hillside to service the neighbourhood above - and served as a lethal sledding run in the off season. I found it, but it would be invisible in summer.

I can't find anything about this surviving double house. It appears to have stood beside a fine brick home which was built for Mr. Lott in 1912 (now an empty lot.) I'm guessing it too has seen better days.

And then there's the story of the Tennant stone house, but I'll leave that for another time.
Thanks for the great read Allen Montgomery. And thanks to Gerry Boyce who introduced us.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Three-part Harmony

Hayes' Tavern, Waupoos
There are no coincidences, according to something I once read.Things happen for a reason.
So I suppose last night's research trip into my treasure chest of back issues of Century Home magazine happened, not just because I remembered an article about a house I plan to write about, but because it was time to make some connections.
Brisley issue


The article in question was about Hayes' Inn which once stood in Consecon, and its wonderful salvation story. Found it. Second one in the first pile.

The issue below turned out to have relevance. It featured an article titled Halfway House. That's a common name for old inns; a look confirmed that the issue featured the other inn I wanted to write about in the same post.

Foxboro 'dream' home
Then the third issue I put my hands on had a wonderful piece about a dear stone cottage near Foxboro that I'd mused about last July.  The owner of this darling place invited me to visit shortly afterwards, but I lost her coordinates during a busy period of family illness, writing deadlines and camping trips. Should you see this, stone cottage friend, drop a line?


Then perhaps the moment was just to remind me how grateful I am to ACO acquaintance Judith, whose generous offer of a large collection of Century Home magazines has provided such a great resource, and endless enjoyment over the past 2 years. I wrote about my windfall in January 2014, and the story of this great Canadian magazine in March.

Incidentally, I am in a position to share the wealth. I realize now that there are many duplicate issues in the collection. If you are at all interested, and live within driving distance of Belleville, email me at the address on this blog, and we can discuss getting them to you.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Life Support

I'm still enjoying Millie Morton's lovely book Grace. She describes the community where her mother arrived as the new teacher in 1931, Wellman's Corners. Morton's evocation of a strong community with well-tended farms, good brick houses and honest hard-working people resonated.

 Her mother recalls buying her train ticket to Wellman's Corners; the station agent observed that he didn't know anyone who'd ever gone there. It was a flag station, meaning just that. If you wanted to travel, you flagged down the train. I remember visiting Halloway a few years ago (interestingly, also on a HCHS bus tour) and hearing John Emerson talk about his mother having to flag down the train there, to get to 'Normal School' in Toronto.

It was a simpler time.  Millie Morton's book describes "a century of change in Ontario"; the most poignant for me (having lived the experience) is the change in small rural communities as we young people turned our faces to the city.

 In the book, her mother recounts being greeted by a trustee (and her future father-in-law) Mr. Morton. He proudly introduced Wellman's Corners as "the hub of Rawdon township." He showed her the neighbourhood with pride - fine brick houses, electricity newly installed. Cheese factory supplied by local dairy herds, general store, church, blacksmith, Orange Hall, new school.

HCHS tour organizer Mary-Lynne and a WI member
One of the most significant blows to rural communities was the loss of the one-room school. Once upon a time the school and the church  were the centre of community life. As we became more mobile, and succumbed to the attractions of larger towns and cities, the support for these local institutions dropped away, and they closed. And suddenly, our communities had 'heart trouble', and they died.

The consolidation of one-room schools into larger rural schools in  the 1960s was hugely significant; ironically they too are now redundant in many cases. Some still stand empty. A few have been repurposed, including one particularly appealing story in Milford, Ontario.

The closure of country churches was another huge blow to these communities. I can still remember Sundays at Bongard's United Church, although it was long ago deconsecrated and demolished.

The loss of a post office (I think of Rednersville) and the closure of the small industries which supported local farming communities ended their proud self-sufficiency.


On a HCHS bus tour a couple of years ago, we were hosted by a group of Wellman's Corners Women's Institute members, who shared the story of their proud community; they still have that community pride. The former church has become the headquarters of the Wellman's Women's Institute Hall. I salute them for keeping their community history alive.

 Women's Institutes have been a force for good in small communities since 1897. I saluted the formation of this international  movement in a post last March.