Lately, I’ve been reading about early Ontarian architecture, and have been ‘collecting’ houses with my camera whenever I am out and about in our local region. One of the earliest styles to emerge in Upper Canada was the Georgian, which arrived with immigrants from Britain and the United Empire Loyalists at the end of the 18th century. It enjoyed considerable popularity well into the 19th century. Georgian architecture is noted for symmetrical facades with limited ornamentation. As the 19th century progressed, Georgian designs were interpreted with neo-classical elements and a generally lighter treatment.
The house shown above is beautifully situated on the St. Lawrence river. It features the typical central doorway, nicely accented with a fanlight, and the twelve-over-twelve paned windows evenly spaced across the facade. The neo-classically inspired porch was probably added at a later date. The windows of the end wall are balanced, two over two, and a small half-moon window allows light and perhaps ventilation into the attic. The two heavy chimneys are typical of the style, but they are unusually placed. The chimneys would normally be placed at either end of the roof.
This second house is located near the first and is similar in construction. The two houses perhaps shared an architect. Here, you can see the simple doorway with fanlight and side pilasters. The cornice molding that decorates the roof line is an unusual element. The massive size of this house can be seen in this view of the side, below. Rather than a central half-moon window, two quarter-round windows are featured.
This smaller, but exquisitely detailed home stands a bit farther west along the St. Lawrence river. The neo-classical doorway features an elliptical fanlight that stretches over both the door and the side lights. The prominence of the central entrance, and its delicate and intricate detailing are departures from classical Georgian design.
Vernacular interpretations of the style and building materials abound. This semi-detached unit, like the house above, shows the more typical chimney placement. I don’t know if this house was built as two units or was divided into two at a later date.
The house illustrated below has lost one of its chimneys and a porch has been added, but its Georgian features are still conspicuous.
The Georgian style was adapted to a small story-and-a-half vernacular cottage that was repeated often in the region and many examples can be found. A story-and-a-half format was common because taxes were assessed according to the number of floors, so the half-story maximized space without accruing the penalty of additional taxes connected with a second story.
It’s not clear whether the last house, above, was built in 1846, by George Shaver, or a few years later in 1862 by the Ellis family. In any case, it is recorded that the house served as a mail stop for the stage on its way to Spencerville in 1898 and the Ellis family ran a general grocery store from their home. The house remained in the Ellis family until 1918. Notable features include the five-paned square transom over the door and the three-paned sidelights.
This final example was built with straight coursed stone and a recessed centred front door with sidelights. It was probably built after 1861 by the Huchcroft family, and was owned by the Huchcrofts into the 1930s.
For more about historical Ontario house styles, visit Willow Books.