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Posts Tagged ‘Georgian architecture’

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Prescott is an Ontario town on the St. Lawrence, across the river from Ogdensburg, New York. Prescott was founded by Edward Jessup, a Loyalist who, in 1787, was rewarded for his service to King George with a 1,200-acre land grant. Jessup had a portion of this grant surveyed as a town site in the year of 1810. He named the new settlement Prescott in honour of General Robert Prescott who was appointed governor-in-chief of British North America in 1794. The town occupied a strategic military site and Fort Wellington was built on Prescott’s eastern edge in 1812 to defend the St. Lawrence River and the town.

One of the early settlers in the new town was Alpheus Jones, who arrived from Augusta in 1813. From 1816 to 1828, Jones was postmaster at Fort Wellington. As Prescott grew, Jones also served the town as postmaster and acted as Collector of Customs from 1823 until his death in 1863.

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There are many attractive stone houses in Prescott and the surrounding region, but one of the most beautiful is that built by Alpheus Jones. It is situated on a large lot in the centre of the old town. The large, Georgian style house was constructed between 1827 and 1832 by masons that Jones brought over from England. Limestone from the Kingston area was used for the front facade. It’s said that when first cut, the stone had a bluish tint, so the new house was first known as The Blue House, and later as Holmstead.

The grand house was heated by 8 fireplaces until the 1930s, when a hot water heating system was installed. In 1937, it was sold to the Earle brothers, who divided the interior into two living areas and started a lumber business in the rear coach house. After 180 years of service, the house remains an elegant testament to the skill of its builders. Its pleasing Georgian symmetry still satisfies the eye.

Oddly enough, there is another historic Alpheus Jones House in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is a Greek Revival-style plantation house, which was built in 1847. For more on Georgian homes, see my March 31, 2011 post, Georgian Delights.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The house illustrated below has lost one of its chimneys and a porch has been added, but its Georgian features are still conspicuous.

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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.

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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.

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