Heritage Questions

(Photo found on FB of the adult male grandchild sitting where his grandmother, Peg, once sat, 60 or more years later.)

Just after I bought the house (fall, 2016) I contacted the City of London to inquire about the heritage designation process. I wasn’t from London, so I wasn’t sure if my house had any value as a heritage property or not ? It was on a list of heritage inventory, but I believe it was misidentified as a bungalow. After moving, and beginning on the fixing, pursuing the heritage designation research was on the list of things to do, but not a priority.

I bought the house BECAUSE it was old, and looked old, and retained many original details. I can’t explain why, but I have never felt comfortable with new buildings. It often has to do with the space – the low ceilings or ridiculous cathedral ceilings – but also the building materials themselves. Unless it was built with real architectural and design considerations (ie very expensive) things like hollow core MDF doors just make me inexplicably angry. The ripples and flaws in an old pane of glass make me very happy, however.

I was the very youngest grandchild, so my grandparents were much older than my friends grandparents. Their final house was a modest late 1940’s or early 50’s house. Despite being Saskatchewan farmers, they liked to travel, and brought home souvenirs and curios. My grandfather made a museum in his basement, that often had out of town callers, who had to sign the guestbook. It was a mishmash of homemade folk art (a farm made completely out of small cut and polished slabs of stone, including the people and animals), things like a shark’s jaw, unusual rocks, antique bottles and things from the farm and other oddities. I visited it many times, even though I knew every item by heart.

The town I grew up in was a small, boring grain farming town. People were very suspicious about old things, unless it was a farm implement. There was not much to do except go to the library. The library had the regional museum on the 2nd floor. It had a chain across the stairs, but if you asked the librarian she would let you go upstairs, unescorted, and she would turn on all the lights. The displays never varied. There were WW1 items, and photos and steroscopic viewers, and some antique clothing and dishes. I don’t know how many times I looked at the displays. As a kid in the 1970’s it was hard to imagine living with a kerosene light fixture, or a curling iron that had to be heated in the fire ! In context – these items predated me by about 60 years. I don’t know if kids these days are awed by a 1959 light fixture, for example. My father (b.1919) grew up in a house with no central heating, and an outhouse. Just the state of oldness really fascinated me. There was a surviving sod house, built around 1910 or 1915 that was still inhabited by the family that built it. I remember as a kid visiting the house. It was normal for local residents to call up other local residents to see if they could bring company to look at a local thing – like Bert Johnson’s stone fence, or the sod house. I remember the sod house residents as being somewhat eccentric – old men brothers. They had a cold cellar that was accessed through a door in the floor, down very steep stairs. In the basement you could see the slabs of sod the house was built from that still grew grass or peat. The exterior was stuccoed I think – it didn’t look like a dirt hut – but it had old windows and doors. I found that house very strange – a real contrast to the fake wood patterned melamine and shag carpet in all the newer homes in the area. I could not understand why those men lived in a house like that.

Now I am one of those geezers.

Perhaps it was the desire to distance myself from the psuedo suburb I grew up in, and everything it represented.

Ask artist Dean McDermott. His entire career has been built on the fascination with living in another time:

Anyhow – I contacted the City of London to begin the Heritage Designation process.

I sent photos and received an interested reply. A couple of representatives came over to have a look. They seemed happy to encounter a house that was quite intact – except for the kitchen and bathroom, of course. Those rooms are always the first casualties of “improvement” and “progress”.

They gave me some research about who they believed the first owners to be – a family named Warren, and a successive list of occupants. The Warren family lived in the area in several houses – and the children stayed close to their parents as adults, one living two doors down (in a house long gone).

Old houses and storefronts are the survivors, the rebels. Somehow they managed to keep going without interference or interruption. Usually the upgrades create the most damage, and undo the integrity of the building.

This house has been here since 1898 or so. I’ll do what I can to keep it going.

 

 

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