Posts in category “Ontario History and Heritage”

Ontario Heritage and Forgotten Apple Trees

Written by Laura Brown

I'm interested in Ontario history, including our rural heritage. (I volunteer with Ontario Barn Preservation).

Today I found several links about heritage apples, forgotten apple varieties and trees in Ontario, and information about pruning and growing trees from the seeds of the old apples you might find on a road trip here and there.

My Mother and Grandparents talk about the apples they used to have for making pies and wonder where they could still find those now. They don't see them sold in farmer's markets and certainly not in stores any more.

I found a few good links and then this book, by Sher Leetooze, "Identifying Heritage Apples Across Ontario". I bought a copy of the book. I'm hoping it will include greening apples. A variety my Mother mentions every year. She remembers them being the first, early apples available each year. They grow (grew) here in Ontario but we haven't found any yet.

Orchard People

The Kitchen Orchard

The Ontario Heritage and Feral Apple Project

Pick some wild apples this year. You could even try planting some of the old trees seldom seen any more. Give them a chance to get a new start and have apples close at hand when you get into pie making mode.

Don’t buy that old house — not if it has any historical or architectural…

Written by Laura Brown

Don’t buy that old house — not if it has any historical or architectural merit. Let it die gracefully amidst the shady maples and crowding lilacs. That is, unless you are that rare species of owner whose restoration would be harmonious with the aims of the original builder.

But too often is an early 19th-century house bought by “city” people, in search of the proverbial “old stone house”, unhappily destined to become a bastard composition of half old, half new; half country, half city. Out come the old small-paned windows, and on go the aluminum storms. Picture windows reign triumphant (right). Off comes the old cast or wrought iron hardware, and on go the new “rustic” artsy-craftsy hinges, which take up half the door.

In rooms where delicate mantel mouldings complemented the painted walls and trim, now raw new pine covers up all traces of the glowing rose colors, blue-grey trims, and gay foliage of the old wallpaper. In our enthusiasm for those “pioneer” days, we have forgotten that most of our existing old houses are post 1812 War, in a day when bare wood panelling had been out of style for 60 years or more. Where split lath and plaster had discreetly covered up the rafter and joist construction of the ceiling, we expose it and call it “open beam”. A Regency gentleman, haunting his 1830 home in 1971, might quickly yearn for the grave again.

Tired of modern mass-produced high-rises and prefabs, we long for an old lived-in home. Yet the first thing we do upon achieving our dream is to plane smooth all those wear marks on the house. We sand down all the floors, and remove the bumps and signs of human habitation, until we get the surface of “straight from the factory” pine boards.

Forgetting that spinning wheels were relegated to the upper hail or attic, we sit it out on the front lawn, only to complement the wagon wheel fence, a feature which our ancestors never dreamed of.

I don’t mean to suggest I am advocating 19th-century living at least, not totally. The benefits from central heat over fireplaces and woodstoves can be attested to by anyone who has sat in front of a raging fire, and roasted his front, while freezing his back. Not to mention the questionable value in those early morning nature excursions to the privy in our Canadian winters. But one should consider the best type of heating system for an old house. At least with electric heat, you are not tempted to add those awful brick exterior chimneys to get rid of the fumes from a furnace. The bathroom can be discreetly located in a less important room, such as a storeroom or small bedroom.

In rooms which once glowed with the soft flickering light of candles, fire places or oil lamps, we unmercifully illuminate with fluorescent or over head light. Electric table lamps can be much more pleasant to eat by or to converse by, due to their softer lighting effect.

If you do have the privilege and pleasure of redoing an old house, go slowly. Initial enthusiasm can destroy all signs of unusual features of the house, such as the original floor lay out, bake-ovens stenciled walls, and so on. Try to assimilate the aspirations of the original owner. Was his mood predominantly folk-builder tradition, neoclassic, Regency or Victorian? How was this expressed in his building?

While we are willing to invest thousands of dollars in an old house, as we are impressed by the rising value of all things antique, we are not willing to invest the time in doing proper research on the period of the house, or to invest the money in hiring a sympathetic restoration designer to advise us.

Therefore, do not invade the countryside with your sheets of knotty pine to rape and plunder, but rather let those once proud country seats die inviolate.

I found an article by Jennifer McKendry. She is a history enthusiast in Kingston, Ontario. On her site she has written about antiques, architecture, old houses, and researching historic properties.

Source: In Praise of Older Houses - Jennifer McKendry (1971)

What is an Abandoned Barn Versus Inactive?

Written by Laura Brown

I looked at the photos of barns in this post. To me, most of them are inactive, not actually abandoned. They are still maintained, enough to not be falling down, don't look salvaged for barn boards, etc. So, they didn't really seem abandoned or derelict. Probably someone else would consider any barn not actively used to be abandoned. I guess it is all perspective. Are you someone using a barn or someone photographing it, looking at it for history, art, or industry/ agriculture or architecture?

I have not (so far) found a link to the photographer, John H. Busch or his fellow explorer, Mary Lynn Busch. There are good points in the post about exploring, history and photographing old places in Ontario. I've copied and pasted parts of the post, not in order so I can keep topics, like photographing the barns together.

Tips for Photographing Abandoned Barns

It’s interesting how you can photograph the same subject several times in one day and capture a different result each time, depending on the location of the sun, cloud cover, and location of the point of view. I learned through experience that my best colour photos are taken on cloudy days, but it is hard to exclude sunny-day shadows for good contrast.

I have shot and compiled a selection of these abandoned barns. For various reasons, it’s sometimes difficult to get the proper perspective while photographing these structures. Some are set far back from the road; there is often the presence of trees and foliage; and sometimes the time of day isn’t ideal. I believe some of my best photos of these barns were taken during the winter months, due to the absence of foliage, but ironically some of the best colours were during the summer months. Most of the barns are plain and unpainted, but a few are painted “barn red” while the odd one is white or green.

The Beginning of the End

The barns with missing boards or ones that have had part of their metal roofs blown off are the ones I refer to as doomed. Once this process begins, the barn will collapse relatively quickly. A year or two of rain on the dry hardwood beams, coupled with an entry for the wind to blow through, often speeds up the process. Gravity always seems to win in the end.

Another factor that contributes to the disappearance of these old barns is economics, including property taxes. Once the landowner realizes that the barn, which is often completely empty, is costing extra money in tax assessment, an excavator is brought in and the barn is dismantled quickly, often leaving the original farmhouse as the only building on the property.

To this day, terms such as “top plate, girt, corner post, brace, bent, mortise and tenon” still come to mind whenever I see different barns.

Source: Readers Digest: Abandoned Barns of Southwestern Ontario | Our Canada

Possibly the Weirdest Looking Tree in Ontario

Written by Laura Brown

Dawn Redwood TreeThis is called a dawn redwood tree. In 2015, it was voted as the most unique tree in the Great Toronto Tree Hunt. Unfortunately this is now 404 on the site and I could not find the photographs of the winning, or nominated trees. This is a very strange looking tree. I hope it is still standing and lasts a very long time.

This type of tree has been around from the ages of dinosaurs and it can grow in zone 5 but likes lots of sun and water. I looked for more photographs of this tree. Not all were as red as this. It might depend on the lighting at the time the photograph was taken, or the conditions may have been just right for it where this tree is planted.

Interested in growing one in Ontario? I found a post about growing dawn redwoods, a variety called gold rush, for Ontario gardeners at Canada's Local Gardener magazine: Dawn Redwood.

Near the Children’s Centre and Teaching Garden sits a massive and rare find – a dawn redwood (aka metasequoia), believed to be one of the oldest deciduous conifers in Toronto. It was a winner in the uniqueness category of LEAF’s Great Toronto Tree Hunt, submitted by author Jason Ramsay-Brown. It’s said to have been planted in 1960 on a plot bathed in early-morning sunlight on June 20 each year – the birthday of the wife of the gardener who planted it.

Source: Hidden Toronto: a growing list of the city's best-kept secrets