Fifty years in the restoration or reproduction of period houses often offers unexpected challenges. Dr. Morley for instance, was particular about having a period style house, so particular that we drove over most of southern Ontario picking out what we agreed were the nicest, while pertinent features of mid-century stone houses. Leaving out the bric-a-brac and fancy stuff that often pushed its way into loose interpretations of the style was atop a long list.
The plan evolved until we were all on the same blueprint page. But when they showed me the steep hillside available on their newly acquired lot, I must admit, I had misgivings, even though we knew a walk-out to the back to access the forest would have to be part of the plan.
Obviously, some serious tiering of the slope was needed. Three major levels were required. Fortunately, we had a good excavator that knew how to tear up the land just right (and put it back just right too, after the house was built).
A larger challenge now faced us. The stones. On our fact-finding missions we often found ourselves aghast at the size of the stones those masons threw around in “the old days.” Enormous didn’t quite cover it. But we had to have them, didn’t we? I thought back to the fireplace we built on my first log house in1967 near Uxbridge. I remembered that we salvaged those stones that climbed up the logs from a few local barn foundations, particularly those monstrous corner stones. Maybe there were enough old barn foundations still to be found…and scrounged?
Well, there were. Six or seven, in fact. That’s a lot of really old (we like old) hand-crafted pre-Cambrian granite corners to be reused. Truck after truckload deposited them around our foundation. Acres of them. No one seemed to believe me when I kept saying “keep ‘em coming.” You soon couldn’t see the forest for the stones. Finally, I said “Stop.” Would you believe, that after months of the really hard labor of lifting the monsters one-by-one into place, we were only short about six stones. (found of course, especially the big one that master mason Glen Ward carved the name Morley onto then setting it proudly near the top of the north gable.
There were other challenges too, perhaps not so daunting…like how to reproduce those folding interior shutters to fit perfectly…and in choice mahogany, no less. Or how to accommodate an “old English style” water-collecting cistern into the basement…while not having the rainwater collectors show on the exterior. Or how to produce a simple stair spindle with just the right taper at its top and bottom (each different of course).
Oh well, all easy stuff, after the fact.