On this episode of Vintage Home I will visit Prince Edward County, Ontario to chat with Mike Williams – and his wife Jasna who took a century old cottage… and brought it back to life… to the way it was when it was originally built, with all the character and craftsmanship… fully intact.
Mike Williams was born in beautiful Prince Edward County. When he was a young boy he would have his family picnics at Wellington Memorial Park, located right on eastern Lake Ontario. Yes, Wellington is a small town that actually has its own harbour, a sand beach with a boardwalk, and a wonderful town park with a band stand, children’s playground, treed picnic area and great swimming directly off the park. It looks the same today as it did then, over a half a century ago. Wellington offers a unique geographical situation in that the prevailing winds blow directly in from the lake cooling the temperature during those hot summer days. The town motto was “The coolest spot when the weather’s hot”. There was no air conditioning 50 years ago, and it’s still not required.
As a boy Mike would marvel at those beautiful big homes with gracious inviting verandahs, on maple lined streets. If only he could have a home like that one day. Like most young people, Mike moved to the city to earn enough money to be able to come back some day.
Then, one afternoon in the fall of 2007, Mike’s wife Jasna said, “Lets have a toast to our new home “. “What new home?” he asked. She had answered his childhood dream and purchased “Trillium House” with out Mike knowing.
Built as a summer home in 1905 by well respected local builder W.W. Fitzgerald, the late Queen Anne Revival style house is replete with decorative shingles, flared gable siding, a bead board lined summer kitchen and stained glass and tin ceilings in every room, and best of all a gracious wrap around verandah overlooking maple lined Main Street in downtown Wellington.
The house had suffered many indignities during the economic ups and downs of the last 100 years, as well as the usual poorly thought out government-sponsored energy conservation programs that still occur from time to time.
Underneath the plastic siding was a layer of insulbrick, aluminum trim, and insulation, blown in through holes in the siding the size of shot gun slugs, plenty of epoxy was used to repair those holes!
There was an ugly duckling under all this waiting to become a beautiful swan once again. The two layers of siding were removed; the original wood siding was also removed, repaired, painted and reinstalled. The shingle mansard was originally ripped from the house, but by using old photographs and partial remains they were able to recreate all the original siding.
The interior, while in decline was 100% original, right down to the built-in cupboards in the kitchen. What a joy, removing and rehabilitating all the beautiful details! All the original stained glass was saved and the original tin and fir ceilings were repaired and repainted.
The house aside from all modern conveniences, such as heating, plumbing, wiring, dish washer etc. which are all discreetly tucked from view, is exactly as it looked 100 years ago.
Ioda Noble, the last owner, who had lived in the house since the late 1940’s supplied Mike and Jasna with all the original deeds and oral history. She knew virtually all the owners back to the 1920’s. A precocious lady and a great story teller, she now lives close by in retirement.
This project is a clear example of what almost any amateur couple can do with a little fore sight and discipline. Money is one of the lesser parts of the equation.
A couple today can still purchase an inexpensive older home, and with guidance from someone who has been through this before, and by staying away from current fad trends and those popular home improvement shows, relying on the best from the past, recreate a thing of beauty and by coincidence a place of pride with considerable increase in value.