Heritage Caledon awards presented

On June 5, the Town of Caledon and Heritage Caledon presented awards of excellence for two local restoration projects and plaques to mark the heritage designation of two historically significant local buildings.

“We have such a rich architectural history in Caledon,” said Mayor Allan Thompson.  “These awards and plaques being presented are tokens of our deep appreciation to the property owners who have helped preserve and restore that heritage.”

At a ceremony at town hall, Thompson recognized: Sam and Louanne Morra (award of excellence for the restoration of the Graham/Robinson House); Paul Morin (award of excellence for the restoration of the former Alton Congregational Church/town hall); Jenni Le Forestier and Alistair Sumner (designation plaque for the Drury House, 715 Bush Street); and John Spina (designation plaque for the Walker Farmhouse, 89 Walker Road West).

Graham/Robinson House

The Graham/Robinson House, commonly referred to as the Ontario Cottage, is a well preserved vernacular interpretation of Gothic Revival styling. Constructed in the late 1860s for William Graham or his son-in-law Robert Robinson, this former farmhouse is a one-and-a-half storey, solid brick residence clad in dichromatic brick with a gable roof, a two-storey projecting centre bay and a one-storey tail wing. The original brick carriage house has been rebuilt as an attached garage.

William Graham was a prominent area resident who distinguished himself as a farmer, storekeeper, postmaster (Tormore), developer of a saw and grist mill in Vaughan, magistrate, and founder of the True Blue Masonic Lodge in Bolton. Robert Robinson was a farmer and veterinary surgeon who was among the first to graduate from the Ontario Veterinary College. The Graham/Robinson families owned the property from 1840 to 1947.

In 2016, Sam and Louanne Morra facilitated the retention and reuse of this significant historic house by moving it from its original location on Highway 50 to their new subdivision on Albion-Vaughan Road. Now prominently sited at the entry to the subdivision, the Graham/Robinson House remains a community landmark.

Drury House

Just off Old Main Street in Belfountain is Gingerbread Cottage, a 19th century Gothic Revival style house. It is believed to have been built around 1888 for Mary and Henry Willis. Henry worked in the quarries at Forks of the Credit, as did his three sons. In 1905, the house was bought by local schoolteacher John Drury and his wife, Catherine. Catherine was the daughter of local store owners, Peter and Barbara McTaggart.

The Drurys made a number of changes to the house, most notably relocating it from its original location on the southwest corner of Old Main and Bush streets to its present site at 715 Bush Street.

They also raised the roof by three feet and added the front verandah with its ornate gingerbread trim, as well as a side bay window and a two-storey rear addition. Also of note is the decorative stamped tin that the Drurys used to clad the kitchen walls and ceiling, all of which remains remarkably intact.

John Drury taught at the Belfountain village school until 1937. It is said that he gave lessons to a number of his students at the kitchen table on winter evenings. The property later passed on to Catherine’s brother, Peter, and his wife, who farmed the adjacent land. It then changed hands a number of times before being purchased by current owners, Jenni Le Forestier and Alistair Sumner, in 2010.

With the house set among a mature yard and street trees, the property, just east of Belfountain’s historic downtown core, is a picturesque component of Bush Street.

Walker Farmhouse

The farmhouse at 89 Walker Road West is a rare example of a split-level stone ‘bank house’ inset into the natural slope of the property. It is very similar in style and age to the Caledon Inn and was likely constructed by the same stonemason. Built around 1863, the Georgian-style farmhouse replaced an earlier log cabin. Both houses were built for James Walker, an Irish immigrant. Of note, the house faces south to Walkers Road, which originated in the 1850s as a purpose-built lane connecting the farm to the village of Caledon East.

After James’ death in 1883, the property was taken over by his son, William John. The Walker family later became financially insolvent and, in 1897, the property was sold by public auction to local resident Henry Swinarton. The Walkers, however, continued to live on the property until the early 20th century.

Now, 155 years later, the Walker farmhouse retains many of its original architectural features, both inside and out. The stone craftsmanship of the property’s structures, together with the farm’s characteristic tree-lined laneway, continue to reflect the Walker family’s influence on the evolution of this 19th-century farmstead.

Alton Congregational Church

Constructed between 1875 and 1877, the former Alton Congregational Church and, later, town hall has had an eventful history. The survivor of devastating fires in 1882 and 1927, the building has experienced numerous reconstruction and architectural alterations and seen a variety of uses.

Its church function ended in 1910, after which it was used for wool storage by the Barber Carriage Company during the First World War. Between 1918 and 1974, it was the Alton Town Hall, the local fire hall from the 1930s to 1977, an antique showroom after 1974, and now an art gallery.

Built in the high Gothic style popular in the last quarter of the 19th century, the building is characterized by polychromatic brickwork, front and side buttresses and a projecting front entrance tower. Until recently, it was the only two-storey outhouse in Alton. Situated prominently on a corner village lot, the Paul Morin Gallery continues to be a landmark feature on Alton’s historic Main Street.

Photo, from the left, municipal Councillors Gord McClure, Jennifer Innis, Nick deBoer, Johanna Downey and Barb Shaughnessy, Heritage Caledon chair Joanne Crease, Paul Morin, Councillor Annette Groves, Heritage Caledon vice-chair Barbara McKenzie, Councillor Doug Beffort, Mayor Allan Thompson and Councillor Rob Mezzapelli.

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