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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 10



The Architectural Heritage of the Rideau Corridor

by Barbara A. Humphreys

Stone Houses

Over 400 stone houses were recorded and these are, with few exceptions, of the basic end-gabled design, 1-1/2 storeys high with end chimneys and usually a gable over the front door. Many have a rear wing, built at the same time as the original structure or a few years later to provide either the main kitchen or a summer kitchen, and in a few instances a carriage house as well.

Roof pitches of the earliest gabled stone houses were pleasantly low, probably reflecting a Scottish influence and contrasting markedly with the steeply pitched gable roofs of the very early stone buildings of Quebec. Most stone houses built after 1835 recorded in the Rideau area have medium-pitched roofs, designed to provide as much living space on the second floor as possible and to avoid the construction costs and increased tax assessment of the full two-storey house. The occasional hip-roofed stone house was built and later in the period a few steeply pitched roofs occur, the latter reflecting the influence of the Gothic Revival style.

Most of the houses are constructed of coursed or uncoursed sandstone or limestone squared rubble, and sometimes dressed stone quoins were used. Mortar has been very generously applied on some to the extent that it covers much of the stonework. Plaster or "rough-cast" has been added as a protective finish to others, but much of this has since fallen away or been removed by recent owners. On a few, this plaster finish has been scored to resemble ashlar, as on the large Haggart-Shortt house in Perth (Fig. 15). Others have a cut-stone front and rubble sides. A fine example of this type of finish is the Stephen Merrick Classical Revival house in Merrickville (Fig. 16).


15 The Haggart Shortt house in Perth: an early hip-roofed design in stone, plastered and scored to resemble ashlar. It was erected in 1837 for John Haggart, a miller from Scotland.


16 Erected in 1844 in Merrickville by Stephen Merrick, son of the founder of Merrickville, the front of this rubble stone house is of ashlar detailed in the style of the Classical Revival, including cut stone pilasters at each end.

Foundation walls are of coarsely laid rubble or fieldstone, two to three feet thick. Often there is an additional supporting stone wall about 18 inches thick centrally located in the basement and running the length of the house. The main supporting beams are of logs, often with the bark still on them, and range in size from 8 to 12 inches in diameter. The upper walls are approximately two feet thick on the smaller houses, but are thicker than this on some of the taller two-storey buildings, such as the William Merrick house in Merrickville (Fig. 17) where the walls of the first floor level are four feet thick, tapering to two feet at the top level. Rafters and ridge-poles are occasionally of unsawn logs about six inches in diameter but most often they are of sawn lumber either butted or, in better types of construction, fastened with wooden pegs. Framing timbers in some of the early buildings display adze marks or marks of the old pit saw. More commonly found, however, are the marks of the circular saw which came into general use in the 1840s. Floor and roof boards generally average 8 to 10 inches in width but 12- to 14-inch widths are often seen in the larger and earlier buildings. The interior finish on the stone walls was commonly plaster applied over split cedar or sawn lath or, in a few instances, directly to the stone wall. Interior partitions were usually finished in lath and plaster, but those made of vertical butted boards covered with wallpaper were also seen.


17 William Merrick house in Merrickville, built about 1820. The verandah and decorative bargeboard are later additions.

The majority of the stone houses have a centre-hall plan, the smaller ones having a "boxed" stair (enclosed on both sides) with one large room on one side and two small ones on the other. Larger houses had a wider stair hall, giving access to the rear of the house and also permitting the use of a decorative stair rail and newel post. In some of the smaller, early houses the second floor was not divided and served as a dormitory type of accommodation. However, in the larger houses second floors were partitioned and by mid-century, when heating stoves were used, "heat holes" were provided between adjacent rooms to permit the passage of warm air from a stove located in one of the rooms or in the hallway. Basements in a few of the early houses, such as the Nabert house in Burritts Rapids, were fully finished and contained kitchens with trimmed fireplace openings and bake-ovens; others have huge cisterns, but many were unfinished or excavated only enough to provide a cold-storage area.

Heating of the early stone houses depended almost entirely on fireplaces, but since only one fireplace was exempt from taxation, few of the smaller houses have more than two, one in the kitchen for cooking and another in the parlour. Larger houses often have at least one additional fireplace located in the master bedroom, and, depending on the size of the house and the wealth of the owner, fireplaces in other rooms also. For example the Harris-Radenhurst-Inderwicke house in Perth (Fig. 18) has five and a kitchen cooking fireplace as well. The chimneys of the stone houses are located on the ridge of the roof at each gable end and are constructed of stone and of generous proportions particularly where designed for two flues (see Fig. 19).


18 Harris-Radenhurst-Inderwicke house in Perth, originally built in 1824, with the front gable added many years later, and having one of the most handsome doorways in the Rideau Corridor. On the grounds is a plague commemorating Canada's last duel which took place in the area in 1832.


19 Stone house in Drummond township (Con. 3, Lot 3) with the broad chimneys typical of the early designs.

When stoves became readily available in the late 1830s, one chimney served the kitchen fireplace and the other the stove which was used for heating rather than cooking. It then became a mark of style and affluence to build a house without any fireplace at all to indicate the ownership of both cooking and heating appliances. Cook-stoves and heaters, however, were accompanied by an unattractive and dangerous array of stove-pipes leading to rooms on the upper floors and to the two chimneys which continued to be located at each gable end. Concealed pipes and central heating furnaces were unknown in the 1850s in the Rideau Corridor.

Considering the heating problems, most of the stone houses are designed with a surprisingly large number of windows. The main windows were almost invariably rectangular in shape, symmetrically arranged on each elevation and with untrimmed openings and sills of cut stone or wood. Since in the early 19th century glass was available only in small sizes, windows were multiple paned, the common pane size being approximately 7-1/2 inches by 9-1/2 inches. Nearly all of the windows were double hung (the casement type is rarely seen), and the most popular sash size was three panes wide by four high, actual dimensions varying with the size of the glass. A good example of a typical window may be seen on a house in South Crosby township (Figs. 20, 21), and an example of the same type only larger (and less common) on the house built near Westport (Figs. 22, 23). An interesting deviation from the standard style was a triple sash design with a large central sash flanked by slimmer ones on either side. Sometimes called a "Venetian window," it can be seen with the original small panes intact on the house in Inverary (Figs. 24, 25).




20-21 Typical twelve-pane, slim mullioned windows seen on a stone house in South Crosby township (Con. 2, Lot 10).




22-23 House on Mountain Road near Westport, North Crosby township, built in the mid-19th century with large, handsome multi-paned sash.




24-25 "Venetian" windows on a stone house in Inverary, Storrington township

The front gable window on those stone houses having a broken eave line was treated as a decorative as well as a practical feature. The most common style was the semi-circular head such as is seen on a handsome house in Bastard township (Fig. 26). Oval and half-round, pointed Gothic, flatter Tudor and even Ogee arched windows were also used but not in sufficient quantity or concentration to suggest any style development pattern. They were more apt to be the result of the fancy of the builder or owner, or of the millwork available in the particular area at the time. Typical examples of these less common but more decorative designs of front gable windows are illustrated in Figures 27 to 31.


26 Front gable windows of typical semi circular design built in the 1850s in Bastard township (Con. 3, Lot 23).


27 Gable windows, Adamesque oval, Oxford township (Con. 3, Lot 24).


28 Gable windows. Classical Revival half round, Oxford township (Con. 1, Lot 1).


29 Gable windows. Ogee design, Osgoode township (Con. 1, Lot 9).


30 Gable windows. Gothic Revival, Oxford township (Con. 1, Lot 2).


31 Gable windows, "Carpenter's Gothic" built in 1843 in Glenburnie, Kingston township.

On the better houses, eaves, whether straight or broken by a front gable, were trimmed with a few well-proportioned classical mouldings and returned on adjacent walls as seen on the house in Bastard township (Fig. 32). In addition to moulded eaves a few houses have decorative cornices as well, a handsome example being the well detailed house in Oxford township (Fig. 33). Here mutule blocks of the very early Classical Revival style are seen combined with a carefully detailed frieze on both the main part of the building and the wing. Less elaborate but more frequently seen is the cornice with dentil trim such as exists on the mid-century house in South Elmsley township (Fig. 34).


32 Moulded trim of classical design on a house in Bastard township (Con. 2, Lot 25).


33 Unusually elaborate cornice in Oxford township (Con. 1, Lot 1).


34 Classical mouldings and dentil trim on a house in South Elmsley township (Con. 2, Lot 21). This trim is repeated our the entranceway (see Fig 46).

The main entranceway of the end-gabled stone houses which, as noted earlier, is located on the long wall is usually the most decorative feature of the house. Examples of the original doors themselves indicate that entrance doors were wide and handsomely paneled, most often in a six-panel design as seen on the house in North Elmsley township (Fig. 35). The more elaborate eight-panel pattern is found on the door of a house in South Crosby township (Fig. 36) and a seven-panel variation can be seen on a house in Prospect (Fig. 37). Doors were often placed flush with the interior surface of the thick stone wall and the resulting embrasure was finished in wood paneling. A fine example of such a doorway is the entrance to the house shown in Figure 36.


35 The six-panel door on this home in North Elmsley township (Con. 7, Lot 3) is the style most commonly seen on the stone houses where the original doors remain.


36 A very handsome eight-panel door with a paneled embrasure, built about 1860 in South Crosby township (Con. 2, Lot 14).


37 Seven-panel door design in Prospect, Beckwith township.

Customarily doors were further enhanced by the addition of a transom and sidelights, which were practical as well as decorative features. The transoms on the early buildings were minimal in size and semi-circular or semi-elliptical in shape. The practical need for additional light in the entrance hall resulted in the provision of sidelights, and this in turn necessitated a wider transom. These wider transoms were either semi-elliptical or rectangular, the former design predominating in the late 1820s and the latter superseding it in the mid-1830s, All three transom designs — semi-circular, semi-elliptical or rectangular — are direct reflections of the architectural style popular at the time of their construction.

When the first stone houses were erected in the Rideau Corridor the influence of the British Renaissance or Georgian style was very evident. Although smaller in size, the houses have the solid proportions and balanced fašades associated with the early Georgian structures. Doorways on the houses of this early design, such as the Chester-McCabe house in Montague township (Fig. 38), are narrow and usually have a small semi-circular transom.




38-39 Chester-McCabe house, Montague township (Con. A, Lot 5), was built in 1830 by John Chester in the sturdy British Renaissance style typical of the early two-storey stone houses along the Rideau.

The semi-elliptical shape of the wider transom introduced in the mid-1820s was a direct reflection of the Adamesque style popular in Upper Canada at that time. The Adamesque style was developed in England in the 18th century by the brothers Adam, a trio of English architects whose work was characterized by delicacy of detail and the use of the curved line; ovals and ellipses became popular art forms and appeared on interiors as decorative trim, and on exteriors as small decorative windows and door transoms. The semi-elliptical or fanlight transom quickly became a distinguishing feature of the style known as the "Adam style" in England, the "Federal style" in the United States and the "Adamesque" in Canada. It was popular in Canada from about 1825 to 1835 and, as with most of the 19th-century style developments in Upper Canada, reflected both British and American influences. The fanlight transom, however, seems to have been brought to the Rideau area by the Loyalist settlers. So firmly established was this association that in one part of the corridor at least, the fan light-transomed door was known as the "Loyalist door" and was said to have been used on their houses by those who wanted all to know that a United Empire Loyalist dwelt therein.

The semi-elliptical transom was used extensively in the Rideau Corridor from Perth to Kingston during the late 1820s and early 1830s and occasionally until mid-century. Well over 100 were recorded, and while all were similar in design, only four were identical in detail. Variations were found in the trim of the opening, which was moulded or had pilasters or symmetrical trim. Some of the transoms have wooden louvres rather than glass, and in a few instances simple tracery in wood has been used on both transom and side lights. A very handsome example of symmetrical trim appears on the entranceway of a house in Bastard township (Fig. 40); an attractive design with wooden louvres is seen in the pre-1855 house in Wolford township (Fig. 41), and a fine example of wood tracery occurs on the very attractive entranceway of the Harris-Radenhurst-Inderwicke house in Perth (Fig. 42).


40 Classical mouldings and symmetrical trim on an 1854 house in Bastard township (Con. 3, Lot 23).


41 Wooden louvres and paneled trim in Wolford township (Con. C, Lot 1).


42 Graceful tracery in wood on the Harris-Radenhurst-Inderwicke house in Perth (see Fig. 18 for a full view of this house)

Rectangular transoms, a style development of the Classical Revival period, came into use in the Rideau area in the mid-1830s and soon superseded the semi-elliptical shape throughout the corridor.

The Classical Revival style, based on the details of both Greek and Roman architectural design, was both an English and an American revival during the last quarter of the 18th century, with the English emphasizing the work of Greece and the Americans that of Rome. Its development in England was stimulated by the increasing interest there in Greece, due partially to the growing scholarly knowledge of the arts of classical Greece, access to these treasures and sympathy with Greece in her war of independence with the Turks. In America it was popularized by Thomas Jefferson's enthusiastic selection of the classical architecture of the old Roman Republic as a perfect model for that of the new republic in America. This revival, which dictated the use of temple fronts on all manner of buildings from houses to railway stations, also dictated the use of classical mouldings, triangular pediments, pilasters, columns and, above all, the straight line. The ovals, arcs and ellipses of the Adamesque style disappeared and the graceful fanlight gave way to the slim rectangular transom.

Because of the popularity of the Classical Revival style which was heavy with moral implications, the rectangular transom had all but superseded the fanlight transom by the mid-1830s. However, the rectangular transomed doors could also be very handsome in design and while no pattern book basis has as yet been found for them, not a few of the very modest as well as the more splendid houses of the Rideau can boast a door done in the best tradition of the Classical Revival style. Details of trim and tracery used on these entranceways are very similar to those used with the semi-elliptical transoms. Well-detailed examples of the rectangular transom design can be seen on the houses in Oxford township (Fig. 43);the Stephen Merrick house in Merrickville (Fig. 44), displaying as well a porch in the same style with fluted columns and moulded fascia; Cattin Hall near Westport (Fig. 45), and a house in South Elmsley township (Fig. 46). Comparison of the latter two (built about 20 years apart) shows the change in proportions which occurred on the later (1845-60) buildings when doorways became somewhat narrower and taller.


43 Rectangular transom on a stone house built in 1847 with an interesting early screen door, Oxford township (Con. 8, Lot 27).


44 Entrance porch and door of Stephen Merrick house in Merrickville (see Fig. 16 for a full view of this house).


45 Entrance to Cattin Hall in North Crosby township (Con. 7, Lot 8) built about 1837.


46 Dentil trimmed doorway in South Elmsley township (Con. 2, Lot 21) built in the 1850s.

While the Classical Revival was the most influential style in the design of the stone houses in the Rideau Corridor, exceptions are seen as well. The earlier structures show the influence of the Regency style, whose development in the area was concurrent with that of the Classical Revival. Distinguishing features of this style include the use of the hip roof, verandahs, tall first-floor windows and single or double pairs of large, important chimneys. An interesting example of the early Regency hip-roof design combined with the fanlight door of the preceding Adamesque period is the Ferguson house in Kemptville (Fig. 47). This particular house is interesting for other reasons too, having been built with funds originally collected for the use of the infamous Hunters Lodge whose members were pledged to assist the rebels during the Rebellion of 1838. In an ironic turn of fate, it later became well known as the home of the Honourable Howard Ferguson, premier of Ontario from 1923 to 1930.


47 Ferguson house in Kemptville, built in 1840.

Toward mid-century, the design details of the new stone houses were more apt to be in keeping with the later architectural styles in the corridor; for example, the house in North Elmsley township (Fig. 48) shows the sharply pointed gable and gingerbread trim typical of the Gothic Revival style as applied to domestic buildings. Attractive examples of such trim used on stone houses in the Rideau Corridor are shown in Figures 49 to 51. The original Shaw house in Perth (Fig. 52) has the projecting frontispiece, wide bracketed eaves and semi-circular-headed decorative windows of the Italianate style, which became popular from about 1850 on but is not seen to any extent in stone in the Rideau area. Another example of the few recorded of this Italianate influence in stone house design is seen in the bracketed eaves and gable window of the Phelan house built in the 1860s in North Gower township (Fig. 53).


48 Gothic Revival detailing in North Elmsley township (Con. 10, Lot 29).


49 The Scottish thistle in the treillage design suggests the origin of the owner of this house, which was built in 1850 by James Lindsay in North Gower township (Con. 1, Lot 25) and has remained in the same family for five generations.


50 Verandah treillage on a stone house built in the late 1850s in South Burgess township (Con. 1, Lot 24).


51 Gothic gingerbread and sturdy finial on St. John's Presbytery in Perth.


52 Shaw house in Perth built in the early 1850s for $9,000, an example of the Italianate style as seen in the Rideau Corridor.


53 Phelan house, North Gower township (Con. 2, Lot 16), with emphatic detailing of Italianate influence. This house, built in the 1860s, also has a handsome arched entranceway into the carriage shed located in the rear wing.

Regardless of their particular architectural style or the fact that they constitute a relatively small percentage of the total number of buildings recorded in the survey, these stone houses are as a group undoubtedly the most outstanding feature of the architecture of the Rideau Corridor, distinguished not only in design and craftsmanship but in historical connotation as well.



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