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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

Brick Houses

Although brick became one of the most popular finishes for domestic buildings in Ontario by the late 1800s, its use in the pre-1880 period in the Rideau Corridor was comparatively rare. Brick-finished buildings accounted for only 14 per cent of the total recorded, and of that group it is estimated that well over half were erected after 1850. Bricks became more readily available after mid-century and continued to grow in popularity for domestic as well as commercial buildings, and by 1880 few houses in the corridor were being erected of stone. Because of their relatively late date of construction, brick houses in the Rideau area are seen in a wider variety of styles than the stone structures. The early designs followed the same style as seen in contemporary stone or frame houses, and are generally end-gabled with a symmetrical fašade, centre door, chimney at each end and a gable over the front door housing a semi-circular-headed decorative window. Brick houses built after mid-century in the corridor are more apt to be of the later gable-fronted style, the L-shaped plan, usually with a partial verandah and sometimes a bay window, or a hip-roofed design and Italianate detailing.

Construction followed that of the frame houses, and being later in date, used more sawn lumber and fewer log beams or rafters. Walls were of wood framing with brick facing, or of two and sometimes three layers of brick. As with the grout-filled frame walls of the wood houses, whether these "solid" brick walls were two or three layers thick was difficult to discern and the recorders were dependent on knowledgeable householders for this type of information. Probably most of the brick houses built in the area in the 1860s and earlier were of two layers of brick, but further structural surveying would be required to establish this detail with any degree of accuracy.

In the early days the brick used was locally made, brickyards being established at several places throughout the corridor where suitable clay could be found. Brick sizes varied, some being larger, others smaller than the size used today. The colour of the bricks depended on the type of clay available.5 The early ones were light red, some with a pink, some with an orange cast. Yellow or buff-coloured brick was produced as well, but its use was restricted to the decorative trim on door and window openings. An interesting exception to this is seen in the Merrickville area where alternating red and yellow bricks were used in each course of the building wall. Laid in a simple bond, the effect is less busy than it sounds since the colours are mellow and the pattern consistent. It was used by John "Survey" Burchill, who surveyed the village of Merrickville, on the fine home he built there in 1851 (Fig. 68). Another interesting example is the Gothic Revival house built in 1858 in Wolford township (Fig. 69).


68 Burchill house in Merrickville, Wolford township, built of alternating red and yellow brick in the solid British Renaissance style and lightened by an Adamesque fanlight door.


69 House of alternating red and yellow brick in Wolford township (Con. 2, Lot 23). While the design is the typical end-gable style the taller proportions of the building, the high front gable and Gothic Revival windows indicate its later date (1858) despite the Adamesque door.

Detailing, as with contemporary stone houses, is concentrated on the main entrance door of the end-gabled structure. Fanlight-transomed doors were recorded, a notable example being that of the Summit House in Perth (Fig. 70), a remarkably early brick building erected in 1823 and designed with an Adamesque fanlight transom, an oval decorative window of the same style and the tall first-floor windows and important chimneys (now missing) of the Regency period. Another interesting example, also in Perth, is the McMartin house (Figs. 71, 72), a very large handsome building erected in 1839 by an ex-American who imported American bricks, American workmen and apparently American designers also, since it is an adaptation of the very popular Federal style of the United States, a style rarely seen in its entirety in this part of Ontario. Fanlight doors are found, too, on the smaller houses such as the house in Wolford township shown in Figures 73 and 74. Rectangular transoms, however, were more common done in the Classical Revival style and window openings were untrimmed and rectangular, as on the McCrea house in Wolford township (Figs. 75, 76). On the later designs this rectangular opening gave way to a segmental shape which became the one most commonly used on brick buildings from the late 1870s on.


70 Summit house on Drummond Street in Perth was built by James Boulton, Perth's first lawyer, and shows the influences of both Adamesque and Regency architectural styles.




71-72 McMartin house in Perth, now the property of the Ontario Heritage Foundation, is a relatively rare example of the American Federal style in Upper Canada.




73-74 House in Wolford township (Con. C, Lot 1), built in the 1860s of red brick with cut-stone trim, has identical fanlight transom doors on both front and back fašades.




75-76 Built by Alexander McCrea in 1830 in Wolford Township (Con, 3, Lot 21), this brick house has a rectangular transom door of the classical Revival style.

The desire for fancy buildings which was part of the Gothic Revival is evident in the area in the extensive use of stone or contrasting coloured brick for door and window trim and often for quoins as well. This trim is usually wide and rather heavy in scale and thus is a dominating feature on the smaller houses. An example of stone trim is seen on the Samuel Starr Easton house in Wolford township (Fig. 77), and of contrasting brick on the Kelly house in Osgoode township (Fig. 78). Equally decorative but somewhat finer in scale is the brick trim on the house in Oxford township seen in Figures 79 and 80. Very decorative brick-work used as a frieze is rare in the area, the only example recorded being a house in Marlborough (Fig. 81). Gothic detailing was used extensively on verandah treillage and occasionally for bargeboard trim. As with the frame examples, this type of detailing became coarser later in the century when it was more apt to have been mass-produced in the local mill. Earlier examples, such as is seen on Van Buren Street in Kemptville (Figs. 82, 83), show the finer scaling of individual design and craftsmanship.


77 Samuel Starr Easton house in Wolford township (Con. 2, Lot 24), built in 1860 of red brick with cut-stone trim. There is an extensive rear wing showing the original arched entranceway to the carriage house, but the verandah which once extended along three sides of the building has been removed.


78 Contrasting yellow brick is used for the trim on this red brick house in Osgoode township (Con. 1, Lot 17), built about 1880 with segmental-headed windows typical of this period.




79-80 Red brick house in Oxford township (Con. 2, Lot 10), built about 1860 with an interesting use of yellow brick as trim.


81 A decorative frieze in the brickwork as well as Tudor arched front gable window are unusual details of this house in Marlborough township (Con. 6, Lot 12).




82-83 House on Van Buren Street in Kemptville with interesting verandah treillage and the segmental-headed window and door openings typical of the post-1870 period.

Since the Italianate style was becoming popular in Canada at about the same time bricks were becoming more readily available, its stylistic features are often seen on brick buildings. The Italianate was a style derived from Italian villa design and its extensive use of semi-circular-headed window and door openings caused it to be known also as the Round-Headed style. In addition to this type of opening, it is also identified by wide bracketed eaves and projecting frontis pieces and towers centrally or asymmetrically located. Not a great many examples of this style were seen in the Rideau Corridor as it was customarily a "town style" and used for rather elaborate houses. An example carried out in brick and erected in the 1870s is found on Isabella Street in Perth (Fig. 84).


84 Allan house on Isabella Street in Perth is as example of the late Italianate style built in yellow brick.

Generally speaking, most of the brick houses in the corridor, being built well after mid-century, tend to have the more attenuated proportions of the later architectural styles: the buildings are higher, roof pitches steeper and windows taller and narrower than the pre-1850 houses. Unfortunately, not too many gained through their detailing the charm they lost in these new proportions, and consequently as a group they are not as attractive as the stone houses that preceded them.



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