Ontario, Canada: A Heritage in Stone

I recently received a very handsome book in the mail. It came from author and architectural conservationist Nina Perkins Chapple. The book is A Heritage of Stone: Buildings of the Niagara Peninsula, Fergus and Elora, Guelph, Region of Waterloo, Cambridge, Paris, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough, Hamilton and St. Marys. In clear prose, Chapple describes the fascinating development of the stone architecture in southwestern Ontario in the nineteenth century.

Filled with excellent photographs, the book details 114 examples of stone buildings. They range from the simple Burlington Canal Lighhouse (1858) to the elaborate, Gothic Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (1876-1888); from the massive Galt Foundry and Machine Works (1875) to the one-story McDougall Cottage (1858); and from ashlar to cobblestone to rough hewn blocks. Each building includes information on the history, builder, and designer, along with an address.

Below is a sample of some of the buildings described in the book. They reveal once again how the underlying geology influences architecture and helps to create a local aesthetic. Chapple’s book makes me want to go this area to explore the amazing stone architecture, certainly some of the most diverse and intriguing that I have seen.

Paris, Ontario has an unusual legacy of houses built with cobblestones. The style was popular in nearby western New York from the 1830s to 1860s. According to Chapple, a cobble “can be held in the palm of a hand.” Cobbles served no structural purpose and instead were used as a thin veneer. (photo from Ontario Architecture web site)

House of Heads (1858), carved out of limestone by English mason Matthew Bell. Bell built several homes for his children in the town of Guelph, including one of which may include a bust of Charles Dickens. (photo from Ontario Architecture web site)

John Brubacher house (1850), a classic Mennonite home making use of stones cleared from nearby fields. The split granite stones were not laid in courses. Dozens of such simple farmhouses still stand. (photo from Mennonite Historic Society of Ontario web site.)

Galt Post Office (1885) – High Victorian style – One of many structures built with local granite fieldstones, which glaciers had transported and deposited on the plains surrounding the area now designated as Cambridge. The former town of Galt is known as the “granite city.”

4 thoughts on “Ontario, Canada: A Heritage in Stone”

  1. It’s great to see good information being shared and also to see fresh, creative ideas that have never been done before.

  2. Amazing blog thank you. I have only just started to read but this post caught my attention as I live in one of the little rubble stone houses in Galt…. literally a stone's throw from the heritage buildings you mention from the book. I am apprenticing as a banker mason so I too share your passion for stone.
    This area is small, but worth visiting….

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