Monday, March 29, 2010

First Tasks: Burying the Dead

It did not take long for us to realize just what we had bought into. The house’s unique quirks quickly became serious problems impossible to glibly dismiss.

The staircase to the basement was very narrow, making it next to impossible to move appliances in our out; an impediment made clearer to us by the basement graveyard we discovered on moving day. There were 7 dead appliances; big, cold hunks of metal, including a huge washer/dryer tower and one defunct oil furnace, all of which had been abandoned and left to rust.

We found in the damp recesses of the basement not only the unusual feature of an open well, there was also a door that opened up under the back porch with literately no visible means of exit to the outside.

Neither the house or the original builder could not be held responsible for this dilemma. It was the succession of homeowners who over the years had created the difficulty. Each new owner left their mark on the house by way of “home improvements.” In the case history of the door to nowhere, someone at some point, decided the house needed a back porch. Now, to be fair in laying blame, this homeowner considered the need for providing an occasional exit from the basement and created a prevision for this by making it possible to lift the porch decking to gain access the basement door. This was an awkward plan, but workable. A later resident however overruled his predecessor’s considerations with the installation of an overhead arbor that made it impossible to lift the decking.

If we wanted the dead appliances out of the basement, we had no choice but to cut a new “door” in the back porch floor. My husband Harold and our son Daniel then used a rope and pulley to hoist the old appliances up the five or six feet onto the porch and then dragged them out to the curb.

Moving Day

We moved in on a blistering day in August. Precious valuables and china, that I would trust to no one, where pilled into our little Toyota. The rest of our belongings made the twenty minute trip from our old townhouse to the new house in a small truck piloted by a rag tag group of men and adolescent boys posing as “professional movers.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Big White House

I had always admired the tall white house in the center of Huttonville whenever we had passed by. When it came up for sale in 1996, we decided to take a look at the property, even thought it was a bit out of our price range.

We went to see the house on a Saturday morning and found that it to be as charming inside as it was on the outside. It was a beautiful day in late spring and I clearly remember taking off my sandals when I stepped off the back porch because the grass was still wet with morning dew. I walked slowly down the property taking it all in. The deep, relatively even lot was bordered by long perennial beds that were shaded by towering maples and a massive black walnut tree. At the back of the yard, there were a large circular bed planted with culinary herbs. It was love at first sight.

Now, you know what they say: love is blind. I looked right at the house’s quirky character flaws that day and dismissed them all as things that could be easily changed. When the house inspection revealed even deeper, more distressing character traits: the roof was shot, the front porch had wood rot, the windows all needed to be replaced and there were clear signs of water issues in the basement. I dismissed them all with a lover’s enthusiastic optimism as things that could be overcome with a little bit of hard work.

A view of the steel bridge that originally crossed the Credit River at the intersection of Mississauga Road and Embleton Road. Our house can be seen in the distance.

This is a picture of Huttonville taken in the early part of the last century. Our house can be seen on the left.

Photo Credits: Thanks to the book "From the Wolf's Den to Huttonville and the Pioneers Who Made It Possible" published in 1996 by the Huttonville Book Committee. Publisher: Ampersand Printing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Into the Wolf’s Den: A Brief History

We live in a deep valley ringed with hills like a souffle that has fallen in the centre. Carved into the deepest recesses of the valley, the Credit River runs discreetly by, largely unseen behind a screen of the scrubby bushes and deciduous trees. Even the telltale sound of rushing water is all but obliterated by the constant drone of traffic speeding through the valley. Though neither particularly deep nor remarkably wide, the Credit River’s swift current, especially when swollen by spring showers, can be a significant force to be reckoned with.

A woollen mill was built on the banks of the Credit River by J.O. Hutton. It was sold to John McMurchy in 1887. The Mill operated until 1953 when a competition from larger mills, and a general slump in the textile industry, made it no longer viable.

The area once had the gothic name “the Wolf’s Den” because of the wolves that were supposed to have haunted the heavily forested valley. When European settlers first arrived the wolves posed a threat to livestock and it was considered unwise for humans stray too far from home after dark without a gun or an axe. The government dealt with the problem by offering a bounty on each wolf killed and encouraged settlers to trap and shoot them.

Today the woollen mill sits forlornly empty, its doors locked and its windows 
covered with rough planks.

Early descriptions of the area recount that stands of white pine towered some one hundred feet in the air and stood so tall and thick that they were almost impossible to fell. The first settlers harnessed the river’s power to clear the trees and saw timber for their homes. A small village, complete with a post office, timber, grist and woollen mills grew up on the banks of the river.

Many years later the village was renamed “Huttonville” after the area’s most prominent founding family the Huttons.

Photo Credits: Thanks to the book "From the Wolf's Den to Huttonville and the Pioneers Who Made It Possible" published in 1996 by the Huttonville Book Committee. Publisher: Ampersand Printing.