As sponsors of the 2016 Ontario Heritage Conference and members of The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, our Spring 16 newsletter is dedicated to our heritage inspired projects of the past 20 years.
Catherine Cassidy is a Designer with Build, a construction firm in Stratford, Ontario, specializing in new custom homes and renovations.
I love old houses, and thoughtfully designed and built new houses. So you can imagine my disappointment at witnessing the destruction of a fine old local yellow brick farmhouse so that a rather uninspired and oddly formed new house could take its place.
The builder of the new house has the audacity to call it a "farmhouse" on his website - well it certainly is on a farm, but it's no farmhouse in the traditional, memory inspiring "Christmas on the farm" way. Not by a country mile.
The loss of thoughtful buildings is not restricted to the urban landscape, if anything it's more widespread in the countryside around our cities. Bank barns and proper farm houses are lost to the enlargement and "big business-fying" of agriculture, as more and more farmland comes under the tillage of bigger and bigger operations. In this case it appears the desire for a new house blinded the owners to the beauty and enduring style of what they had. Perhaps they never appreciated it to begin with?
Sadly, these houses that have stood the test of time, are replaced with buildings that I dare say won't weather the years as well, and certainly don't catch the eye in the same way, nor invite us to enjoy a summer evening on the front porch. A serviceable brick exterior and slate roof is replaced with fake stone and asphalt shingles. Proper form and proportion disappear and fake dormers and illogical exterior details abound on the new. There are better ways to replace an old house if necessary.
Put aside the aesthetic and loss of history and think about the true cost of replacing a grand old house with a mediocre one. Perhaps it was cheaper to build new than fix the old (doubtful) but at what cost environmentally?
It is obviously being unceremoniously used as landfill at the back of the farm, little being recycled. The embodied energy that went into building this old house was low in comparison to the new house, and a lovely and character filled older home is gone and replaced with something ho-hum at best. A drive in the country to admire the landscape is now not as rewarding when I take this route, and I suspect other old house lovers feel the same way.
Rory McDonnell is a General Contractor, Licensed Carpenter and Architectural Designer with Build, a construction firm in Stratford, Ontario, specializing in new custom home builds and renovations.
I am a licensed carpenter,