HERITAGE MATTERS: Heritage Centre Wellington”™s 2015 awards of excellence

In celebration of Heritage Week, Heritage Centre Wellington congratulated the owners of part of the Marshall Block for the historically accurate restoration of the patterned slate roof and upper windows of the building locally known as the Rafferty Building in downtown Fergus.

In addition, Elora’s Parish of St. John the Evangelist is commended for its restoration, improved access for the disabled, and addition to the historically designated, Yellow House on Geddes Street, now being used as the Parish Centre.

At the corner of St. David and St. Andrew Street, the Marshall Block caught the attention of Dale and Lori Clarke. The well-preserved stone building in Fergus was one key feature that attracted them to the area 12 years ago. In 2013, when part of the Marshall Block was placed for sale, the Clarkes saw it as an opportunity to restore a building of great historical and architectural significance to the town.

By doing a little research at the Wellington County Archives, they located photos showing the original design of the slate tiles on the domed portion, and Mansard roof.   As locals watched with interest new slate tiles and copper flashing were installed by Forever Green Roofing, of Bradford. Not surprising for a building of 1880s vintage, there was a significant amount of wood that needed to be replaced. Using one of the old dormers as a guide, Steve Kamanar, of Canadian Wood, built five new dormers as well as crown molding that will be installed in the spring.

Heritage Centre Wellington saluted the Clarkes for the care and attention that they gave to the old Second Empire style building. That style, reminiscent of the grand buildings on Parisian Boulevards, came into vogue, especially for public and commercial buildings in Canada, in the late 19th century. There was sometimes a tax advantage to building in the Second Empire style, as the top floor, under a double-pitched Mansard roof (named after François Mansard, architect to Louis XIV) could be considered an attic. Dormer windows in the attic are a common feature.  Some of those are round, and known as “porthole” dormers.

Other features include ornate mouldings and brackets, especially under the eaves. Sometimes there is cresting on the roof.

Over the next few years, the Clarkes plan to continue their restoration of the building with the help of Grinham Architects, of Guelph. Their aim, they said, is to ensure the building stands proudly in the centre of downtown Fergus.

The wooden Yellow House at 168 Geddes is well-connected to Elora’s history. As the Heritage Designation for this building reads: “In 1857, Alexander (Sandy) Cuthbert went into partnership with George Noble as carriage and wagon manufacturers, Cuthbert being the blacksmith and Noble the carpenter. Their business prospered; and in 1862 they moved from the south side of the river to a new factory on Geddes Street. It was to the north of both St. John’s Church and the Cuthbert house on Lot 43. Cuthbert chose this home to be near his workplace, as this was a commonality in the nineteenth century.

One of their employees was a young blacksmith, David Boyle, who later became famous as an archaeologist and curator of the Royal Ontario Museum. Cuthbert rented the house on Lot 43 for a number of years before purchasing it in 1875. In 1876, the partnership was dissolved; however, both men prospered independently into the 1880s.

St. John’s has done a careful restoration to the older part of the building and added a sensitive addition to refurbish the building as a parish centre and music library.