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Monday, May 27, 2013

..."a lousy carpenter and a worse writer..."

log house near East Lake
 As a student of architectural history, I am especially drawn to Al Purdy's meditations on the  homes built by UEL arrivals in the early Ten Towns, the townships surveyed for the refugees.

Many readers of Al Purdy observe: "wow, a poem that talks about hockey." Me, I'm pleased to read a poem that mentions the ill-advised demolition of a Regency cottage (Place of Fire), or Vitruvius, the ancient Roman who codified building practices.
Poems by a guy who relates construction techniques of the bronze age Colchis people on the Black Sea to orioles nesting on Roblin Lake..
West Lake, PEC - surely a former log dwelling

In 'In Search of Owen Roblin' Purdy recounts the days after the A-frame was built (or begun), when his spirits were flagging and his attention turned to the settlement nearby, the village of Ameliasburgh, once Roblin's Mill (earlier Way's Mill but that's another story indeed).

Not surprisingly, Al, the failure at school who became a voracious and omnivorous reader, a formidable autodidact and a compulsive book collector, made a study of the history of building in the area. Starting with the early pioneers, with whom he now had a bond, he describes the first, second and third homes which tell the settlement story in the township, and across the county of Prince Edward.

American inspired Georgian at the Carrying Place

"-Late 19th-century houses in the village
more scattered thru the countryside
many of these old places being
a silent kind of triumph in survival
their owners celebrated with wood and stone
a dozen panes of glass for each window
where glass had been so scarce in the beginning..."

a stone Regency cottage near Consecon

  "Usually they were "second houses"
  the first having been log construction
  long gone back into earth...

my childhood home with some pretty fine gingerbread

And then there were the "third houses"
some with white gingerbread woodwork
complicated as catacombs of the bone brain
a pattern of wood curlicues entangled with time
Blindly staring at the melodious silent gingerbread
I realized that here was the exact spot
where a 19th-century man
worked an hour longer than he had to 
because he got interested and forgot everything else
-that lost 19th-century hour
is still visible at one corner of the house..."

the architecturally significant Dr. File house in A'burgh

The good doctor's across-the-street neighbour
- amply bracketed Italianate
This red-brick Gothic farmhouse (before 1874) in  Ameliasburgh, with its rare and beautiful Chinoiserie glass, once housed the village's physician, Dr. File. Could the gingerbread (bargeboard) be the inspiration for Purdy's musings on woodcarvers?  Stokes and Cruikshank describe a second house in the village with fine bargeboard. I wonder if it has gone the way of so many of the village's significant early buildings?

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