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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 10

The Architectural Heritage of the Rideau Corridor

by Barbara A. Humphreys

Houses of the Rideau

The pre-1880 houses recorded in the Rideau Corridor cover a span of 64 years and include log, stone, frame and brick construction. Approximately 70 per cent of the 1,677 houses recorded are located on farms or in small communities and the balance in the larger centres of Perth, Smith's Falls, Merrickville and Kemptville. Most of the houses were constructed between 1830 and 1860 by emigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

The majority of the houses were of the same basic form, differing only in details which reflect either the origin of their builders or owners, or the period of construction and the nature of the building materials used. They are generally rectangular, end-gabled structures with a chimney at each end; the main entrance door is centrally located on the long wall, and the windows are symmetrically arranged. Most of the houses recorded are 1-1/2 storeys high and have either a straight eave line or a small decorative gable over the main entrance in which there is a decorative window or sometimes a door. Examples of the typical stone houses recorded are illustrated by the house in North Gower township (Fig. 2) and the house in Heckston (Fig. 3) The only deviation from the end-gabled form which occurs with any frequency in the Rideau area is a 1-1/2-storey front-gable design with an off-centre door. This style is usually found in frame or brick houses in the area but is rarely seen in stone.

2 The simple lines, unbroken eave and general proportions of this stone house, built about 1832 in Heckston, south sower township, are typical of the earlier houses in the Rideau area.

3 "Thunderwood Farm" built about 1840 in North Gower township (Con. 1. Lot 23), with its centre front gable, end chimneys and decorative doorway is typical in design of many of the houses in the Rideau corridor including those of frame and brick as well as stone.

Influences of all the architectural styles that were popular in pre-1880 Upper Canada are seen to some degree in the detailing of houses of the Rideau Corridor. The influence of the Classical Revival predominates, however, since it was the current style in the country at the time when most of the recorded houses were built. Except for the Adamesque fanlight transom and the decorative Gothic trim, evidence of the other architectural styles is quite limited. Generally speaking, the architecture of the houses is basically very simple in form and detailing, dependent for effect almost entirely on good proportions. The restraint in detailing is an asset and the result a heritage of simple, classically proportioned structures outstanding for their consistently good design.

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