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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Walking tour looks behind history of NOTL heritage homes
Brian Marshall shares his expertise about the historical architecture of Niagara-on-theLake during the Neighbourhood Walks series last Friday. JULIA SACCO

More than 230 years ago, Niagara-on-the-Lake was founded as the first capital of Upper Canada.

Some of the original homes of important townspeople still stand here today, and on Friday, realtor and architecture expert Brian Marshall led a walking tour in which he highlighted some key properties.

The trek was part of the NOTL Museum’s 2023 series of “Neighbourhood Walks,” held every Friday this May.

Perhaps one of the most eye-catching homes in NOTL is the Fanny Rowley house across from Queen’s Royal Park, which marked the tour’s start.

At one point in time, Marshall said, Rowley probably owned more real estate in Canada than anybody else.

“She did it all on her own, in days prior to women voting,” he said.

During each stop on the tour, Marshall shared facts about the structures in town and how they were constructed.

“Some of the most expensive houses were built out of stone,” said Marshall.

People often mimicked a particular kind of stone technique called ashlar, he said, which is finely cut masonry stones worked until they are squared.

“Not many people could afford that, so what they would do is build a relatively inexpensive structure, coat it with stucco and then scribe the stucco so that it looked like ashlar block – expensive by association,” Marshall said.

Along the way, Marshall, a columnist for The Lake Report, showed guests the varying styles of homes around Old Town, including eclectic, Greek revival, Craftsman and more. 

Many of the homes built during the 1800s served multiple purposes, Marshall said, operating as the owner’s place of business and living quarters.

One example of this is a property that belonged to the town’s doctor at the time, who also ran his medical practice from there.

Another property was a house that doubled as a tavern.

The tour ended at the Breakenridge property on Centre Street, one of the town’s oldest Regency houses.

Marshall worked as a consultant on the property during its restoration a few years ago.

“I was called to help and I told them I was retired. He said, ’It’s 240 Centre St.’ and I told him I’d be right down.”

The home, previously owned by a couple of what Marshall described as “heritage house hoarders,” was left standing empty and abandoned in 1968.

Then, a few years ago, Lloyd Kelly, a Texas lawyer searching for a second home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, purchased the property.

The home is now nearly restored to its former 19th-century glory. 

  • The NOTL Museum’s final sold-out tour in the Neighbourhood Walks series is this Friday, May 26.

Rick Meloen will lead ticket holders through the Chautauqua neighbourhood.

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