At the risk of making an understatement, I’ve got to say that it has been quite a year.
Despite all the COVID crazy, it’s actually been a landmark for NOTL heritage.
As many of you might be aware, after languishing derelict for more than 50 years the Breakenridge house at 240 Centre St. is being rescued courtesy of a new owner who has committed to saving what is likely the oldest unaltered two-storey cubic form Regency house in Canada.
Completed in 1823, it was the third and last of the houses built in what was then the town of Niagara for local barrister John Breakenridge (remarkably all of which have survived).
While his 1816 Loyalist Georgian and 1819 Neoclassical were classics of their respective architectural styles, the 1823 Regency house was meant to be his crowning glory, stating that he had “arrived” as a member of the town’s gentry.
While the individual who designed this home is lost to time, he was a master of his craft and the 1823 Breakenridge house is purely and simply a gem.
Understand that for a Regency building to achieve aesthetic excellence, the scale, balance, proportions and order must be precisely correct. There are no decorative details that can be used to obscure a mistake and, on this house, none were needed.
While delayed by COVID, work on the house began in September. Our first priority was to stabilize the structure. Quite simply, in the opinion of the experts from Masonry Restoration Canada, the house was months away from collapse.
It took three months of solid work to correct the damage that 54 years of neglect and shoddy 20th-century interventions had caused. Sections of the wall literally fell apart when addressed and every single lintel (including the massive limestone lintel above the front door) needed to be reset. Challenges aside, it has been done (follow the whole story at: www.heirloomhomeguide.ca/rare-unique-storied).
A week ago the first of the new historic reproduction windows was installed and, for the first time since 1966, sunlight graced the home’s interior.
Filtered through restoration glass that creates minimal distortion from within but presents mouth-blown qualities from the street, the windows establish a decorative element that the original designer would surely have embraced.
So, for the first time in decades, the 1823 Breakenridge House has candles in the windows for Christmas. This to wish you a safe harbour, a welcome home and a blessing to you and yours as this year turns to the next.