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Home at The Grange – Part 4

The house that the Elliott family built back in the late 1850’s fell into the right hands nearly 130 years later.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of Apples and Wendy

It’s a good thing it did.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick early photo of family and chickens

In 1986, the place was so dilapidated that another buyer might have either demolished the house and barn, or renovated the character out of them.

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Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick early photo of Verandah etc

But the Boothmans had the vision, patience — and resources needed — to bring the property to new life, without destroying its character.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange House CU Hamlin

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Allow me to digress a little at this point, please…

Remember that the Boothman kids refused at first to to move with their parents into the family’s farmhouse? It was Hallowe’en 1986, and with a cemetery for a neighbour, the children were afraid the ghosts would come next door to their home. (See Part 2)

Blog Photo - Doors Open Clarington Photo Cemetery

That historic cemetery is also on the Doors Open tour this year.  

It was the Elliott family who donated the land for this cemetery and the church that once stood there  — Kendal’s first church, New Connexion Methodist.  It was later named for the Elliotts and their neighbours, the McLeans.  

Of the two neighbouring families, the McLeans achieved greater fame.

A McLean grandson, (James Stanley McLean), became founder and president of the well-known Canada Packers company.  Wealthy and influential, James and his wife built a stately Georgian-style house on 50 acres in Toronto.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Estates of Sunnybrook photo of McLean House front

They called it “Bay View” — which later inspired the name of one of Canada’s wealthiest neighborhoods, Bayview Avenue.

Today their former home belongs to world-famous Sunnybrook Hospital.  Renamed “McLean House” in their honour, the house is used for events — a fundraiser for Sunnybrook’s medical research.

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But let’s return to the main story of how the Boothmans saved the Elliott house and created a beloved home for their own family.  

In restoring and renovating the property as they did, Nick and Wendy preserved its history, and went far beyond.

They gave it a new life, deserving of a new name: “The Grange”.  The Boothmans have therefore created a legacy of their own.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick Panorama of House

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Three generations of the Boothman family — and their friends — have enjoyed The Grange.

Wendy remembers that “one of the children’s friends called and asked if he could get married here, saying: ‘The Grange is top of our list because of the memories and the setting. Is it doable?’ “

“Yes”, she replied.

In all, five weddings have been held here. Son Thomas, and 4 of the children’s friends, all held their weddings at The Grange.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of wedding

Much has changed in 31 years.

 

Blog Photo - Doors Open Bernice Photo The Grange2

Wendy has launched a variety of ground-breaking projects. She’s assisted on some long-distance projects too. Born in S. Africa, she’s proud of helping her brother-in-law Mike with a project, led by Nelson Mandela, to develop effective volunteerism in S. Africa.

Blog Photo - Doors open MikeandMandela

More recently, she won, on behalf of Durham Region, the Guinness world record for the longest picnic table in the world.

Nick, meanwhile, has become a well-known author of several books.

Blog Photo - Nicholas Boothman Book 2

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The Boothman children have grown up. Wendy and Nick now have 5 grandchildren.

It’s the grandchildren’s time to explore and enjoy The Grange — this home settled by the Elliotts and transformed by the Boothmans, more than a hundred years apart.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of Grandkids and kites.JPG

It doesn’t snow as heavily as it used to, and Wendy misses the snow. But she and Nick cherish their home, with its “peace and quiet, the gardens and the views”.

On June 10th, 2017, as part of Doors Open Clarington, The Grange hosts its biggest audience: hundreds of people from the area and far beyond will explore this storied home. 

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of Grandkids at mailbox

Wendy and Nick will warmly welcome everyone, happy that they took the risk, 31 years ago, of restoring a property that many would have rejected.

What an achievement.

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Photo Credits:

McLean House photo from The Estates of Sunnybrook

Photo 5 by Hamlin Grange

3rd, 6th & 11th  photos by Bernice Norton

9th, 10th and 12th photos by C. McSorley

14th photo by Marilyn Morawecz

Other photos provided by Nicholas Boothman

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To contact Doors Open Clarington:

Co- Chairperson Bernice Norton

905-623-9982

bernice_norton@hotmail.com

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Thanks to Doors Open Clarington and the Boothmans for research assistance.

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This, That and The Ebor

 

There’s this: a crop of summer-blooming Amaryllis, a huge flower that normally blooms in winter — unless you’re like me and forgot the bulbs in the cold room until recently….Blog Photo Red Amaryllis2

Blog Photo Amaryllis Red and White

Then there’s this darling photo of Mr. D. and Mr. JC. 

Blog Photos JC and Dawson

Then – for a change of pace – these two vintage cars….

Blog Photo Ebor House doors open 16 jpgEH

In front of my favorite 17-room mansion, Ebor House…

You may remember that time I got lost and ended up sipping tea in a stranger’s kitchen in his beautiful old mansion…. 

Ebor House was built in 1868 by the Farncombs, a remarkable English-Canadian family which counted two Lord Mayors of London, England, as close relatives.

Blog Photo Doors Open Ebor House

Well, there I was at Ebor House again last Saturday, and this time, for a very different reason.

Ebor House was a highlight of Doors Open Clarington.  The architectural conservancy event features many beautiful heritage buildings in Clarington. And I was the author guest, invited to speak about my books, share my knowledge of Ebor House and also the Farncombs’ history.

Blog Photo Farncomb Legresley

While I was in one room, “Farnie”, great-grandson of the Farncombs, was in another room, charming visitors with tales of growing up at Ebor House. He inspired me to keep going: his energy was so radiant! 

Well over a thousand visitors — including a few cyclists- visited Ebor House. 

Blog Photo Doors Open Cynthia

It was a lovely day.

The volunteers (including Leo Blindenbach, who was in charge of the Ebor House site) were organized and gracious — as were the owners, Andrea and Nav.

Thanks to MaryAnn Isbister, whose excellent work turned my 6-part blog series on Ebor House into a full colour booklet for the event. Organizers Bernice Norton, Marilyn Morawetz, Leo and the rest of the team should be very proud! 

Bravo, all of you!

 

 

 

 

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The Fabulous Ravenscraig

PHOTOS BY HAMLIN GRANGE

RESEARCH BY KIMBERLY VANEYK

Mrs. Strike lives in Bowmanville’s beautiful historic district, near Toronto. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Mrs Strike at Jigsaw puzzle Her home, Ravenscraig, is outstanding – for its design as well as the people associated with it.  Blog Photo - House - Ravenscraig Two former mayors lived here.  This grand home hosted many receptions, dinner parties, Rotary gatherings and afternoon tea. Guests included prominent members of society.

How heartwarming then, that Mrs. Strike’s fondest memories focus not on those powerful people, but on the places in her home where her three sports-loving sons played. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig the Strike Sons Historian Kimberly Vaneyk and I had the pleasure of visiting Mrs. Strike recently to learn more about her home. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Mrs. Strike Kim and CynthiaWe loved the stories about her sons’ escapades. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Mrs Strike in Upper Hallway The grand entrance hallway where uniformed servants greeted dinner-party guests, took their hats and coats and ushered them inside? Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Entranceway That’s where the Strike boys played basketball during winter, breaking only one piece of precious stained glass with their Nerf ball. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Beautiful Upstairs Hallway The living-room/ballroom where guests danced? Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Stained Glass lady Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Mrs Strike laughs with Kim and Cynthia That’s where the boys practiced hockey. (They also played in the basement.) And why do you suppose Mr. and Mrs. Strike bought this grand home back in 1963? Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Mr and Mrs Strike Photo “Seems silly,she says, smiling, “but our boys were in hockey and it was near the rink!”

The Strikes even built a skating rink for their sons and friends.

“Our own south lawn was always a big rink every winter since 1963.  For the sides of the rink, we used doors, old boards, anything that could stop the puck! Everybody knew that rink.”

There was also the “Wounders’ Tournament” – won by the player who managed to throw most of his friends into/over the boards. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig side view from sidewalk

THE DESIGN

In a town of grand homes, Ravenscraig is one of the grandest. Blog Photo - House Ravesncraig Turret The house’s Queen Anne style is rare even here in the historic district. Its turrets are eye-catching. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Barn Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Feature 2 Fireplace carving Interior features are also distinctive. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Newel Post Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Feature 2 Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Stained Glass Lady 2 Designed for wealthy families who entertained a lot, special attention was paid to the movement of servants – and the flow between hallway, kitchen, dining-room and living-room. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Dining Room

RAVENSCRAIG’S FABULOUS PAST

Ravenscraig attracted the famous and the fabulous, the wealthy and influential, the good and the great. Bowmanville’s former mayor, Dr. Hillier, and his family had Ravenscraig built in the late 1800’s. Blog Photo - House Trees and Historic sign They entertained dignitaries from religion, medicine, law, business and politics. They hosted fundraisers and other projects to support the community. Mrs. Hillier herself knitted 500 pairs of socks for local soldiers during World War 1.

Subsequent owners of Ravenscraig included the Schon’s, who fled Austria just before World War 2.

Ravenscraig then became a focal point for the arts. Guests included well-known musicians, painters and European actress Methchild Harkness, the Schons’ houseguest. 

A second mayor, Morley Vanstone, and his family lived here after the Schons. The Vanstones were a wealthy family who owned the local mill. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Fireplace Each family left its mark… especially true for Dr. Hillier, whose initials are carved in the fireplace mantel. Blog Photo - House Ravenscraig Hillier Signature in Mantel

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Warm thanks to Mrs. Strike for her gracious welcome, to historian Kimberly Vaneyk and to Hamlin Grange for the photos.

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Loving and Leaving Ebor House – Pt. 6 – Conclusion

Ron Coffin did such a great job restoring Ebor House that he was honoured for it.

Blog Photo - Ebor House MBedroom other view

He received the Newcastle Village and District Historical Society’s Preservation Award in 2011.
Blog Photo - Ebor House Master Bedroom

He also opened the house to the community on a recent architectural conservancy day and 600 visitors came.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Library

A pianist played beautiful music.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Living room reverse

The visitors toured the grand old house, admiring the furnishings and paintings, old and new.

Painting by George Forgie
Painting by George Forgie

Ron has invested untold time, love and money into his home.

“This place has nurtured me. Not just me but others too. One friend stayed here in the winter, healing from an accident. It’s nurtured her.”

The children are grown up. Ron says it’s time to leave. Ebor House is too big for one person.

He looks around at rooms sparkling with sunshine, beauty and a strong sense of well-being.  He tells me yet another story about the house and the Farncombs. He calls each family member by first name.

I say:  “You don’t sound like a man who’s selling this house.”

He says he is.  

“I truly believe the house is looking for a buyer, rather than a person looking for this house. It’s a very special place.  Last evening four of us had a wonderful supper under the trees and at the end of our meal we were visited by one of the hawks that have decided to call this place home this year.  Just magical!”

Blog Photo - Ebor House back lawn

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As for me?

It started when I got lost a few weeks ago and saw this house.

I wanted to know more.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Front 2

But the single discovery that kept me searching was the August 1901 New York Times story about the drowning of the two Farncomb boys.

My heart sank when I read it.

A parent myself, I wanted – perhaps even needed –  to know that things turned out well for the family.

Of course — since this is real life and not a fairy tale — they did and they didn’t.

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The Farncomb family survived and, over the decades, many thrived.

John and Jane and the boys were not forgotten.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance and Stairs

But life must go on, at least after a while.

And so it did.

Farncomb descendants became successful in Canadian business, education, law, medicine and other fields such as literature and media.

They still own property in Bond Head, and still have influence. In 2002, one descendant (among other residents) protested against a plan to change the name of a local street. He argued it made no sense. He also pointed out that Farncombs had lived there for 150 years. And that he owned much of the land in the area.

His side won.

Blog Photo - Bond Head main street

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My interest in a house became a story about other people’s lives.

I double-checked each finding, then begged homeowner Ron and Myno Van Dyke, secretary of the local historical society, to read some of what I’d written. I thank them.

I conclude the series knowing I’ve done my best to make it fair, factual — and kind. But I know there is much more to the story of Ebor House and its families than I’ve written here.

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This story is dedicated to the descendants of Frederick and Jane Farncomb.

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POST-SCRIPT: EBOR HOUSE HAS NEW OWNERS — OR PERHAPS I SHOULD CALL THEM ‘NEW STEWARDS’.  I WISH THEM JOYFUL TIMES IN THIS  EXCEPTIONAL HOME.

Thanks to: Newcastle Village and District Historical Society; Library and Archives Canada; Archives of the City of London, England; Trinity College, Port Hope; Canadian Anglican Church;  St. George’s, Newcastle; the Canadian Encyclopaedia; The New York Times and several other Canadian and American newspapers; and other sources. Some photos of Ebor House came from Promise First Realty’s website.