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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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Home at The Grange – Part 1

Would you leave a very comfortable house in the city – a mansion, even by Toronto standards – to live in a dilapidated 1800’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere?

I, as you know, have lived in interesting places. But when former model and media manager Wendy Boothman told me what she did 31 years ago, even I was surprised. 

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In 1986, the Boothman family decided to move to the country. They found a large log house in perfect move-in condition. Wendy’s husband and children loved it.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Wendy and Nick2 by Hamlin

But Wendy wasn’t sold. Without telling her family, she kept looking. She asked the realtor to show her a place in Kendal, a hamlet northeast of Toronto. They toured the property.

It was a hot August day and the poor realtor was in his suit and tie. I had no idea what 140 acres meant, so we ended up walking and walking.”

They also toured the house. Wendy said she loved the place.

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The shocked realtor replied: “Wendy, it’s so dilapidated! Look at the holes in the floors! You have 5 children and a housekeeper. You can’t live here!”

Husband Nick saw it next. An international fashion photographer and audio-visual director with a Toronto studio,  he was stunned.

“Woman!” he said. “You’ve finally flipped. I refuse to set foot in that house!”

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Barn Inside and Hay Hamlin

Wendy showed him the huge wooden barn with cathedral ceilings. Then she drove him up to the highest point of the property and showed him the view.  He was impressed… somewhat.

“We’ll renovate the house to what we want,” she reassured him. “We’ll design the garden to what we want. But most importantly, the children will be part of the designing. They’ll decide on the pool, their rooms, and so on.”

Sounded nice. In theory.

“If you think the children are going to want to leave a Toronto mansion to camp out  here while we do all the work required, you have another think coming,” Nick protested.

This was a daunting challenge.

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Then Nick relented. “If you can sell the kids on this move,” he told her, “we’ll do it.”

One Sunday in August, Wendy and Nick took the kids on a long drive, turned off a country road and drove up to a hill with an impressive view of the area.

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The children asked:

“What are we doing here?”

“We’re having a picnic in the country!” Wendy replied, smiling. “We’re moving to the country, so we may as well get used to it.”

After the picnic, the seven of them trooped through the fields and peered into the forest, excited.

Walking down the other side of the hill, the children spied a house and asked if they could look inside — not knowing their mother had a key.

They saw the tiny rooms, the old kitchen, the holes in the floors… the whole catastrophe. 

But when Wendy took them into the barn, they were awestruck.  

Blog Photo - doors Open The Grange Barn Ceiling Hamlin

Wendy seized the moment.

“We can move into the log house… or we can get this place and design it together. Your friends can come on weekends. We’ll have horses – you can ride. Can you imagine if we had a pool on the side of a hill and gardens?”

They returned home to Toronto, and started drawing up plans together.

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They moved into the house on Halloween that October.  Wendy, who knew nothing about school buses, sent the 2 younger kids to the wrong school the first day.

That winter was full of challenges. For one thing, the house was freezing cold. 

Both parents still worked nearly 2 hours away in downtown Toronto — Nick at his studio, Wendy at her media management and design office.  Every morning, he drove the 3 older children to school in Toronto. Wendy picked them up every afternoon.

A year later, she decided to move her business to her home, creating one of the first “virtual teams” in Canada.

That eased a few challenges on the home-front. But renovating the house and landscaping the grounds would become a huge, 4-year project.

Photos by Hamlin Grange

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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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At Home with Sandra Walton-Ball

David Walton-Ball opens the door of his summer home, east of Toronto, and is greeted by a child looking up at him:

“Can Sandra come out to play?”

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and David in Orchard

Sandra — you may be surprised to hear —  is not a child.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Studio Wall

She’s David’s wife, a talented artist whose work hangs in galleries in Canada and Mexico.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Painting of Island

Blog Photo - Artist Sanda Painting side viewNeighborhood children gravitate towards her and she loves them. So she teaches children to create their own artwork.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Student

She and the children have developed a system at her small studio at the summer house.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra stands at work table

If this sign is up, Sandra can’t come out to play.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Sign

In Mexico where she and David spend the winter, Sandra teaches art to children whose parents can’t afford to pay for lessons.

“We put on Andrea Bocelli and the children sing along.”

San Miguel de Allende is home to many artists from Canada and the U.S.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Leonard's painting

Years ago, Sandra met Leonard Brooks, an esteemed artist who started the Canadian and American migration to San Miguel. They became friends. That’s one of his paintings behind her, above.

Music playing, the children in her studio sing and paint. This is her gift to them and their families: encouraging the children’s creativity. She introduces them to the styles of Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Gesticulates

You wouldn’t know that, nearly 20 years ago, Sandra was so ill, she was on life support for months. It took her 15 years to start painting confidently again.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Reaches for brush

Once recovered, she decided to take more risks with her art. And so wherever she is – in Owen Sound, the family’s main base, or in San Miguel de Allende, or here at the summer home near Toronto, she’s painting – doing “gutsier and more experimental work”.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Yellow Flower painting

“When something happens to disrupt your life, you recognize that things can happen and you may not get a chance again – so you start taking risks.”

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Framed painting Abstract

David hired someone to turn half of the garage into a studio with skylights, and there’s been no looking back.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Studio Outside

Generations of the Walton-Ball family have lived in Historic Bond Head for about 150 years.

During World War 2, the family planted and supplied potatoes to all their neighbours.

(Another historical tidbit: David’s first ancestor in Canada is the “Walton” for whom Port Hope’s main street is named. Port Hope, a famous heritage community, is near Bond Head.)

Blog Photo - Artist Sadnra window garden

Through 50 years of marriage, Sandra has seen how special the place is to David. It’s grown on her.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra in Sunroom wicker chair

“I fall in love with it each summer. Each year my garden grows. And now, like Virginia Wolfe, I have a room of my own, so it’s easier to find my heart.” 

They love this place for the history, the house, the studio, the family times, the garden and the orchard. Some of the apple trees are more than a hundred years old.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and David Picking apples

One summer, Monarch butterflies visited Sandra and David here. (Monarchs fly from Mexico all the way to Canada each summer and back.)

“You couldn’t see a leaf,” Sandra says. “The trees were covered with Monarchs.”

That magical event led to this painting….

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Butterflies CU

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Butterfly painting

… and a gift: a butterfly chair from David.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Chair

“Perhaps the Monarchs were saying thanks for all your good works with the children in Mexico?” I ask.

“Perhaps,” Sandra replies.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Wheelbarrow with flowers

To learn more about Sandra’s work, or to acquire her paintings, email: swaltonball@gmail.com