The moment Ron Coffin saw Ebor House, he was smitten.
“It was for sale for a couple of years and a friend said I should see it. I saw it and said, ‘My God!’ I fell absolutely in love with it.”
Never mind the weed-choked acreage surrounding the grand old house and barn.
And the nearly derelict rooms inside.
The cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and spaces crammed with old contents.
The stuffy, old-house smell.
Ron was a man in love.
That was 8 years ago.
Today it’s a remarkably beautiful place.
I first saw Ebor House recently, and was so impressed, I asked Ron to share his house’s story. Days later, we sat in his refurbished kitchen, sipping our coffee as Ron reflected on his decision to restore the property.
“What possessed you — to take on such a daunting task?” I asked.
“In life there are things you have to do. Some people have to climb Everest. I had to do this.”
Ron, a single parent, has four children and a dog. He also ran his own business. But he had “a huge interest in Canada’s architectural heritage and how it fits into its time” and he loved both the house and its location in historic Bond Head in Newcastle, Ontario.
“It’s like being in another world here. You even have to go through a series of entrances to get to this home. The first entrance is a bridge that you have to go under when you leave the highway. Then there are the gates to the property. Then there are 2 entry doors before you can come into the house.”
Ron had a vision of the house at its best.
He decided to do some of the restoration work by himself.
“I made the common mistake of plastering the walls and painting, then realized the roof was leaking”, he said. “The house also needed all new plumbing, heating and wiring. So I had to rip out some of that work and start again.”
Luckily, the seller still had the architectural drawings from 1867, the year Canada became a nation. (Construction started in 1868 and Ebor House was completed in 18 months.) Those drawings convinced Ron that he was on the right track.
Some chandeliers and furniture – such as this Jacques & Hay sideboard on the right – were in the house in 1869. Ron bought other furnishings – including lighting, paintings, mirrors, and other furniture — after meticulous research.
Sometimes he felt like a detective trying to solve a mystery.
The house and grounds provided clues.
The pantry doors were found in the barn. Old pennies were found under the lawn. The pennies, found together, likely fell from someone’s pocket during a picnic, Ron thinks.
The more Ron learned, the better he understood how people lived in the late 1800’s and early 20th century.
“One thing I learned was how the double front doors were used. On days when the family was receiving guests, they’d open the outer door, while the inside door was closed. That would signal that visitors were welcome.”
He also became deeply interested in the Farncombs, who built the house and lived here for more than 130 years. Theirs was a remarkable story of great success and happiness, as well as heartbreaking tragedy.
**Watch for Part 3: The Farncombs.