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Part 2: John’s House in Prince Edward County

TACKLING THE GREEN ROOM

John Garside and his wife Ann sold their home in big-city Toronto last year and bought a house two hours away in Prince Edward County.  They’ve been living in a condo nearby while John renovates the house.

image via prince-edward-county.com
image via prince-edward-county.com

Prince Edward County is known for small towns, farms and lakeside living.  In the last decade, its vineyards and wines, fine cheeses and restaurants have also become popular. The County is a well-known mecca for artists and weekenders.

John has bravely promised Ann that they’ll be able to move in by the end of April.

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior 2

But their “new” home  is more than a hundred years old, huge — almost 4,000 square feet —  and needs repair.   John, who has never taken on a project of this scope, is doing almost all the work by himself.

The first room he tackled was “The Green Room” on the main floor.

“It was the worst room in the house, ”  he says.  “A water leak from the 1980’s had caused a great deal of damage to the plaster ceiling, walls and the crown moldings.”

Blog Photo - Green Room in Progress

John took on the challenge –– very carefully.  He rebuilt ceiling, walls, and even the crown moldings.

“I repaired what others would have scrapped, and I did it all by myself!  And I had never done anything like this in my life!”  You can hear the joy in his voice.

Blog Photo - Picton Green Room 3

Every time he looks at the room,  John feels “a glow of satisfaction and a sense of oneness with the house”.

Blog Photo - Picton Green Room

The house is full of beautiful features worth preserving.    John has to proceed cautiously.

Blog Photo - Picton Window

He says, “You think about each action a great deal before you act. That way the unpleasant surprises are held to a minimum.”

Blog Photo - Heritage Sign

The skills he learned from his grandfather — extreme patience, careful planning, attention to detail and observing safety rules –are all essential right now.  ‘Measure twice, cut once’ is the rule.

“You must understand,” he says,  “that the project you are working on is not modern, but 100 years old. So you must take time to think about what you are about to do, and plan in detail how you are going to achieve success.”

John puts in 8 hours every day — and no slacking off.  After all, the end of April is just around the corner.

Will he make the deadline? We’ll keep checking in.

Original Photos by John Garside

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John’s House in Prince Edward County

Some weeks ago, I asked the question: Who would buy an old house, knowing it needed a lot of renovation?

John Garside replied: “I would!”

And he’s doing exactly that.  Which led me to more questions:

Why would a big-city guy, born and raised in Toronto, sell his comfortable home and move to a small town 2 hours away in Prince Edward County?

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior

Why would he buy a rambling old house, knowing it would need years of renovation – most of it his own labour?

And why – several months into the dusty, grueling process – is John so darned happy with his decision?

John is the former editor of the horticultural newsletter that publishes some of my garden stories and poems.  When I heard about this move, I was happy for him — but very curious at the same time.

Was he, like so many other émigrés who’ve left big cities and moved to “The County”,  planning to have his own vineyard and make wine?

Image via thecountywines.com
Image via thecountywines.com

Or produce fine cheese?

Image via kingstonherald.com
Black River Cheese – Image via kingstonherald.com

Or become a landscape painter, perhaps?

Glide by C. Pachter - via Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County
“Glide” by Charles Pachter – Available at Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County

None of the above.

Turns out that John has had a love affair with the small towns and lakeside settings of  Prince Edward County since he was a teenager on a Grade 13 geography project in the area. Years later, he fell in love with Ann, who also loved the area. They visited often, and even honeymooned there.

Six years ago, they bought a condo in The County for weekends and summers.  By then, the area was already becoming a trendy place.  More and more people were ditching their big-city lifestyles and operating vineyards and wineries,   restaurants, cooking schools and  art galleries. Some were winning awards for their cheese and wine.

More and more artists had moved there, while others were buying weekend and summer homes in the small, lakeside towns.  Still others discovered that The County was a great place to visit.

Meanwhile, John and Ann toured an old house in downtown Picton one weekend a year ago.

“Walking through the home,” John says,  “I felt an immediate attraction, not only for the home but the property itself.  It needed a keeper, and I really felt that we were the ideal people to take on this project.”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

Only four families had owned the house in 100 years.  Each owner had  preserved its grandeur.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

Each bedroom has its own bathroom.

“And lastly,” John says, “the stained glass windows in every room are wonderful!”

Blog Photo - Picton Window

John sounds like a man in love – with a house.  But his eyes were wide open.  For all its good looks, the house needed a lot of work.  New electrical wiring and plastering,  for starters.   That meant floors and walls ripped open, etc., etc., etc.

John’s been doing the work for several months now.

“This project”,  he says, is “the greatest test of my skills in my life”.

For one thing, he’s doing most of the work alone. For another, he’s not a brawny guy – John weighs only 155 pounds.   And then the third thing: he promised Ann that they’d move in by the end of April.

So how’s it going?   Will John and Ann be able to move into the house as planned?

Blog Photo - Green Room in Progress

We’ll find out!  I’ll check in with John each week.  And I’ll share pictures and progress with you.

Good luck, John!

Original Photos by John Garside