PHOTOS BY HAMLIN GRANGE
RESEARCH BY KIMBERLY VANEYK
Mrs. Strike lives in Bowmanville’s beautiful historic district, near Toronto. Her home, Ravenscraig, is outstanding – for its design as well as the people associated with it. 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. Historian Kimberly Vaneyk and I had the pleasure of visiting Mrs. Strike recently to learn more about her home. We loved the stories about her sons’ escapades. The grand entrance hallway where uniformed servants greeted dinner-party guests, took their hats and coats and ushered them inside? That’s where the Strike boys played basketball during winter, breaking only one piece of precious stained glass with their Nerf ball. The living-room/ballroom where guests danced? 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? “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.
In a town of grand homes, Ravenscraig is one of the grandest. The house’s Queen Anne style is rare even here in the historic district. Its turrets are eye-catching. Interior features are also distinctive. 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.
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. 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. Each family left its mark… especially true for Dr. Hillier, whose initials are carved in the fireplace mantel.
Warm thanks to Mrs. Strike for her gracious welcome, to historian Kimberly Vaneyk and to Hamlin Grange for the photos.