A Good Home, Bond Head, Country roads, Ebor House, Getting lost, Heritage House, Newcastle, Restoring old Homes

“Get Lost, Cynthia” – Personal Reflections on the Ebor House series

A whole bunch of people have been telling me to get lost since I published the series about Ebor House.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Living room reverse

“You need to get lost more often, Cynthia.”

“Get lost again, Cynthia.”

On and on it goes.

What no-one asked is: “How come you got so lost?”

Blog Photo - Bond head family playing by lake

**

It all started with an earlier wrong turn.

And a good-looking man.

I’d decided to drive home from my appointment using a country road – a back road – instead of the highway.

By now you know that I could get lost in a room. So before I knew it, I was lost.

Turning around in a driveway, I was either thinking a swearword or saying it out loud, when suddenly I saw a man.

A tall, handsome man.

So being a gracious person, I said a most gracious thing:

“I didn’t know Black people lived around here.”

**

Time stopped as I realized what I’d just said.

He stared at me, speechless.

I stared back, horrified at myself.  The fact that I’m also Black did not excuse my careless words.

Then – thank God – he laughed.

“Nice homes in this area,” I said, desperately trying to get my foot out of my mouth.

“Some nicer ones on your way south, he said. “Beautiful new homes. Just keep going. You can’t miss them.”

**

Remember I told you this, folks:

Words can get a person into trouble.

Those crazy words I blurted, for example.

But these ones too: “You can’t miss them.”

Because some of us can.   We’re programmed that way. And it gets worse when we’re flustered from having said entirely the wrong thing to a stranger.

The neighborhood I ended up in was not where he meant. Worse, I ended up going in entirely the wrong direction to get to my home.

And ended up in front of Ebor House.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Gates

**

So I could blame that lovely gentleman for all of this. But really, I thank him.

For not being offended at my ungracious remark.

And for being a crucial link in a chain of otherwise ridiculous events that landed me first in front of Ebor House, then, inside Ebor House…

Blog Photo - Ebor House entrance inside

… having coffee in Ron’s kitchen.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Kitchen and side door

Next, I could blame all you readers who encouraged me to keep posting the series, which eventually led to bloggers and other people from around the world telling me to “Get lost, Cynthia.”

**

This is, of course, my strange way of thanking that unknown man, the mysterious chain of events, and everyone who followed the series and encouraged me to keep going. THANK YOU.

I still don’t know what mysterious force led me to Ebor House. Was it all serendipity? Did the house call me there?

Did John and Jane, who lost their sons in one day – did they want their story to be told, after being in the shadows for so many decades?  And if so, are they disappointed that I didn’t tell the whole story?

I don’t know. I won’t even guess.

I’m exhausted now, and astonished at myself for accomplishing this series. But I’m also grateful. So much so, that just now I nearly wrote:

“I’d have been lost without you.”

The problem is that it would probably have been true!

**

Click here to find out how I ended up at Ebor House againthis time as a published author and amateur historian.

Blog Photo Doors Open Cynthia

A Good Home, Anglican Church, Architectural Conservancy, Art, Artist, Authors, Beautiful Neighborhoods, Birds, Bond Head, Canadian History, Canadian life, Canadians, Country Homes, Country Living, Country roads, Episcopalian Church, Family, Family Stories, Famous Places, Frederick Farncomb, Furniture, Heritage Homes, historic neighborhoods, Historical Society, Homes, Interior Design, John Farncomb, Life in canada, Newcastle, Newcastle Historical Society, Restoration Award, Restoring old houses, The Farncombs of Bond Head

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 an 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

**

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.

**

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 had to 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

**

My interest in a house became a story about a multi-generation family. Their joys, sorrows, achievements. Their lives.

The trail had many twists and turns, and sometimes, they alarmed me.  Combing through the city of London’s archives, I found a court case involving slave-ship owners. Thomas Farncomb, the wealthy ship owner who became London’s Lord Mayor, was involved.

A descendant of enslaved people myself, my hackles immediately went up.  Had I spent all this time researching a house built with money earned from the slave trade? After all, it was Frederick Farncomb’s inheritance from his uncle Thomas that was used to build Ebor House.

I was relieved to discover that Thomas had been brought to court by two men whom he had disparaged over their ownership of slave ships. He was opposed to the slave trade.

There were other discoveries along the way.  Some are included in this story, and some are not. Balfour Le Gresley (who sold the house to Ron) has been studiously researching his family history; I decided to leave it to him to make his own discoveries and decide what to share with his family.

I double-checked each finding shared in this series, then begged homeowner Ron and Myno Van Dyke, secretary of the local historical society, to read much of what I’d written. I thank them for their help.

I conclude the series knowing I’ve done my best to make it fair, factual — and kind. There is much more to the story of Ebor House and its family than I’ve written here, but this is the story I wanted to share.

Click here for the epilogue: https://cynthiasreyes.com/2014/08/15/get-lost-cynthia/

**

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

**

NEW DEVELOPMENT: 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; other sources. Some photos of Ebor House came from Promise First Realty’s website.

A Good Home, Beautiful Neighborhoods, Bond Head, Canada, Canadian life, Canadians, Country Living, Country roads, Following your dreams, Heritage Homes, historic neighborhoods, Home, Home Decor, Homes, Life in canada, Lifestyle, neighborhoods, Restoration, Restoring old houses

A Man in Love With a House – Pt. 2 in the Ebor House Series

The moment Ron Coffin saw Ebor House,  he was smitten.

He hadn’t been house-hunting in Bond Head – a small historic area consisting of just a few country roads on Lake Ontario, east of Toronto.  But Ron felt mysteriously drawn to both the house and its location.

“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.”

Blog Photo - Ebor House Gates

He also hadn’t planned to buy this house.

“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.”

Ron didn’t know the house’s history.  He didn’t know that it had belonged to generations of an illustrious Bond Head family whose close relatives included two Lord Mayors of London, England. Blog Photo - Ebor House 

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance

What he saw was a house badly in need of repair. Outside, four acres of weed-choked land surrounded the grand old house and barn.

Blog Photo - Ebor House overgrown lawn

Inside, the rooms were derelict.

Blog Photo - Ebor House derelict Room 1

Cobwebs hung from the ceilings.  The rooms were crammed with old contents.

And there was that stuffy, old-house smell everywhere.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Derelict Room 3

But the  house spoke to him and he answered. Ron was a man in love.

**

It was 8 years later when I knocked on Ron’s door.

As Ron welcomed me into his house, there were no signs that it had once been in disrepair. The place glowed from the love and attention he had lavished on its restoration.

We sat in the refurbished kitchen, sipping coffee.  I had questions and the first was the most obvious.

“What possessed you — to take on such a daunting task?” I asked.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Kitchen and side door

“In life there are things you have to do,” he replied. “Some people have to climb Everest. I had to do this.”

Blog Photo - Ebor House Ron Smiling

I understood, sort of.  I remembered the magnetic pull I’d felt as I sat gawking at the house and surrounding property. It had drawn me back here today. 

Ron, a single parent, has four children and a dog. He ran his own business.  He also had “a huge interest in Canada’s architectural heritage and how it fits into its time”.  

He hurried to begin the restoration.

“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 on Ebor House started the following year.)  Those drawings convinced Ron that he was on the right track.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Dining Room full

Fortunately, also, some chandeliers and furniture  – such as this Jacques & Hay sideboard on the right – were still in the house, where they’d been since 1869.  Ron bought other period furnishings – including lighting, paintings, mirrors, and other furniture — after meticulous research.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Green Room with portait and walls and furniture

Sometimes he felt like a detective trying to solve a mystery.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Living Room

The house and grounds provided clues that helped him along the way.

The pantry doors were found in the barn. Old pennies were found under the lawn.  Ron thinks the pennies, found together,  likely fell from someone’s pocket during a picnic.

Blog Photo - Ebor House back lawn

Blog Photo - Ebor House Canadian penny 1858

The more Ron learned, the better he understood how people lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Blog Photo - Ebor House entrance inside

“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.”

Ron also became deeply interested in the Farncombs, who built the house and lived here for more than 130 years.  He shared with me what he knew.

I should have stopped there, but I was already hooked. I needed to learn more. And that would lead me to a powerful story that was both joyful and heartbreaking.

**Click here for Part 3: The Farncombs.

A Good Home, Architecture, Canada, Couples, Courage, Following your dreams, Home, Homes, House cleaning, Interior Design, Kitchens, Libraries, Life in canada, Restoration, Restoring old houses

Drum Roll, Please! John’s House Pt. 6

Ladies and gentlemen!

— Drum roll, please —

The Library is now complete!

The ceiling is done….

Blog Photo - John's Library Ceiling

And the walls are painted.

Blog Photo - John's Library Walls Painted1

Even the floor has been swept.

Blog Photo - John's Library floors

And with that, all of the repairing, re-plastering and repainting of the rooms has been done.  Year One of John Garside’s incredible 3-year mission to restore his large old house, coach house and grounds in Prince Edward County, Ontario, is almost over. And this means that he and his wife Ann can finally move in.

(Gee whiz – I feel like stopping everything right now and having a celebratory drink myself – and it’s not even my house!)
Blog Photo - John's House - Front

But before we get too excited, I have to tell you there’s still a bit more to do.

Like putting in the baseboards (skirting) around the newly installed floors on the third floor.

And removing all the scaffolding and tools from inside the house.

Blog Photo - John's House Scaffolding

And paint cans from the kitchen.

Blog Photo - John's Kitchen

And then the big clean-up.

All that before Move-In Day on May 7.

But even during the push to finish it all, John’s feeling delighted with what he’s accomplished – by himself.

“For example, the quote I got to repair the plaster ceilings and crown moldings was $5,000 a room.  Instead of going down that path I invested in $50.00 worth of materials (per room) and did it myself.  The results are truly amazing!  Even the local contractors are impressed!”

Blog Photo - John Red Room Finished

He still arrives at the house a little after 7 each morning and works steadily till 4 p.m., stopping only for a light lunch.

“All is on schedule and all deadlines will be met!  Ann will be arriving on Sunday (May 4) to help with the final cleanup of the house just before the movers arrive on Wednesday.  Great happiness!”

When I told you that John was doing all this work by himself, I wasn’t joking.  His wife Ann, a partner in an accounting firm, has been in Toronto, more than two hours away. This is the busiest time of her work-year – tax season – and Ann’s been working flat-out at her job.   She hasn’t been to the house since mid- February, when she made “a flash-visit”.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

So how does this work for them? How does Ann know she’ll like what John has done?

“Lots of pictures are sent each day to provide Ann with the state of affairs at 27 Centre Street,” John explains.

“Does she trust you THAT much?” I ask John cheekily.

And he replies: “That is why I send the pictures each and every day . . . Feedback is always good!”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

On reflection,  I’m really liking the sound of this arrangement:  Husband does all the hard and dirty work, while wife stays away from all the chaos and white dust, returning when the work is done.

Hmm… Ann, you’re a girl after my own heart.

Way to go, Ann!

Ooops! I really meant:  “Way to go, John!”.

 **

 Photos by John Garside