The boatload of passengers docked at the wharf and climbed the embankment to the pretty Georgian English cottage. They were going to church. They went up the stairs at the back, near the laundry wing, and crowded along the second floor verandah. Pushing through the dark green louvred shutters that screened out the hot sun, they quickly hung their cloaks and hats on the pegs near the door and took their seats.
This scene may not have been played out quite like this in the early 1800s, but it was probably very similar to what actually happened when the people of Niagara went to church at Rev. Robert Addison's house on Lakeshore Road. Today, the Addison house, Lake Lodge, is owned by Ed Werner, who has had it restored to that period and uses it as a guest house as well as the offices for Brox Co.
Heritage Resource Consultant Jon Jouppien was commissioned to do the work and once the major restoration work was done, has wandered far afield in search of just the right painting or piece of furniture. He has discovered real treasure in the form of doors and locks and brie a brae of this time during and following the War of 1812. The Addison house is the oldest in Niagara, Jouppien says. In December, the retreating Americans burned Niagara-on-the-Lake as a final farewell, and left only three dwellings in town. These were destroyed in the late 1800s. Lake Lodge was probably too far out of town for them to be bothered — a saving grace! The minister's house gave shelter to many who lost their homes. It was a known structure, the historian says.
The very first building on the spot was a log house, owned by the Servos family and probably about 20 feet by 18 feet. Its footings were discovered during an archaeological dig in 1986. The original fireplace has now been rebuilt at the exterior of the house. When Col. John Butler petitioned the bishop of Quebec to send a minister to the community, the bishop sent to England, there being a dearth of available men of the cloth. Robert Addison was a missionary with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and was induced to accept a Niagara flock, partly by the promise of a house on Lake Ontario. His charge included all the Anglican churches from here to the Indian reservation at Brantford. He was also chaplain for the legislature, Jouppien points out, so well deserving of a decent home.
Addison's house was made habitable, with the log house structure the kitchen wing, the laundry at the opposite end of the house and core living quarters in the middle, consisting of a parlor-cum-study and dining room on the main floor and bedchamber and chapel upstairs. The bedchamber was probably used by Addison to don his ministerial vestments, before let-ting himself out a slim door beside the fireplace and heading round to enter the chapel through the outer door via the verandah. Lakeshore Road was probably just an orchard road and Indian trail at that time, Jouppien says, while most traffic was via the lake. The house was a typical transitional Georgian neo-classic style with the gable and buildings and wings at each end. About 80 per cent of the original building fabric of the three-bay 1 1/2 storey house had been maintained, though the house had been neglected.
Among the first steps Jouppien took was to hunt for clues to its past in his mission to restore Lake Lodge to the period between 1792 to 1828, when Addison died. Passive restoration was the name of the game and required a great deal of research and authentication of each step. Working on the exterior of the house, he had to restore the piers that supported the lower verandah, rebuilding them using burned lime/sand mortar. He re-used the original beach cobble on the piers and on the walkway around the house. He dry-laid the stones without using cement and today the moss has grown up around the cobbles, giving them a look of timeworn nature.In the garden was an abundance of plants whose forbears had seen decades come and go. Early poppies, Buckeye chestnut, lilacs and a broad variety of ground covers. Jouppien brought clippings of old but still sturdy flowering periwinkle from the garden at the Henry Shickluna house on Hainer Street in St. Catharines and spread it casually beneath shrubs and close to the laundry wing. A perennial garden at the front bears masses of majestic and colorful hollyhocks that multiply happily every year.Jouppien rescued a large stone sink from outside the laundry wing and put it in the kitchen, rebuilt the stone well, the primary source of water, and also installed split rail fencing in a manner he copied from an 1804 painting of Captain Joseph Brant's home. Restoring the house itself was a challenge and a joy, as Jouppien and his team of experts took a step back into the past and employed the handcrafts of the day. "A lot of the hardware and every nail was hand-forged and the siding all handplaned," he said. "We had to restore it the same way, using the same methods. We used local pine and employed mills from Dunnville and Rockway. Every piece of lath had hand-forged nails and where the heads were exposed in the siding, we forged the nails."
One of the most impressive things about the house is the handblown cylinder glass in the windows, Jouppien observes. Even the repaired panes are the originals, all of it good quality and set in pine window sashes in the same excellent condition. The original front door of the old floor plan had probably located in the log house, which was long gone. Jouppien decided to build a small portico on the south side, which would provide a modern, contemporary entrance and would add another dimension to the building. Says the historian: "The storm door was one we got from the 1819 gunshed at Butler's Barracks. When they had to bring the barracks up to the Ontario Fire Marshall's safety standards, they had to have new, fireproof doors and we salvaged one of the old ones for Lake Lodge. The inner door of the portico was from the lockmaster's home at Beaverdams. Jouppien also moved the front window to the east side, which had once been the breezeway door opening from the kitchen in the log house, he said. This small hallway now houses some interesting pieces, including a clock with a painting depicting the first naval battle of the War of 1812.
Throughout the house are paintings and illustrations of some of the main buildings and battles of the day, which Jouppien has found in the United States and Canada. But paint rather paintings took up a lot of his time in the early days of the restoration. "We found traces of whitewash under the eaves and trim and I was able to make a whitewash using the same components. On some of the walls and window trim we found small bits of Prussian blue and the deep green that was used for most houses in the late 18th and early 19th century." He hand-mixed the paints with burnt lime, water and a binder. Here and there in different rooms of the house, a small patch can be lifted to reveal the original scrap of paint that he matched.
Off the front hallway is the parlor/study of Lake Lodge, used by Addison. Wide pine, tongue in groove planks are used for the floor and over this is a most unusual "carpet." It would have been a canvas ship's sail that was painted with oil paints, says Jouppien. He installed one made of sail canvas stretched in the barn and treated with sizing he made from an 18th century recipe. The bottom was then coated with oil and the top stencilled copying from a wall stencil. The 18th century pattern, ostrich plume frieze that trims the top of the walls is as close as he could get to the small piece of the original yellow ochre frieze found on a cornice, that sports the three plumes of the Prince Regent. The furniture in this room, some reproduction, includes a tilt leg table, gaming table, secretary and sofa. The desk was found in Vineland. The ceramic pottery was tracked down after a large archaeological cache had been found at the house. On the mantle of the Rumford fireplace, with the pottery and other treasures, stands an Anglo-Irish wine decanter. This item was a must, as it was considered an uncivilized breach of custom and" table etiquette to put the black wine bottle on the table, Jouppien explains.
Going through to the kitchen, one sees the same type of flooring, and faces the stone sink that is now very much in use. Here is a china cupboard of the period, discovered in Welland, bearing some of the Prussian blue paint that is an instant recognition factor. The cupboard of maple and black walnut was designed by Jouppien after a period example from the Napanee area of Ontario, with a breakaway top to help disguise the modern appliances that make this a working kitchen. In the same way, he hid all the electrical wires and fittings under movable, mitered floorboards or behind wood trims. A small pantry holds lots of clues to the past and remains much as it was in Addison's time. A trap door with forged hinges leads to where the barrels of sacramental and other wines were stored. Pegs are still there for hanging herbs to dry. A barrel stamped "Rev. from Cork, Ireland" could have stored salt pork. A 19th century trunk was brought by Ed Werner's father when the family left Europe.
Those old green louvred shutters on the upstairs chapel door, lead off a verandah restored but still mostly original. The floor, beams and trim were unfinished inside and the walls were merely whitewashed, said Jouppien. Near the door, the peg rack still waits for coats, while a 10-foot table from Rochester, dated about 1820, sits well here, because the room is used as a board room, as well as a bedroom when necessary. It was probably used by members of the first legislature, the historian notes. Beautiful reproduction birdcage chairs, a sideboard from Crystal Beach in Hepplewhite style and a variety of furniture pieces and accessories make this a striking and functional room. A settle bench opens up into a deep bed for visiting youngsters, complete with feather tick made especially for it. Facing it at the other end is another Rumford fireplace over which hangs, appropriately, a portrait of a rather svelte King George III, head of the Church of England. The bedroom is almost filled with a huge fourposter bed, and was probably the vestry for the Reverend Addison. Up here also is a bathroom, though Victorian not Georgian. Here are a footed bath, pedestal sink and a lavatory that flushes by pulling a chain. In restoring houses such as Lake Lodge, the work is ongoing and it's enthralling, says Jouppien, especially when it involves tracking down memorabilia of the day.It's exciting to know that out there in some house or farm, or in a small dusty shop somewhere, there is another reminder of our heritage just waiting to come home.