Tag Archives: bed and breakfast

Heritage Lost – Shaver House Burns

NINGA CRIDDLE CEMETERY JUNE PICS 054

Reid Dickie

A sad loss of a beautiful heritage house near Killarney. The Shaver house, which I posted about here, was destroyed by fire recently. It had been operated as a lovely bed and breakfast by Pam and Paul La Pierre. My thoughts and prayers are with the La Pierres.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Day Seven

Shaver House, Killarney area, MB

Shaver house front elevation

Reid Dickie

As I drove along the dusty country road toward the Shaver house north of Killarney I started to get the giddy sensation that arises when I approach something living and vital yet stationary and settled. Sacred places usually create that sense in me, sometimes buildings do, too.

As if painted directly on the prairie blue, a wondrous and unlikely Side and facade viewvision, that switched back and forth between Italianate and Gothic Revival styles like a 2-D postcard, took shape against the distance. I was fascinated and curious, as ever.

Here’s an example of what prairie success did to an Ontario-born farmer, Arthur Shaver, who came to the Hullett area in 1889. Successful at farming and committed to a new and growing community, he served on Hullett’s first school board when it began in 1892. By the turn-of-the-century Shaver was ready to build.

Situated on a small rise overlooking rolling farm land to the south, Arthur Shaver built a house that recognized his success, his talent and his humanity. Two and a half storeys in tan brick, fanciful, one-of-a-kind design and decoration – a unique, top-notch quality house that the Shaver family made their home for several generations thereafter starting in 1901.

Ivied wall and rear sunroomUniqueness will always arouse my curiosity. I was excited as I stepped out of the cool Avenger into a hot June afternoon to see what’s up!

The wise old house and its tidy and tended grounds turns out to be a bed and breakfast called La Belle Vie (The Good Life) run by friendly and sociable Pam and Paul La Pierre. We sat next to the above-ground pool and rear sun room, both of which felt very compatible with Shaver’s dream, and shared some thoughts on the house and farm.  The La Pierre’s, by loving and maintaining the house and sharing it with travelers, respect and enhance the heritage value of the place, located on the original Shaver farm.

I enjoy staying at curious bed and breakfasts and meant to get back to Detail of front elevationthe area and spend a night living La Belle Vie, but, alas, it didn’t happen. Added to next summer’s list. My words and video then are about the exterior only.

What an exterior!! The generous rectangular massing has a shallow pedimented gable on the front and a wing on the east side. Scrolled bargeboard accentuates the pediment. The hip roof is cut with two dormers and the wide eaves are supported by scrolled brackets. Painted bricks add flair and interest to the house with stars, quoins on the corners and the detailed colour contrast highlighting the windows.

For an all-around view of the Shaver house, watch my 2:12 video.

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Filed under 12 Days of Christmas 2012, Heritage Buildings, Houses, Manitoba Heritage

It’s Grasslands National Park Day on ReadReidRead

Reid Dickie

For the second year in a row, February 1st is Grassland National Park Day on my blog. This year I’m offering two new videos, one of prairie dogs in GNP and a video tour of The Convent Bed & Breakfast in Val Marie, SK on the edge of the park.

Grasslands National Park is an enchanting place. Features of the park include its recent designation as a Dark Sky Preserve, in fact, the darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. Critterwise, GNP is celebrating its first wild-born black-footed ferrets. The park reintroduced black-footed ferrets without much success until last year when, for the first time in 70 years, a wild black-footed ferret was born in Canada. Watch a park video of the ferrets.  

Another reintroduction to Grasslands National Park is plains bison. For the first time in 150 years, a herd of plains bison now numbering about 250 head are part of the prairie ecosystem. Adaptable and comfortable, the plains bison population is increasing quickly with about 75 calves expected to be born in spring 2012. The herd has increased from the 70 bison first released in 2005.

Read posts from last year’s Grasslands National Park Day.

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The Convent B&B, Val Marie, SK

Reid Dickie

I’ve spent more glorious nights at The Convent Bed & Breakfast than any other lodging on my prairie travels. Its appeal is powerful and pleasant, relaxing yet stimulating at the same time. The combination of a serene old building and the caring owners creates a peaceful and rare experience. The picture above is The Convent’s charming dining room overlooking Grasslands National Park.

Val Marie (pop. about 130) is located at the western end of Grasslands National Park and features the park office and visitor centre. It’s about an hour south of Swift Current off the Trans Canada Highway. Few accommodations for travelers exist in the little village making The Convent even more precious. An actual convent used as a teaching facility into the late 1960s, the Ducans converted it into a bed and breakfast in the late 1990s. They retained many of the features, such as blackboards, chapel including confessional and woodwork from the original building. Take a video tour of The Convent inside and out with me by clicking on the pic below.

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Manitoba Heritage House -Beechmount

Reid Dickie

A short feature article and picture of Beechmount can be found on my Houses page but the house and its owner richly deserve a more thorough report. A few years ago I visited Beechmount and was given an enchanting tour by its owner, Christine Common. 

Beechmount, 134 West Gate, Winnipeg, MB

“Someone told me before you do anything radical to a house, live in it for the four seasons of a full year,” says Christine Common, proud owner and restorer of Beechmount at 134 West Gate in Winnipeg.  “Do little things the first year,” but get a personal feel for your old house before you begin the major work.

She took that advice over 30 years ago. Today, Christine Common and her partner Giovanni Geremia share the wholly restored house with hundreds of people from around the world. Twenty-room Beechmount is now a four and a half star bed and breakfast. Though its adaptive reuse is modern, the house’s history connects inextricably with Winnipeg’s history.

Beechmount stands on a bend in the Assiniboine River, set back from the river and street. Lendrum McMeans, a barrister and politician, built the house in 1895. He sold it to bank manager John Benning Monk who named it Beechmount after his home back in Ontario. Later in the 20th century, it became known as the J. B. Monk House.

Few architectural styles are as picturesque as Queen Anne Revival, popular about 1890 to 1910 during Winnipeg’s building boom time. Broadway, its cross streets and new residential areas like Armstrong’s Point, teemed with Queen Annes sporting jaunty roofs, effusive decoration, elaborate verandahs and often, turrets or towers.

Beechmount, the second house built on West Gate, is an extraordinary example of the style, rendered with class, sincerity and just a touch of whimsy. Call it genteel. Eastlake decoration, characteristic of Queen Anne style, adorns the verandah with turned spindles, finials and posts. In 1980, the house looked nothing like this.

“When this house came up for sale, I saw the huge amount of work it needed. This beautiful Queen Anne had been messed up big time.” Common winces when she thinks of her initial contact with the house. “The house was in good condition but it had undergone very insensitive renovation. Its original integrity and Queen Anne beauty had been badly damaged.”

Despite the ghastly décor and unsympathetic renovation, something appealed to Common. “Even in its ugly altered state, this place had a spirituality about it that spoke to me. There was something irresistible about its spaces, something here I wanted to undertake.” The job turned out to be much bigger and longer than she imagined.

“I had a monumental task in front of me so I took it on a little bit at a time. Sometimes I was discouraged, others I was elated. There were times when I almost gave up but I’d think, I’ve come this far, why quit now?”

Her first project was the newel post and banister you see when you enter the house. Under layers of paint, she discovered the intricate carving on the newel post and the luster of the oak handrails. It took over a year to finish that job. Thereafter it was one room at a time, starting with the dining room.

“The Historic Buildings By-Law came into being about the time I started my restoration so there wasn’t much in the way of government resources available,” says Common. She consulted with U of M Faculty of Architecture, attending restoration workshops by Professor Bill Thompson.

Today there are vast amounts of information, reference material and advice about heritage restoration and maintenance on the internet. The Historic Places Initiative has developed a set of Standards and Guidelines for Canadian heritage restorations along with resources for identifying, repairing and maintaining historic sites. The Historic Resources Branch, part of Manitoba’s Culture, Heritage, Tourism and Sport ministry, provides advice, specific assistance and general information on conservation and maintenance to owners of heritage sites.

Over the next fifteen years, besides restoring Beechmount, Common raised a family, divorced a husband and dealt with life as it arose. By 1995, enough of the history of the house had been unearthed and enough restoration done that the Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee toured and decided to designate the house.

Common took advantage of the new funding benefits that arise when you own a designated property and started on the “serious external stuff” such as the verandah. The original verandah was torn off in 1958 to make way for concrete steps. Enough documentation existed to create replication drawings.

Architect Giovanni Geremia had renovated the kitchen in the house so Common contacted him. He was thrilled to be able to draw up the verandah plans for her. Promising her “a more authentic result,” Geremia even offered to do it himself, if she wasn’t in a rush to get it done. The verandah took three years to complete but the result is spectacular.

The replication is uncanny. Utterly appropriate in colour, dimensions, detailing and quality of craftsmanship, the wraparound verandah enhances the comfort and warmth of the welcoming buff brick home. It appears to have always been there. The large brackets at the gable corners of the verandah were constructed by Geremia to match the originals at the roof corners. Each contains 20 separate pieces of wood. Another exterior job restored the still-assessable widow’s walk on the roof.

A long-time environmental activist and conservationist, Common sees Beechmount from that perspective. “This house is a giant recycling project. We think of recycling little things like cans and bottles but restoring rather than demolishing buildings is also recycling. Personally and policy-wise, we need to think in those terms.”

“Now it’s the upkeep,” says Common. Upkeep maintains both the heritage and real estate value of a property by helping ensure its distinctive character-defining elements are protected. Appropriate maintenance demonstrates pride in the accomplishments of forbearers and the personal satisfaction of fulfilling your time of stewardship. Often mentioned by site owners is the enrichment of the community and respect that maintenance creates.

“My maintenance plan? I just watch. The house speaks to you. It’s never leaked. It’s structurally sound. There is a bit of painting needs to be done.” Asked about a maintenance schedule, Common says, “We do interior work during the winter and the exterior in summer.”

The rewards of the restoration are many and varied for Common. In 2006, Heritage Winnipeg awarded her the Best Residential Conservation Award, citing “the sympathetic and successful rehabilitation – a quarter century labour of love.”

“I thought it was nice recognition of work done over such a long time. As a bed and breakfast, the award adds exciting flavour to our advertisements and gets people interested in Manitoba history, bringing out the questions. Why is it designated? Who lived here? I enjoy sharing what I know about the era, style, architect, people who lived here. This house is exciting from all those perspectives.”

The heritage factor attracts lodgers. “Often people stay here because they have a connection to Armstrong’s Point or West Gate or they just like staying in old homes.” The house is included on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

As satisfying as a heritage award and designations are, Common found a visit by a 90-year old woman in 2006 equally filled with delightful affirmation.

“She married one of the Monk boys and had often visited this house during their courtship. When she walked onto the verandah and in the front door, she said ‘Oh my Christine, this is just the way I remember it seventy years ago.’ To me that was such a positive affirmation! That one comment will always encourage me to never give up.”

Of her love for Beechmount, Common says, “If you find a suitable old building, as English critic and author John Ruskin said, ‘You’ll find walls that are washed by the passing waves of humanity.’ You won’t find that in a new building.

“It’s exciting connecting the building to its historical origins. It’s a little bit of archeology. I love to research and discover. You can’t do that in a new house because there is nothing to discover. I find the work and the research enormously interesting and rewarding. It’s a springboard for doing more.”

That is often how heritage is preserved. Satisfying feelings of accomplishment, pride and connection, a result of doing the work, inspire and expand the owner’s willingness to continue with the restoration or maintenance. The next project has the same effect, which spurs you on to the next and so on.

The responsibility Christine Common feels for Beechmount stretches in both directions from the present. It respects the origins and architecture of the building, its history and all the lives lived within it. It honours the present site with loving restoration and maintenance ensuring a significant piece of local history is preserved for future generations.

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12 Manitoba Heritage Houses

           These are the same 12 Manitoba Heritage Houses on the 12 Houses page at the top. I’m making them into a post with a link to their page so as I can allow their many tags to be available online and make them easier to find. Right now WordPress doesn’t provide tags for pages, just posts. This will get around that.

           If you haven’t checked out 12 Manitoba Heritage Houses or even if you have, now is a good time. I’ve added some interesting links that weren’t there previously. This series originally appeared as a 12 Days of Christmas project Linda and I sent out in 2007 which accounts for the format. Each house merits a grand picture and short description.

           Take a drive with me around Manitoba, stopping in some delightful places and catching glimpses of twelve precious and well-maintained houses that passionately preserve our heritage.

12 MANITOBA HERITAGE HOUSES

DAY ONE

Janz House, Third St. & Fifth Ave. W, Souris, MB

              To accommodate the superintendent and his family, the Canadian Pacific Railway built this elegant wood frame more…

DAY TWO

Beechmount, 134 West Gate, Winnipeg, MB

            Built by barrister Lendrum McMeans in 1895, it was bank manager John Benning Monk who named it more…

DAY THREE

Brick Bungalow, 1604 College Ave, Brandon, MB

              This brick bungalow’s distinctive low-slung porch roof offers a deep sheltering space to enter the home. The more…

DAY FOUR

J. D. McLean House, South Chestnut  Street, Shoal Lake, MB

            J.D. McLean, a tinsmith and hardware merchant, built this delightful two-storey Queen Anne style house more…

DAY FIVE

Brick two-storey house, Third & Cliff, Wawanesa, MB

           This eloquent two-storey Queen Anne style house demonstrates the early prosperity of Wawanesa. Executed more…

DAY SIX

Mansard roof house, 415 Kerby St., Miami, MB.

           Well-kept and charming, this fine example of a mansard-roofed house was built around 1900. The house more…

DAY SEVEN

Classic Two-Storey, Garwood Ave, Winnipeg, MB

         Built in 1914 when its west Fort Rouge neighbourhood was being developed, this standard off-centre more…

DAY EIGHT

McBurney House, Third St & Fifth Ave W, Souris, MB.

        This house is a beauty! Built in 1909, architect Charles Hawkins Brindle loaded the house with Classical more…

DAY NINE

One & a Half Storey, Blight St, Miami, MB.

         Another lovely pridefully maintained home in little Miami. This classic example of a one and half storey more…

DAY TEN

Former Paterson/Matheson House, 1039 Louise Ave. Brandon, MB

           This splendid 1895 house exudes extreme Queen Anne style dripping with Eastlake decoration. The great more…

DAY ELEVEN

Brick Gingerbread House, 510 Fourth at Simcoe, Carberry, MB

              Take a moment to drink in the detail and the overall Seussian effect. The picturesque roofline features more…

DAY TWELVE

Brick Gingerbread House, 228 Fifteenth St, Brandon, MB

           A coin toss decided which gingerbread became Christmas Day house. Appropriately, this unusual place more… 

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