A simpler time.

Remember that time I accidentally visited a National Historic Site?

That day, the Joseph Schneider Haus had been closed, so I could only poke around the exterior of this living history museum.

Before Easter, I arranged for another visit to the restored 19th century Mennonite homestead, this time with the kids in tow.

We had the luck of being one of only a few families there, which meant no crowds (a sigh of relief from this introvert) and plenty of attention from the amazing costumed staff, who helped navigate, demonstrate and explain how life had been different in the region nearly two centuries ago.

We all loved it. We’re geeky that way.

April 19 (1 of 1)

This visit really highlighted the fact that we’ve lost most of the basic skills that people needed to have mastered for survival and self-sufficiency up until the modern age. Most urban or suburban North Americans are helpless without electricity and wouldn’t know where to start to grow or hunt our own food.

(I barely kept our tomato plants alive last summer. Plus, I don’t usually kill insects – with the exception of mosquitoes – so I’d surely die of starvation if I somehow managed to survive the apocalypse).

Among the features at the Schneider house are a working culinary garden, a smoke- and bake-house, and a wood-stove kitchen where some of these skills and practices are kept alive as staff perform traditional household tasks with observation and participation from visitors.

If the Schneider family killed a goose to eat it, they used all of it – the feathers to stuff the pillows, the fat for moisturizing skin or soothing a sore throat, even the bones were made into toys for the children. In the pre-modern age, nothing went to waste. Now, we throw away everything with little regard for the consequences – out of sight, out of mind.

The kids loved exploring the house, which has been carefully researched and restored, with many original features still intact. On the way to the attic, we passed a little nook in the hallway as the sunlight streamed in through the warped glass of the window. A single wooden chair stood next to a table topped with a basket of needlework. I had to stop and make a picture.

I’m geeky that way.

Up in the Ayr.

I took advantage of the sunshine to collect more old doors for you today in Ayr, Ontario.

During its most prosperous years, the former John Watson Manufacturing Company specialized in the manufacture of agricultural machinery.

March 23 (3 of 10)

March 23 (2 of 10)


Though the company began in the 1840s as Ayr Machinery Works and originally manufactured cast iron pots and stoves, this particular foundry wasn’t built until 1882.

March 23 (1 of 10)March 23 (4 of 10)


The original structure was an impressive four storeys in height. It suffered a devastating fire in 1920 and the current two-storey structure was rebuilt using material from the original building.

March 23 (5 of 10)


According to the historical plaque mounted on the building, John Watson – like many of the early influential citizens of the area – was Scottish. He was the first reeve of Ayr. His company was in continuous family operation for 127 years.

March 23 (7 of 10)March 23 (8 of 10)


The layers of paint certainly show the passage of time.

March 23 (9 of 10)

March 23 (10 of 10)


The former factory has been renovated and repurposed, and is now home to several businesses.

March 23 (6 of 10)

Thank you so much for visiting (and for giving me an excuse to hunt for more doors with my camera).

1. Thanks to Norm for hosting Thursday Doors every week.
2. Read more about Ayr and Watson Manufacturing here and here.

True blue.

Well, I confess that the photos of this Thursday’s Doors are mostly windows. But they have fake shutters that look like doors, so…



In Waterloo today, I took a few minutes to wander past the Seagram Lofts.

These buildings, part of the former Seagram’s Distillery, housed storage facilities for whiskey barrels starting in the early 1900s. (An informative post about the history of the buildings can be found on the City of Waterloo’s Foundations blog here).




Nearly twenty years ago the buildings were converted into lofts, with some commercial units as well. They’re beautiful. (At least from the outside. When I make a friend who lives there and invites me over, I’ll let you know about the interior. But I’m guessing I won’t be disappointed).



The small windows, with their stationary blue shutters, add striking interest to the simplicity of the architecture. Larger, modern windows (not pictured here because I find the miniature ones more compelling) line the sides of the buildings. The landscaping is minimalist and modern, and the location – in thriving Uptown Waterloo – is vibrant and convenient.



I just love the lines of these windows.


Seagram Lofts are a lovely example of adaptive re-use.
Thanks for sticking with me, door-lovers, despite this post being pretty heavy on the windows. 😊

Happy accidents.

I accidentally stumbled across a National Historic Site today.

I’d planned only a walk in Kitchener’s Victoria Park, not a museum outing. Somehow (but not surprisingly) I got lost and ended up on Queen Street, where I saw the sign for Joseph Schneider Haus. I’d never been there, though I’d heard of it. It’s a living history museum – costumed staff demonstrate traditional household tasks as they would’ve been performed on a 19th century Mennonite homestead.


However, my accidental visit occurred two days before the museum opens for the season. I had to make do with nosing around the exterior.

The house is set back from the road, and a couple of massive conifers obscure what had been the front entrance (the current front door is handle-less because the museum entrance is now around the side), so I may have missed it entirely without the signage.


In the early 1800s, the Schneider family, early Pennsylvania-German Mennonite settlers, built their home and a sawmill here. The two-storey frame house (considered Kitchener’s oldest dwelling) still survives and has been carefully restored. A number of outbuildings – a bake house, a wash house, a spring house – have been reconstructed based on archaeological evidence of this early Mennonite homestead.


It’s probably a lovely site in the warm weather months, when the kitchen garden’s in full swing and there’s a buzz of activity. So I’ll be back later this year, with the family in tow, to explore the interior of the historic house, too.

If I can find my way back, of course.


Thanks to Norm for hosting Thursday Doors. Thanks, too, for stopping by.

What’s old is new.

I’m playing along this week in Norm’s Thursday Doors feature.

Today’s doors belong to a barn originally raised in the 1840s, now owned and operated by rare Charitable Research Reserve.



The folks at rare look after over 900 acres of natural land near the confluence of the Grand and Speed Rivers, working to conserve and restore this precious space, while educating and connecting with the community so that this area can be appreciated and enjoyed for generations to come.



The barn is known as the “Slit Barn” – so named for the narrow holes in the walls which were intended to help ventilate the building.


The barn had been in rough shape until rare raised $1.7 million to restore it in 2013 (along with the farmhouse next door, not pictured). The house and barn are now the rare “ECO Centre” (Every Child Outdoors environmental and community facility) where workshops and camps are held for community members. I’ve seen the barn beautifully decked out for weddings and events as well.



This particular property holds an unusual memory for me: About a dozen years ago, on a wet spring evening, I hit a deer with my car along this rural stretch of road – an event to which I attribute my continued anxiety about driving in dark, rainy conditions. (I’m not sure what or who to blame for my anxiety about the bathtub overflowing, forgetting to turn off the stove, and going to parties. But that’s neither here nor there).

In my panic during the moments after impact, I swerved and ended up in the farm’s driveway. The car was a bit damaged, the poor deer didn’t fare well, but I was alright (except for the blubbering and hyperventilating). Back then, the farm buildings weren’t much more than ruins – I’m not sure they were owned by rare yet – and I was too terrified to approach them to ask for help.



The doors are much more inviting now – even on a winter day without a soul in sight.



I always love to see the merging of the old and the new – especially when it fulfills a purpose as important as rare‘s.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by.


More about the Slit Barn and rare can be found here, here and here.


Three-quarters of this household’s members have been down and out with some variety of germ over the past week, so I’ve had no will/time/energy to shoot any photos/brush my hair/change out of my bathrobe. Only the man of the house has escaped unscathed (so far).

Plus, the sun hasn’t shone in what feels like a month, and that has resulted in a grumpy, pale, and unmotivated person (me).

But today is Thursday – time for Norm’s Thursday Doors – and I’m happy to share a couple of shots made last weekend, when the family visited our local arts centre.

On the way out of the gallery we wandered around the building, exploring. There are studios for pottery, dance and fabric arts, plus the gallery and gift shop. In our travels we came upon this odd exterior door, located on the interior of the building. Directly in front of the door is an open area with amphitheatre-style seating and to the right is a large floor-to-ceiling street-facing window. Because of the door’s height off the ground, right away I was reminded of the dreaded mother-in-law door… but after doing a little research I suspect that it was unlikely any mothers-in-law had been utilizing this door when it had actually been in use.


In 1922 the building had been constructed of limestone and yellow brick as the Public Utilities Commission, and served as such until the 80s. In 1990 half of the building was renovated as a seniors’ recreation centre, and in 2001 the rest of the building was converted into the Centre for the Arts, at which point I’m guessing the exterior door probably ended up enclosed in the new portion of the structure. One of my earlier Thursday Doors posts included a photo of an exterior section of the old hydro building:


The floating door, number 24, didn’t seem to budge (the kids tried), nor did anyone answer the sound of the door-knocker (they tried that, too, several times). In fact, one of my children turned the doorknob and pulled it clean out of its socket, at which point I stopped taking photos and decided maybe it was time to leave before we got kicked out for making mischief.


Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, for the coming days to bring the return of the sun, the eradication of our germs, the replacement of my bathrobe to its hook, and the frequent depression of my camera’s shutter button.

Thanks, as always, for visiting.


I read this and this for the history of the building.



Back in Time, p.2.

For Norm’s Thursday Doors this week, I’ll share a couple of shots I made during a quick visit to Hespeler village, now part of Cambridge, Ontario.

George A. Gruetzner, who would later become the mayor of Hespeler, began the Hespeler Furniture Company in 1901. It operated until 1964. The company manufactured quality bedroom and dining room furniture, including period reproductions.

The vast building is now home to several businesses, including a supplier of corporate promotional items, small engine repair shop, yoga studio, and graphic design business.

I love that the signage painted on the brickwork has been preserved.

I think, based on the presence of one small sign (not pictured here), that the western section of the building is now home to a manufacturer of office furniture, but it still has as an air of abandonment to it. Check out the tiny door below in the midst of all those windows, some of which are still boarded up:


And here is a view of the street-level entrances of multiple businesses on the other half of the structure:


Thanks, as always, for stopping by.


The historical info was gathered from here and here and from this photo from the Cambridge Archives.


This pier was once the foundation of a railway bridge, built in 1912, primarily to support the industries on the west side of the Grand River in Galt, Ontario. I made this photo earlier this week.

January 13 (1 of 1).jpg


Here’s a photo, made in August of 2016, of the opposite side of the same pier:


The bridge has been gone since the 1960’s, and the piers have stood here since, quiet and stoic, serving as canvas for optimistic graffiti artists (“PILLAR OF HOPE”, reads the message in the bottom photo).

A controversial plan to build a $1 million pedestrian bridge using this foundation is in the works.

If the view ends up changing, I’ll let you know. 🙂


I read this piece on the Idea Exchange website to get the brief scoop on the history of this bridge.

Back in time.

For Norm’s Thursday Doors this week, I wanted to share a photo of a humble but hardy local building.


This lovely little log structure, the first schoolhouse in Waterloo, Ontario, is nearly 200 years old. Built by Pennsylvania German Mennonite settlers in 1820, its function as a school was short-lived – it served the community for 22 years before being declared too small for the growing population.


c. 1900. Photo from Waterloo Public Library.

It was sold, relocated to Kitchener, and utilized as a residence. From 1891 to 1894, the building sat vacant. The Waterloo Park Board purchased the structure and moved it once again, to its current location in Waterloo Park. The schoolhouse has been beautifully restored and it was formally designated as a Heritage Property in 2012.

I wonder if those who laid the logs of this building knew it would last. I wonder if they’d ever have guessed that that we’d be analyzing their materials and techniques to try and define, and understand, and preserve a culture and a lifestyle that are now obsolete.

Can’t help but wonder what future generations will make of us.


For the history buffs, click here and here and here for more about this building.


Every now and then, I feel about as old and worn out as this looks:


(Today is one of those days, but I won’t go into the details right now. As Michael Ende wrote in The Neverending Story, “that is another story and shall be told another time.”)

Today I’d like to share some ruins.

In my town, there’s a beautiful old factory dating back to the 1840s. Engines, turbines, boilers, and other machinery were manufactured at the site over the years, until it closed in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the building complex began a new existence as an outlet mall. Much of it was renovated, though there are still a few crumbling bits and pieces.

The detail of the peeling paint in the photo above is located on the support beam in the far left of this photo:


Someone, years ago, held the paintbrush that glided over this wooden beam. Someone used their hands to build that stone wall. These were real human beings. They had lain down to sleep at night and woken up in the morning. They had dreams and fears and joys and hardships. They had favourite foods, and favourite seasons, and favourite pastimes. They knew how to ride a horse, or swing an axe, or hum a lullaby to their children. They’d fallen in love (or they’d never fallen in love). I always wonder about the people – and the stories – behind our enduring artifacts.

Word on the street is that during the next couple of years, this complex will undergo a major redevelopment into a trendy shopping/tech/entertainment district. It’ll be lovely, I’m sure, and certainly an economic boost for the city. I think they plan to keep most of the bones of the historic buildings, but some will have to give way for the modern new design.

When it happens, and these walls have been bulldozed and the peeling paint is gone, what will be left to remind me – or my kids, or my kids’ kids – of that painter or that stonemason?

Enough of my pondering… off to bed now so that I don’t wake up as old and worn out tomorrow.