(Historic) home away from home.

If you find yourself in Hamilton, Ontario, with nothing but a backpack and a few bucks, consider an overnight visit to the Hamilton Guest House, a historic residence now functioning as a hostel.

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We visited the building while on our Doors Open Hamilton excursion. If you’ve been following along, this was the fateful event during which I fell in love with The Cotton Factory.

Any place we visited after that had a lot to live up to.

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The owners of HGH greeted us warmly and gave us a little history of the building, which you can read more about here and here.

The home was built in 1855 for the Pring family. William Pring was a customs surveyor who moved to Port Colborne only a few years later. The building changed hands and purposes several times in the years since, which meant it didn’t always receive the care it deserved. In 2006, a new owner made strides to repair and rejuvenate the building. The current owners bought the house in 2012 and have operated the hostel there since.

It’s charming but not overly fancy. Some paint is peeling and the common rooms we visited were cluttered, but everything has a comfortable, relaxed feel. It looks clean but lived-in, rather than stuffy and pretentious. There are some unique features, such as a narrow, spiral staircase, and a set of curved doors that reminded me, for some reason, of something out of Alice in Wonderland.

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We didn’t visit the guestrooms, but there were interesting nooks and crannies scattered through the common areas. I’m a fan of any room with a camouflaged door.

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And since there are others who like doors just as much as I do, I’ll link up this post to Norm Frampton’s weekly feature, Thursday Doors.

While The Cotton Factory still holds my heart, the HGH provided another small, satisfying glimpse into the city’s architectural past.

Many thanks, as always, for stopping by 😊


School’s in.

This week, we’ll peek at the made-over version of a grand old beauty for Norm’s Thursday Doors.

This 3-storey cut-stone building held memories for many folks in the small town of Fergus, Ontario.

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In 1927, Fergus High School was built on a hill overlooking a provincial highway. It served the small town and surrounding community for nearly 80 years. The stately design and quality craftsmanship is indicative of the value placed on education by the community at the time.

Fergus High School Circa 1930

Fergus High School, ca. 1930. Photo courtesy Wellington County Museum and Archives. 


In the years since the school closed in 2004, ivy spread unchecked, its spidery tendrils enveloping the front doors. You get the idea from the photo below, found on the township’s website, but I couldn’t find one that captured the building’s pre-restoration vibe of abandonment. I didn’t pass through Fergus often, but when I did, I was always both enamored and unsettled by the imposing facade.

Fergus High School Ivy

Photo courtesy www.centrewellington.ca. Date unknown.


Fortunately, the former school was protected by a heritage designation in 2006. The site was purchased by Reid’s Heritage Homes, a residential builder. Two condominiums were built behind the school, but Reid’s made the decision to sever the property and put the building up for sale in 2012, with an asking price of nearly $1 million.

The structure was purchased in 2014, and after the necessary renovations and rejuvenation, it became home to Emmanuel Christian High School.

Below are some shots I made of the school as it stands today. As you can see, it’s had a significant ‘haircut.’ Now, we can see its beautiful face. 🙂

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Thanks, as always, for visiting.

I learned about this building herehere, and here.

Oldies but goodies.

I fell in love last weekend.

Lucky for me, I had two objects of affection. The first was the Mr., who was by my side as we wandered through some of the Doors Open Hamilton sites (Doors Open is a program during which one can enjoy free access to cultural and historic places in communities around the province). I’d already fallen in love with him, and that happened nearly two decades ago, so that’s old (but still good) news.

The new news is that I also fell in love with a building, and everything in it.

One of the stops on our Doors Open route was The Cotton Factory, a sprawling industrial complex built in 1900. Admittedly, it’s not in the poshest area of town. And things look a bit sketchy from the outside. But this entire historic textile mill has been transformed into a hub of talent, occupied by over 60 tenants including artists, designers, and creative professionals of all kinds. Events like weddings, fairs and film shoots take place here regularly. The buildings have been restored and re-purposed with great respect for the integrity of the original structures. Maybe the factory wasn’t considered beautiful at the turn of the 20th century, but it is now, in its own rustic way. And with a new life as a creative community space, there’s no denying the vibrant energy within.

I thought it timely – it is Thursday, after all, so a contribution to Norm’s weekly Thursday Doors feature is appropriate – to share with you only a few of the fine doors I encountered at this place. The shots are kind of dingy and don’t capture the real charm of the place, but I suppose that’s a good reason to return some day, with more time and better technique.

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The red door is an elevator. FYI: the other one is a fire escape.


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Sit and stay awhile.


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One of these people does not have realistic body proportions.


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Lest we forget.


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Diverse types of studios, workshops, galleries and offices occupy the space.


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Sliding doors.


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A reminder to be gentle.


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There’s cool stuff outdoors, too.

I had earlier stated that the Mr. was by my side during our visit, but technically he spent most of his time a few steps ahead of me because I was gawking at everything, resulting in a pace only slightly faster than a snail. (Poor guy. He’s a good sport. In fact, it was his idea to come here. And though The Cotton Factory is probably indifferent to my affections, at least the Mr. loves me back.)

I’ll save a few other interior photos for another post. Share the love, I say.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

Instant charm.

My contribution this week to Norm Frampton’s feature, Thursday Doors, involves a food truck and a rather unremarkable employee entrance.

Okay, so the carefully crafted stonework and rich history of the Old Courthouse is missing from this post (Norm likes to set the bar high), but Kraemer’s looks to me like a top-notch fry shack, at least in terms of appearance. Apparently, according to online reviews, the fries taste pretty great, too, though I haven’t yet participated in a taste test.

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Kraemer’s was closed for the night when I made the trip through Fergus, Ontario. But still, the cheerful yellow exterior was hard to miss, and warranted a stop so I could make a photo. Had the building been painted grey, I wouldn’t have given it a second glance. I guess a bright coat of colour is sometimes all that’s required to perk a thing up.

The shack gets bonus points for the matching picnic tables.

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If you stop here someday on your way through Fergus, let me know how the fries taste. Since I seem to be incapable of visiting establishments during open hours, I’ll have to live vicariously through you.

Thanks, as always, for visiting. 😊

Detours and diversions.

Today I took a wrong turn while driving through Hespeler. As I’m learning, though, it’s hard to discover anything new by always travelling the same road.

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It’s a good thing, too, because had I turned right instead of left, I wouldn’t have captured a door to share in Norm’s weekly feature, Thursday Doors.

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The facade of this building has a slightly different vibe than most art galleries, yes?

Back at home (I managed to get there without getting lost again, in case you were wondering), Google informed me (herehere and here) that the Underground is a gallery, store and studio headed by Ean Kools, a local street artist.

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As it happens, earlier today I picked up a flyer for the Cambridge International Street Art Festival, taking place this June. I had missed the festival last year, but I do plan on wandering the streets to check out this year’s gathering of artists as they work their magic (maybe I should bring a map?).

Thanks, as always, for visiting.

I should probably plan ahead.

I’m having a pretty poor track record of visiting National Historic Sites during open hours (remember this?). As it happens, my visits to these places have also occurred when the shadows are harshest and the gardens are barren, which hasn’t made for ideal photos.

But they’ll have to do. It’s Thursday, so I wanted to be sure I had a door to contribute for Norm’s Thursday Doors weekly feature.

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Castle Kilbride, as it’s known, is in the small town of Baden, Ontario. If you live somewhere in the world where a castle is an imposing, ancient stone fortress with towers and dungeons, you might be misled by the name. Castle Kilbride is a large, young-ish (by “castle” standards), beautifully maintained Victorian house.

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The home was built in 1877 for James Livingston, who was a leader in the local flax and linseed oil industries. Named after his birthplace in Scotland, the home stayed in the family for three generations. It was sold to a developer in the late 1980’s, but the development plan fell through, leaving the building to an uncertain fate. Fortunately the Township of Wilmot bought the property and began restoration in 1993. It was declared a National Historic Site in 1995.

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Inside, it’s known for its Trompe l’oeil ceiling and wall murals (which I will see when I get my act together and visit during operating hours), and for the care and detail that have gone into the realistic re-creation of the time period.

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Interestingly, the Township’s administrative offices are located in a completely modern addition to the rear of the home. You can’t see it from the front (probably on purpose). It’s not an ugly building, but (in my opinion) it does look a bit odd when viewed from the side, since it’s attached to the historic house.

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In any case – this place is worth another visit when the gardens are lush and the front door is open.

Thank you, as always, for stopping by.

Drab to fab.

I don’t have grand, elaborate entrances this week for my submission to Norm’s Thursday Doors. In fact, today’s doors are pretty inconspicuous. They’re hidden inside a work of art.

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For that, we can thank artist Stephanie Boutari. This mural transforms the rear of this bland and generic strip mall into a unique and colourful canvas. Street art can truly add personality and interest where they may be lacking. I like the vibrancy and sweeping curves of this piece.

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The details were carefully considered to ensure the look is unified in the big picture. The lines are sharp, clean and vivid – even up close. Only the metal ring in the bottom photo, jutting from the wall, shows a little wear and tear.

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In this week’s post, the walls are more impressive than the doors themselves, but given the state of these walls, I didn’t think you’d mind. Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The layers of paint certainly show the passage of time.

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

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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.

The missing eye.

The title of this post may be somewhat misleading, but as you can see here, this week’s contribution to Norm’s Thursday Doors does appear to be missing an important component to its hook-and-eye latch.

The character of a door or building is determined not only by the big picture – its shape, size, colour, lines and materials – but also by the finer details. I love the way this hook has, over time, worn a groove in the wood.

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Our door – on the right in the photo below – is one of three that belong to the St. George Arms, a pub housed in a historic building dating back to the mid-1800s.

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Last week, we admired Abigail’s colourful doors just down the road from the pub. I’m sure we’re not done with St. George just yet. Thanks, as always, for stopping by.