Anyone who enjoys a drive along one of Innisfil’s country roads or takes a walk down one of our tree-lined streets can’t help but notice some of those interesting “old” houses that help make up the fabric of our community. Commonly referred to as “Victorian homes”, these houses come in many diverse shapes and sizes and encompass a wide range of unique architectural styles and features.
Many of the styles and influences arrived with settlers from Great Britain or United Empire Loyalists from the United States. Others were influenced by architectural features found in Italy, France and the Netherlands. For the homesick settler stuck in a log cabin in the wilds of the township, these types of designs were a reminder of the “civilization” they left behind. Some of the larger or more ornate designs also reflected the growing prosperity of Innisfil’s farmers, shopkeepers and even a few “barons of industry”.
Innisfil is blessed to still have examples of some of these styles located throughout the municipality. All properties that have been designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act or listed on the Town’s Heritage Register of Properties of Cultural Value or Interest are identified using these architectural style terms. On your next visit to Cookstown, Churchill or Stroud or on a leisurely drive down one of Innisfil’s concession roads see if you can pick out some of these styles.
Georgian Tradition (1795 – 1860)
This style is based on the Georgian Architecture of Great Britain that became popular during the reigns of the first three King Georges of England (1750 – 1820). It was first brought to Upper Canada by United Empire Loyalists and emigrants from Great Britain. It is characterized as having windows and doors often arranged and sized according to strict symmetry and proportion. The windows are usually multi-paned and rectangular in shape. With the exception of the central doorway, these homes are often simply detailed and unadorned. The main doorway was located in the centre of the front wall, with two windows on either side with the upstairs windows exactly above. The roofs were either a simple gable or hip shape. It is said that this style often reflected the image of a solid citizen. Three of Innisfil’s designated properties are of the Georgian style.
Second Empire (1850 – 1880)
Second Empire was most popular between 1865 and 1900. This architectural style has its origins during the period of the “Second Empire” in France (1852-1870), when Napoleon’s nephew, Napoleon III, ruled. It peaked in popularity in Upper Canada in the 1870’s. This style features elements such as a mansard roof, elaborate dormer windows, decorative brackets, and a roofline embellished with steel ridge cresting. Additional features could include projecting bay windows and wooden clap-board siding. This style often had the goal of impressing visitors with a feeling of grandeur, class and wealth.
Gothic Revival (1860 – 1880)
This style was greatly influenced by the Romantic Movement in literature and the arts of the mid-1800’s, and often reflected the individuality of the builder. This resulted in often unique, imaginative, and stately buildings. These homes are noted for their steep pitched roofs, pointed arch windows and ornate decorations such as lacy gingerbread hanging from eaves and verandahs and detailed moulds over windows. Floor plans are often rambling with distinct wings. The Gothic Revival style is one of the most common styles of architecture from the 1800’s to have survived in Ontario today.
Queen Anne Revival (1880 – 1915)
Queen Anne Revival is a “High Victorian” style that was a popular design for residential properties. This style typically has an irregular outline and asymmetric floor plan composed of towers, gables, projecting two-storey bays, multi-sloped roofs, verandahs and balconies. Classical motifs such as Palladian windows and columns are often employed. Of all the late Victorian styles, Queen Anne’s are the most elaborate and complicated in design. This style was expensive to build and maintain and is usually found on larger more expansive homes.
Ontario Gothic or ‘Ontario Classic Farmhouse’ (1860 – 1900)
This style of architecture is a hybrid between Georgina Tradition and Gothic Revival. Simple and practical, these homes are usually rectangular or T-shaped in plan. The front is usually laid out with a central entrance door with a central second storey window to provide light to the staircase and upper hallway. Examples of these homes can be both elaborately decorated or almost unadorned. This style of house became so prevalent throughout the province that their sheer numbers have made them an iconic image of Ontario’s rural landscape.
Still under construction!…