The story of this old house was set in the stones

Now de­funct quarry sup­plied prod­uct to build 1856 home

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - http://kathyren­ In­sta­gram: kathyren­wald Kathy Renwald Pro­duc­tions Inc.

When Jerry and Nina Chap­ple saw the in­trigu­ing stone house for sale on Sy­den­ham Street in Dun­das al­most 50 years ago, it was “in­stant fall­ing in love,” says Nina.

A new her­itage plan­ner at the City of Hamil­ton at the time with a mas­ter’s de­gree in ar­chi­tec­tural his­tory, she saw the story in stones.

“It was solid stone, with clas­si­cal de­tails, not high style, but what made it for me were the beau­ti­ful pro­por­tions,” she says.

The house stood out for its beau­ti­ful dou­ble front doors. The north half was built in 1856 and the south half in 1858, with stone from a long gone quarry just up the street.

“There was no easy way to move stone then, so the sup­ply had to be close by,” Nina says.

The Chap­ples would raise two kids (in­clud­ing son Alex, a film and TV di­rec­tor) and var­i­ous dogs in a house they felt priv­i­leged to own, she says. “We took care of it, we were stew­ards, but now it’s time to move on.”

It’s up for sale, listed at $850,000 and the hope is that the new buy­ers will love its his­tory and charm as much as the Chap­ples.

Though it looks like two houses with its two front doors, it was con­verted to sin­gle fam­ily dwelling in the 1950s and the Chap­ples have con­tin­ued to make im­prove­ments. A stone wall was ex­posed dur­ing a kitchen ren­o­va­tion, sky­lights added, pine floors re­fin­ished and bath­rooms im­proved.

“We have been, for half a cen­tury, providers of em­ploy­ment for just about every trade in the greater Hamil­ton area, and gladly so,” says Jerry.

The im­pres­sion on ar­rival is a house rooted in an easy­go­ing sort of el­e­gance. To the left of the cen­tre hall is a spa­cious din­ing room with built-ins for china and glass­ware; a large open­ing to the study and li­brary be­yond ex­pands the sense of space.

To the right of the cen­tre hall is the sunny liv­ing room, big enough for a wood-burn­ing fire­place, pi­ano and con­ver­sa­tional group­ing of sofa and chairs. The ceil­ings are nine­foot-two and the win­dows are sixfeet tall. Those are di­men­sions that trans­form space.

From the be­gin­ning, Nina says, they saw the po­ten­tial in the 160year-old house.

“I love the way the spa­ces flow into each other, there is light com­ing in from all four di­rec­tions. It’s the light and the ma­te­ri­als, the pine, ex­posed stone walls, the open­ness I love. A lot of that was our con­tri­bu­tion to the house.”

Though the house has a her­itage des­ig­na­tion from the city, the in­tent was never to make it a mu­seum piece. As Nina ex­plains, the of­ten mis­un­der­stood des­ig­na­tion cov­ers the pub­lic fa­cade of a build­ing but the in­te­rior spa­ces and the ex­te­rior walls not on view to the pub­lic can be changed.

“Des­ig­na­tion is a process, and usu­ally things can be worked out,” she says.

Chap­ple was a her­itage plan­ner at the city when the On­tario Her­itage Act came into force. A grass­roots move­ment took hold in Hamil­ton af­ter the shock­ing de­mo­li­tion of the won­der­ful Birk’s build­ing. Staff, stu­dents and vol­un­teers worked fer­vently to get 90 his­toric prop­er­ties des­ig­nated and four her­itage dis­tricts es­tab­lished by 2000. A crown­ing achievement was sav­ing the iron rail­ings on the High Level Bridge. If the bridge hadn’t been des­ig­nated, the plan was to in­stall con­crete bar­ri­ers that would have blocked the view of the bay and Cootes Par­adise.

The Chap­ples are mov­ing to an apart­ment. They’ll still be in down­town Dun­das, close to the trails they love, where re­cently they joined vol­un­teers on a but­ter­fly and drag­on­fly count. Giv­ing up home own­er­ship will free up time to trek and travel. Will they miss 27 Sy­den­ham St., with the gra­cious rooms, the lovely screened-in porch, the bed­room with its view of trees?

“Orig­i­nally we thought we’d be buried in the base­ment be­cause we couldn’t leave this place,” Jerry muses.

But they are ready to hand over their du­ties as cus­to­di­ans of the past.

“I call it a Goldilocks house,” Nina says. “Not too big, not too small, with room for dogs and kids. Some­how it’s just right.”

Big win­dows in the din­ing room of Nina and Jerry Chap­ple’s home in Dun­das fill the room and the study be­yond with light.

There are two doors, but it’s one house dat­ing back to 1856. Nina Chap­ple wrote a book about the stone houses of On­tario, yet has not en­coun­tered a sim­i­lar home.

The big liv­ing room has a wood­burn­ing fire­place and gen­er­ously sized win­dows with deep sills. There’s a sur­pris­ing amount of light for a house built in 1856.

Nina and Jerry Chap­ple are say­ing farewell to their her­itage home in Dun­das af­ter 50 years.


Built-in shelves, left, line the study and frame the door­way to the din­ing room. A cozy bed­room in the home fea­tures rus­tic ceil­ing beams.

When the kitchen was ren­o­vated, the de­ci­sion was made to ex­pose one of the old stone walls.


The shady porch is a favourite spot.

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