Grand River Heights home steeped in history, style and functionality
WAY back in 1931, a well-to-do Winnipeg businessman — Albert Levvy, owner of Levvy Electric — had a home custom built for him in River Heights North.
As it turned out, it wasn’t just any home; it was actually built to evoke visions of the stately castles that inhabit England. The end result — after the princely sum of $4,500 had been spent on the exterior materials, which are comprised of brick and cement — was a nearly 2,600-sq.-ft. home that has come to be known as Fulham Castle.
“We noticed the home five years ago after seeing an article in the paper on it,” says outgoing owner Vicky, who along with husband Dave has run a bed and breakfast out of the stately home for the past several years. “It was love at first sight. The owner wouldn’t sell it, but we kept at it and eventually were able to acquire it.”
The reason — or, rather reasons — they bought it become startlingly apparent once you enter the home through a medieval-inspired entrance that sets the tone for what’s to come.
“In keeping with the castle theme, the front entrance features a portcullis, an actual wooden gate that in effect guards the front door,” says Dave, noting portcullises fortified entrances of medieval castles, acting as a final line of defence during attacks. “It’s a really neat way to start things off.”
Once inside, the first thing that hits you is the abundance of intricatelydetailed oak woodwork that starts in the foyer and runs throughout the rest of the home. The foyer features handcarved flowers on oak wall cladding, while the dining room (currently used as a sitting/TV room) to the right of the foyer has built-in oak china cabinets and an oak-encased window seat with radiator beneath.
“The flowers in the foyer represent the flowers of the British Isles,” explains Vicky. “And there’s also original fleur-de-lis artwork — which we’ve tried to retouch — on the top of the dining room wall near the oak trim. There’s actually so much woodwork in the home that we can’t afford the insurance for the replacement value of all of it.”
Next is a great room that serves as a reminder of how magnificent craftmanship was nearly 80 years ago. With a maple floor with dark oak inlays and an ornate concrete fireplace — along with more oak woodwork lining the walls of the warm, inviting room — you can’t help but appreciate how much work went into the room’s myriad fine details.
“It was actually built to one-quarter the scale of the great room in Nottingham Castle. And even after all these years, everything in it is more or less original,” says the home’s ninth owner, pointing to a stained glass lamp that has been a fixture in the great room for 79 years. “The fireplace is one-piece poured concrete and is all original, including inset rooms — and it works, too.”
Although the home is steeped in oldworld charm, it is by no means an anachronism. For example the kitchen — though compact by today’s standards — is entirely modern.
“We redid it when we bought the home five years ago,” says Dave. “We raised the ceiling, put in a (granite) is- land, new oak floor, track lighting and matching granite countertops. It’s not the biggest kitchen, but it’s what they made back then, and we made it more functional.”
Heading upstairs, you just happen to pass by one of the first built-in home air conditioners (set in the wall by the great room) installed in a home, he adds.
“Back then, they used cold water from a well and a fan system to circu- late the cold air through the house. We didn’t know what it was for the longest time, but one of our guests recognized it.”
Off the stairs is an addition — built in 1963 — that came to bear a designated name when Dave and Vicky turned the home into a bed and breakfast.
“Because it serves as a guest room, we came to call it the Royal Suite,” he says. “It’s a great room with cork floor- ing, electric fireplace and a three-piece ensuite with jetted tub. It also overlooks the original courtyard below, which is quite unique. I don’t know how many English-style courtyards there are in Winnipeg.”
The home’s original (and expansive) upper level — its floors are comprised of solid fir while its walls are lined with original hand-painted murals depicting The Crusades — contains three bedrooms (the original master bedroom is referred to as the Tower Room) and two offices, one of which has been used as an overflow bedroom when there’s been a wealth of guests.
Add in a main bathroom with a ridiculously (in a good way) long, deep soaker tub and modern ceramic tile shower stall, and you have a home that’s not only steeped in history, but style and functionality. When parents aren’t admiring the home’s incredible woodwork, custom-designed (forged) light fixtures and overall level of artistry, they can gain some private time in the secluded master bedroom.
“It’s on the main floor at the rear of the home by the back door,” Vicky says. “We love it because it’s very private, overlooks the courtyard and has a four-piece ensuite with jetted tub. This would make a great home for multigenerational families, or families that have teens.”
Finally, there’s the basement, which was (very successfully) designed to replicate an English pub. Its wealth of woodwork, textured walls — there’s even an original oak bar seat and carvings — makes you want to pour a pint an lift it in a toast to celebrate a special occasion.
Who knows — that toast might celebrate becoming the owner of an historic, yet modern English manor found quite unxpectedly (if not slightly magically) in the heart of Winnipeg.
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