Grand River Heights home steeped in his­tory, style and func­tion­al­ity

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Todd Lewys

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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