Cou­ple’s dream home made of log trea­sures

Cen­tury-old beams add glam­our to fine homes

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - SHEILA BRADY

Kathy and Gord Black live in a coun­try house by the Ottawa River, built with cen­tury-old logs panned from the bot­tom of the river that was the main high­way mov­ing tim­ber from the Ottawa Val­ley to Que­bec City and loaded onto tall ships bound for Eng­land.

“Life is an ad­ven­ture and logs are the trea­sure. They are wooden gold,” says Gord, a na­tive of Shawville, Que., a town 12 kilo­me­tres to the west where his 83-yearold mother, Eleanor Black, still lives in the fam­ily’s big, red brick house.

“My roots are deep in the com­mu­nity and my mom is only 10 min­utes away,” says Black, who left Shawville as a teenager to play ju­nior hockey for the Black Hawks in St. Catharines. There were only six teams and I wasn’t good enough to go on,” says Black.

In­stead, he trained as an elec­tri­cal ap­pren­tice and went on to open Black Elec­tric in 1985.

In the late ’90s, while work­ing hours on end, Black also wanted to give back to the com­mu­nity where his fa­ther, Al­lan Black, was mayor and his mother and older brother were coun­cil­lors.

Black, the en­tre­pre­neur, knew he didn’t have the tem­per­a­ment to be a politi­cian, so he started looking around his home­town for a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate jobs and bol­ster the lo­cal econ­omy.

He also wanted a com­pany with an en­vi­ron­men­tal edge.

The river caught his in­ter­est, specif­i­cally the sunken trea­sure of logs that dur­ing drives 100-plus years ago, be­came wa­ter­logged and sank af­ter some of the gi­ant cribs broke apart near rapids and dams.

Some were nav­i­ga­tion haz­ards as age made them gassy and they bobbed to the sur­face.

In 1997, the man who was comfortabl­e on ice but not in wa­ter, bought a boat and a small re­mote cam­era and went trolling for logs be­tween the dam at Fitzroy Park and 22 kilo­me­tres up river at the Chenaux dam at Portage du Fort.

“It is a whole other world un­der there. Life changes on the top of the river, but it doesn’t un­der wa­ter,” says Black, who is a ded­i­cated am­a­teur his­to­rian, own­ing a li­brary of more than 200 books on the his­tory of log­ging and the Ottawa River.

His re­search led him to a riches of sub­merged logs left be­hind dur­ing 150 years of log runs on the river.

Twelve years af­ter start­ing Logs End, Black and his divers have re­trieved 75,000 tim­bers and cre­ated a suc­cess­ful busi­ness fin­ish­ing them for fine floor­ing.

His logs now form glam­ourous man­tels on fire­places in plush recre­ational homes at Mont Trem­blant, and softly bur­nished floors in new homes through­out Ottawa.

“No one goes into the log­ging busi­ness to get rich,” says Black, who es­ti­mates he in­vested mil­lions in the com­pany, and only last year did the in­vest­ment turn a profit.

Three years ago, the Blacks bought a small green cot­tage by the Ottawa River in the cen­tre of Nor­way Bay, a pop­u­lar cot­tage com­mu­nity close to Shawville, and even closer to his mill in Bris­tol.

The Blacks loved the lo­ca­tion and lived in the old cot­tage for a year, but wanted more room for when their blended fam­ily of four chil­dren and two grand­chil­dren vis­ited.

The cou­ple, to­gether six years, mar­ried on Aug. 21.

“Gord gave me a small win­dow of op­por­tu­nity and I took it,” says Kathy, who read count­less mag­a­zines on tim­ber-frame coun­try homes.

She cut out pic­tures be­fore lay­ing out her ideas. “We hired a drafts­man to make sure my ideas worked,” she says.

Then they both called on con­tacts made dur­ing years of trade and home shows where they were sell­ing Logs End’s wide se­lec­tion of pine and yel­low birch floor­ing.

They con­nected with Ver­mont Frames, sign­ing the deal when the Cana­dian dol­lar hit $1.08. “Our tim­ing was ex­actly right,” says Black.

Early in 2007, the Blacks cleared the site, giv­ing the cot­tage to a friend, Chris Byrne, coach of the ju­nior hockey team Ottawa 67s, who moved the build­ing to an­other site.

Win­ter ar­rived early in the Pon­tiac in De­cem­ber 2007, dump­ing 20 cen­time­tres of snow hours be­fore teams ar­rived to erect the wooden skele­ton made with 25 mas­sive white pine beams.

Five days later, the frame was com­plete and in an­other 17 days crews in­stalled thick, in­su­lated foam pan­els and the roof.

It took an­other 25 huge pines and yel­low birch logs for the floor­ing and trim work.

Then came weeks when the cou­ple sealed and fin­ished in­te­rior beams and wooden trim, as­sur­ing the three-bed­room home would fit nat­u­rally into the cot­tage com­mu­nity.

The fit is aided by an ex­te­rior that is a mix of softly-coloured green wood, tawny­coloured stone and gabled rooflines.

At 2,800 square feet, the home is larger than its more mod­est neigh­bours, but it doesn’t over­power.

In­side, the mas­ter bed­room is on the main floor, with win­dows looking out over the com­mu­nity beach and the river.

The ceil­ing soars over the liv­ing room and a huge floor-to-ceil­ing stone fire­place warms the house for pen­nies, while the open kitchen fea­tures creamy white cab­i­nets, made with river logs fin­ished by car­pen­ters from south­ern On­tario.

The gleam­ing break­fast bar is a rough piece of pine Gord Black brought from his Bris­tol mill.

Tile floors in the kitchen and bath­room are heated. Up­stairs, there’s a bath­room and two bed­rooms with soar­ing ceil­ings, ex­posed beams and crib beds for grand­chil­dren.

“There’s lots of room for bunkbeds when there are more grand­chil­dren,” says Kathy, who re­cently fin­ished land­scap­ing, in­clud­ing a rear court­yard which is a favourite set­ting for par­ties.

The cou­ple loves to sit on the front deck, watch­ing swim­mers on the beach and neigh­bours stroll by.

“We are in the hub of the bay. It’s great,” he says.

Their new grass is pro­tected by a fence cre­ated with iron chains that once linked the log booms on the river, and the ends of re­trieved logs that have been sunk into the ground.

A mas­sive an­chor sits on the cor­ner of the lot, an­other find by Black who dives daily dur­ing the sum­mer, looking for more trea­sures.

He finds the lo­ca­tions from maps col­lected from the de­funct fed­eral depart­ment, ICO that man­aged the log drives un­til they were ended in 1990.

“This is home. I love it,” says Kathy Black. “We’re home.”

Pho­tos, Jean Levac, Ottawa Ci­ti­zen

Cathy and Gord Black, own­ers of Logs End — which re­trieves logs from the floor of the Ottawa River — have built a home where ev­ery piece has a story to tell.

The ex­te­rior of the el­e­gant home, which was con­structed over­look­ing the Ottawa River.

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