Re­fur­bished Manor House re-opens to pub­lic

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - News


Staff Rec­og­nized Fed­eral Her­itage Build­ing, the Sir John John­son Manor House Na­tional His­toric Site in Wil­liamstown, threw open its doors on Sun­day for the grand open­ing of an in­door restora­tion pro­ject two years in the mak­ing.

Vis­i­tors were in­vited to an af­ter­noon tea with dainty desserts and to see the three newly ren­o­vated rooms, the grand lofty-ceilinged “ball­room,” a roomy 560-square-foot room, part of a Gothic Re­vival ad­di­tion to the east dat­ing from the 1850s, and its ad­join­ing rooms, a “concierge room” that orig­i­nally served as a bed­room, and a cen­tral room that is part of the orig­i­nal circa 1790 log house.

Lifted and gone are the car­pets that were laid when the Sir John John­son House housed the Wil­liamstown Branch of the SD&G Li­brary. (In 2017, the li­brary was re­lo­cated to nearby St. Mary’s Cen­tre.)

Sun­day’s guests were re­ceived by Lynn Lafave, chair of the Sir John John­son Manor House Com­mit­tee (SJJMHC) who pointed out the changes in­side, the first stage of an in­te­rior ren­o­va­tion that even­tu­ally will in­clude ren­o­vat­ing the house’s sec­ond floor to cre­ate one full suite and three bed­rooms.

The of­fi­cial and fu­ture goal of the com­mit­tee – and at the heart of the next phase of fund-rais­ing – is to pro­vide stylish and com­fort­able ac­com­mo­da­tions so vis­i­tors can come and stay in the his­toric home.

In the mean­time, peo­ple look­ing for a venue for a wed­ding reception or any gath­er­ing of 60 or so can rent the newly re­fur­bished main floor rooms with full bath­room and ac­cess to the house’s kitchen.

The main floor restora­tion pro­ject was paid for through SJJMHC fundrais­ing and fol­lows the com­ple­tion of a $665,000 sta­bi­liza­tion and restora­tion pro­ject to re­place the build­ing’s roof and re­pair and shore up its foun­da­tion.

That pro­ject was un­der­taken and paid for by the build­ing’s owner, Parks Canada (PC) that ac­quired the house in 1971 when it was ush­ered into the Canada-wide sys­tem of na­tional parks and na­tional his­toric sites.

On Sun­day, guests sat at tables in the ball­room that has been re-plas­tered and painted a but­tery yel­low, a colour that was ap­proved by PC this past sum­mer af­ter eval­u­at­ing the room’s orig­i­nal colours.

While volunteers han­dled some of the work like tear­ing out car­pets and the ply­wood sub­floor, the paint­ing and wood­work were un­der­taken by hired con­trac­tors. With the car­pets gone, the rooms’ orig­i­nal pine and maple floors are re­vealed. Over­head in the ball­room is an orig­i­nal plas­ter ceil­ing medal­lion where a crys­tal chan­de­lier once twin­kled.

In fact, the SJJMHC is ask­ing the pub­lic for the do­na­tion of a suitably-sized and his­tor­i­cally ap­pro­pri­ate chan­de­lier to re­place the orig­i­nal. The com­mit­tee is also look­ing for sev­eral large ori­en­tal car­pets for the ball­room. In­come tax re­ceipts will be pro­vided for these and any cash do­na­tions above $20.

The Sir John John­son House houses the Glen­garry Archives that are used for ge­neal­ogy re­search by vis­i­tors from around the world. Its archive hold­ings in­clude lo­cal land and church records, the re­search pa­pers of Frank Ris­teen on Sir John John­son, and the Women’s In­sti­tute Pic­nic Grove Tweedsmuir books and Loy­al­ist and Glen­garry His­tory books.

The Sir John John­son House was orig­i­nally part of a grist and sawmill com­plex built by Sir John John­son some­time be­tween 1784 and 1792. There were two ma­jor ad­di­tions to the orig­i­nal re­fined log build­ing -- a two-storey ad­di­tion on the west side was erected about 1825, and a larger Gothic Re­vival ad­di­tion to the east dat­ing from the 1850s where the ball­room is lo­cated.

To rent the Sir John John­son House ball­room and ad­join­ing rooms, visit the site’s web­page or call 613347-2356. The house’s win­ter hours are Mon­days from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by ap­point­ment.

“Our aim is to use the house again, and – if fundrais­ing goes the way we want – to have the house lived in again,” says SJJMHC com­mit­tee mem­ber Brent Lafave.

“We’re just volunteers and so far the re­ac­tion has been ‘Wow!’ This is our legacy and a legacy you can use.”

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