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Posts Tagged ‘Bay-and-Gable’

Occasionally in Toronto, one can find an original Queen Anne Style window in a Bay and Gable, or other Victorian, styled home. Apparently, improved glass making in the 1880s meant that designers could build larger windows with fewer small mullioned panes, however, mullions were still appreciated for their aesthetics.

Queen Anne window style, the result of improved glass making, was a completely new style of window that did not exist in previous historic styles.

Queen Anne style "Fancy Top" window

Queen Anne style "Fancy Top" window

At this time, public preferences and architect recommendation called for widows with divided, or “fancy top” upper windows and single full lower windows that would allow for unobstructed view while still maintaining the look of a divided window in the top pane. In different windows the divided lights march around the casement, allowing for a larger central window. The look of multiple mullions of varying coloured antique or muffle glass can be very spectacular when sun shines from behind. Due to the era, these windows were largely installed in Queen Anne houses, from which they are named, but are also called “cottage” windows. This window style, the result of emerging technology, was a completely new style of window that did not exist in previous historic styles.

Reproduced Casement Window

Reproduced Casement Window

One will need to find a good carpenter when trying to replace a Queen Anne window given the intricate mullion that comprises the panes. Luckily southern Ontario has many good carpenter that specialize in keeping alive the large Victorian housing stock in the province. Hoffmeyer Mills in Sebringville specializes in period millwork and made a perfect sash to custom specs.

Glazing stained glass lights on a Queen Anne window requires a bit of knowledge of period glass used in 1880s windows. A local stain glass supplier was very helpful in locating the perfect classic Victorian cobalt, red and amber glass that was so often matched together in Queen Anne windows of the period. While the cobalt blue, red and amber was a popular combination, Queen Anne windows were glazed using multiple coloured and textured glass that was produced at the time.

Panes pressed into glazing putty and secured with baton strips

Panes pressed into glazing putty and secured with wood stop strips

Reproduction “Antique Glass” can be purchases in varying qualities from mouth blown to machine rolled. In both cases, a glass that is dynamic and brilliant in light is produced. The high quality mouth blown glass is exceptionally brilliant given the random striations and swirls produced as the glass maker spins the glass to fabricate the panes. In many instances, other rolled textured glass, such as muffle glass, were used in these windows.

Individual panes can be either be  secured with glazing points and putty or set in a small bead of putty and secured with small wooden stops. I would recommend using the wood stops since glazing points may be hard to secure given the small pane sizes and the increased chance of breaking a pane given that reproduction antique glass is more brittle.

Installed window

Installed Queen Anne casement window

The final window was installed using four inch reproduction Victorian hinges and window hardware. A minor amount of wood planing was needed to get a snug fit in the window jam. Given that it was installed in a humid bathroom, it will eventually get a good coat of oil based paint.

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The Cabbagetown Historical Preservation Association takes the preservation of Toronto’s Victorian housing seriously and with good reason – Cabbagetown is the largest stretch of Victorian housing in North America. On their homepage they have made available the resource, “What Style is My House” which is good reading for anyone who can’t identify the historic home they live within.

This is an invaluable resource for those of us who had no idea they had bought a Century Victorian because there was little left to identify what the original house had looked like. For whatever reason, downtown homes, outside of the trendy preservation districts, tend to be hidden under layers of aluminum siding, inappropriate additions and a host of other measures over the years that often results in a house that stylistically “does not make sense”.

The Cabbagetown Preservation guide is oriented to Torontonian architecture with detailed styling points for Georgian, Queen Anne,  Romanesque, Gothic and Arts and Crafts styles. Two styles of housing are unique to Toronto: The Bay and Gable and the Annex House. The guide, however, only identifies the Bay and Gable. The annex home is a unique combination of Romanesque and Queen Anne that is characterized by mass, permanence and the exuberance of Queen Anne features. These houses are seldom seen outside of Toronto’s Annex.

This guide may also be of interest to Americans who are curious how uniquely American styles departed from English architectural heritage.

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West Toronto Junction, or just “The Junction“, is unique in stade Toronto “The Good”. The Junction, named for the crossing of the Canadian National (CNR) and the Canadian Pacific (CPR) railways, was a booming prosperous late 1890s town with businesses breaking the bulk of the railway, lumber yards, stock yards, a flour mill, a foundry, and included factories that manufactured Nordheiner and Hienztman pianos, in addition to the Canadian Cycle Manufacturing company. Founded in 1884, the Junction later amalgamated with Toronto in 1909 and is currently celebrating the centennial since becoming part of Toronto.

Up until 1997, the Junction exercised local option in being a dry community after prohibition in 1904 (Fancher). At the turn of the century the area had the reputation for heavy drinking, street fights and prostitution that came with many young men migrating into the city for jobs in the new industrial factories.

The active West Toronto Junction Historical Society maintains an archive of Junction historical documents and photos, in addition to producing publications and historical tours of the Junction.

Some of oldest houses in West Toronto Junction date to the 1880s. Many Victorian Bay-and-Gables, identifiable by their tall narrow stance, octagonal or square bays, and steeply pitched peaks can be found closer to the heart of the original town. Larger commercial buildings line the central strip of the Junction along Dundas Street along with many church steeples, library and Mason’s Lodge that were and are a part of the City of West Toronto Junction. Later Edwardian homes were built as part of the expansion of Toronto suburbs located farther away from the “main strip” of the town.

THE LEADER & RECORDER’S: History of the Junction. Diana Fancher, Editor. ISBN 0-9686636-1-3

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Circa 1850 Polymerized Tung Oil Varnish

Circa 1850 Polymerized Tung Oil Varnish

The original door on the house is a Queen Anne style that was unfortunately painted with the cheapest grade latex paint. This style of door can be found on many late Victorian Queen Anne styled Bay-and-Gable homes in Toronto.

After some research, Tung oil seemed like the the best possible finish.

Stripping layers of paint off the door revealed a honey pine stain on the exterior and a dark reddish stain that is the base coat on all of the interior wood work. This dark stain was used as the base for the interior Victorian tromp l’oeil faux oak finish. Paint stripping was time and I am loath to even recall the ordeal. I discovered too late that a carpenter in the area would have been able to  do the work at a reasonable rate, which I would suggest. Otherwise, you will be working with methyl chloride which is a very harsh chemical that is a VOC solvent and not terribly “green”.

First coat of stain applied

First coat of stain applied

Of course, follow usual guidelines when you suspect lead paint (see post on refinishing hardware). More environmentally friendly chemicals should be used if you are lucky enough not too have too may layers to remove.

First coat of Tung oil varnish

First coat of Tung oil varnish

I wanted as period a finish that I could achieve and that meant was very reluctant to use a polyurethane. The plastic coated look of polyurethane finishes are not very attractive to my eye.

After some research, Tung oil seemed like the the best possible finish.  Tung oil, the oil from a Chinese nut producing tree, has been used for centuries to water protect wood on Chinese sailing junks. The oil naturally polymerizes itself by linking up the molecules into chains creating a beautiful finish that repels water and allows the wood to breath. The finish is not “oily” in the least, is dry to touch and hardens to protect the wood. Best of all, with a light sanding, the finish can be touched up and renewed at any time.

I used Circa 1850 polymerized Tung oil varnish. Polermerized tung oil has been heated to encourage even more molecular cross linking during the curing process and has been traditionally used a Marine Spar varnish on beautiful wood hulled power boats.

Paint was removed using a few specialized scrapers for the moulding. Plenty of steal wool was used to remove paint and old varnish from the grain. This raised the grain of the wood which allows stain to be taken up. The door was sanded with 80 grit paper, then 120 grit paper, then 150 grit paper and finally 220 grit paper.

Entrance, The Frick Collection, NYC

Entrance, The Frick Collection, NYC

The 120 year old door had an amazing heart pine grain. Since it was a soft wood, a coat of wood conditioner was applied prior to stain to ensure the stain was soaked up within the wood in an even manner. Three coats of stain were applied allowing 24 hours of drying between coats. Then three coats of Tung oil varnish were applied scuffing the finish with fine steel wool between coats. A visit to the Frick Collection in New York provided the inspiration for our choice of stain colour. Of course, I had to make this enterprize more difficult than it needed to be, but the hue of the stain was perfect, very warm and complemented the golden hues of the aged heart pine of my far more modest door.

The result was better than anticipated and the stain and tung oil really brought out the antique patina of the aged wood.

Three coats of Tung oil varnish

Three coats of Tung oil varnish

Antique front doors are a bargain at most architectural reclamation stores. Partly because, many home owners are not willing to take the trouble to either refinish the original door or have  a carpenter fit in a suitable antique period door. Nonetheless, the very minor additional effort is worth the results. A big box steel door on a period home is an act that frees space in hell for lost souls. While I had the original door to work with, it can be great fun picking out the perfect door at your local salvage shop.

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Industrialism resulted in the wide availability of architectural millwork that was once only available to wealthy clients building the best of homes. Late Victorian or “High Victorian” millwork was the most elaborate and suited popular Victorian revival styles of the time including Queen Anne and Eastlake. Hull (2003) refers to the period 1890-1910 as the “Golden Age” of American architectural millwork. During this period wood was plentiful and cheap and there existed the right mix of artisans, craftsmen, and manufacturers that produced styles that were ornate, elaborate and expressive. According to Hull, the end of this great period of millwork followed the Depression era, when wood was no longer affordable and modern options, such as hollow core doors, became widely used, marking the end of historic millwork.

Many of the early millwork companies started off as lumber yards and success and growth was the result of industrialization and proximately to the railroad (Hull, 2003). It is probably no coincidence that my old Vic was built in 1889 by a local lumber barron whose business was located near the railway in the emerging industrial city of West Toronto Junction.

The Victorians did not consider most softwoods to be noble enough to stain and hence most pine interior trim would have been painted or artistically grained to reproduce the look of solid English oak.

Wood mouldings were produced from various hardwoods and softwoods with hardwoods, such as Oak and Mahogany, limited to the public rooms in grander homes. Characteristic of Victorian domestic culture, there was a strong demarcation between public rooms, that received the most ornate moulding, and the private spaces of the house that received more modest treatment (Webb, 2002). The ornate, thick and deeply milled door and window casings made mitre work more challenging for carpenters. Corner blocks, while seen as added ornamentation to contemporary eyes, were used to increase the efficiency of building wood casings and avoided highly precise mitre work (Webb, 2002).

The Victorians did not consider most softwoods to be noble enough to stain and hence most pine interior trim would have been painted or artistically grained to reproduce the look of solid English oak. Frequently the original painted graining is preserved under subsequent layers of paint. Patient restorationists can use methyl hydrate on a cloth to rub down to the original painted grain that is protected with shellac (Nigel, 1997).

Hull, Brent. (2003). Historic Millwork: A Guide to Restoring and Re-creating Doors, Windows, and Moldings of the Late Nineteenth Through Mid-Twentieth Centuries. Wiley.

Hutchins, Nigel. (1997). Restoring Old Houses. Firefly Books.

Webb, Kit. (2002). The Victorian House. London: Aurem Press.

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Three story homes with ten foot or higher ceilings in the public rooms resulted in eccentric narrow and tall homes in both semi and row figurations.

The Bay-and-Gable homes of Toronto are unique within the world of Victorian architecture, in part due to taxation laws of the time that assessed annual taxes based on the width of a lot’s frontage. Canadian pragmatism resulted in narrow lots, often between 15-20 feet in width and houses built upwards into usually three stories. Three story homes with ten foot or higher ceilings in the public rooms resulted in eccentric narrow and tall homes in both semi and row figurations.

According to McHugh (1989), early examples, beginning in 1875, have more Italianate features including round headed windows, angled bays, and steep gables. Those dating from the late 1880s have more of a Queen Anne influence with rectangular bays, straight window lintels and less steeply pitched gables.
Tons of variation exists and while most Bay-and-Gable homes abide by a typical floor plan, the dimensions of rooms and hallways can vary widely. Typical features include stained glass, tall 10-11 foot ceilings, ornate plaster work, detailed barge boards and ginger-breading, steeply pitched roofs, tall windows with low sills, and detailed millwork common in other Victorian revival styles. The style of exterior masonry, millwork, stained-glass and plaster work also varies tremendously producing few if any Bay-and-Gables that are the same.

McHugh, Patricia. (1989). Toronto Architecture: A City Guide. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc.

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