Anne and Nat Graham have been living in a century-plus home for more than half a century.
Anne, 77 and Nat, 80, bought the house, built in 1885, at 50 Tiffin St., back in 1968.
And they’ve never regretted it.
“We bought our house and the lot behind us and my parents built their house there,” Anne says. “This house needed a lot of work. We lived in it as it was and did a bit of work a little bit a time. It was worth our while because we will have a house that will stand up (to the test of time).”
The smallish home had additions tacked on before the Grahams took on the task of fixing it up.
“It is what it is. You put up with the quirks and the difficulties of a house that is that old. We’ve lived here for a long time so you get used to it,” she says, adding they didn’t have 16-inch centres on the uprights back in the day.
“They put them wherever they put them. When you work this long at it — we’ve worked with two or three contractors — we learned. You learn what to look at and what not to look at,” Anne says. “If you’re thinking you’re going to live the modern life in one of these (older) homes right away, people need to know they are going to put a helluva lot of money into it at the beginning, or they are going to be very surprised.
“People don’t realize, and might say, ‘Oh, we can put a kitchen in there’ and then realize ‘that wall is not quite straight’ and say, ‘Oh my god, is this wall ever out’.”
Back in the 1880s, “this whole place was railroad people. If you weren’t railroad, you weren’t in this area,” she adds.
“The owners have information suggesting that the home was one of the first in the area, which lines up with the timeline of when the area was settled by railroad workers,” says city planner Tomasz Wierzba.
“This home resembles a Gothic revival cottage, which is a fairly common sight in southern Ontario. Whoever built it was likely of more modest means. We suspect this is the case as most of the larger, multi-storey, red-brick homes were built by those in what were once called the ‘upper-classes’,” he says. “Those people were railroad engineers, conductors, bankers, lawyers, politicians, and business owners.”
Wierzba suggests that it was likely built either by a railroad worker — someone who would help construct/repair the railroad, load coal, manage cargo, etc. – for him and his family or by a railroad operator for their railroad workers as a rooming house. Although it is a bit small for that use, he adds.
The Heritage Barrie Committee recently received an application to add the property on the city’s heritage register. Following a review of the application, the committee recommended that it be added to the register and that recommendation will go to city council this fall.
“The committee recognized that, being one of the first homes in Allandale, it has strong associative value and plays a role in maintaining the character of Allandale,” Wierzba says.
Anne agreed with this reporter’s assumption that some of the houses built 150 years ago might be better than some being built in 2020.
“You better believe it,” Anne says.