This Heritage Paper looks at the history and architecture of one of East Flamborough’s oldest buildings, the Parry house. This house is one of three buildings that Flamborough Township Council plans to declare historically significant.
The Parry house is situated on Centre Road, north of the 11th Concession, on the northwest section of Lot 7. This lot is unique for it was the only one in the northern area of the original East Flamboro’ Township (Concessions 11-14) that had no involvement with Clergy Reserves, Brock Grants or the Canada Company.
The earliest record of the property being occupied is from the first East Flamboro’ Assessment Rolls of 1841, when James Smith is listed as paying taxes of £43 12s. on seventy five acres of farm land. At this time, James had 10 acres of his property cleared and in use, and was living in a frame house. From this assessment information, it seems fair to believe that the property had been occupied by this settler for at least a year or two. The exact date is unknown, but the arrival was at some time after 1836, as at this date re-surveying of this northern area was necessary, for a shortage of land due to earlier surveying errors necessitated considerable changes northwest of the 11th Concession. No one was living on the 11th Concession when this took place, so all the lots were reduced from 200 acres to 150 acres, thus explaining why James Smith settled on a half lot of only 75 acres.
James Smith and his older brother Andrew, who settled on Lot 8, Concession 11, were among the very first settlers in the Township, arriving from Ireland c.1840. They came from County Monaghan, and were almost certainly accompanied by their wives.
The Personnel Census for East Flamboro’ Township, 1851, is unfortunately lost, only the Agricultural Census still remains, so little history of the family is available for this period.
Much more information about the family can be garnered from the Census taken a decade later. James and his wife, Bridget, are listed on the 1861 Census. Their birthplace is noted as Ireland, but all their children living at the time — Arthur, James, Ellen and Thomas — were born in Canada West. The eldest child, Arthur, was 21 years old at this census recording. It is almost certain that within this decade the stone house was built, probably to accommodate the growing family and as the family continued to prosper, the original home was no longer suitable.
During the same year, records at the Hamilton Registry Office show that on June 25, 1861, James Smith was finally granted the deed to his property — so he had in fact been on his property and paying taxes for almost twenty years before he legally owned it.
In 1889, the property passed to James Smith’s eldest son, Arthur. Arthur, who had married a widow, Margaret Hunter, late in life, put the property in his wife’s name in 1894. Following this transaction, the farm property and house went through a long period of renting until December 1933, two of Margaret Smith’s children from her first marriage. Frances and Lottie, executors of their mother’s estate, sold the property out of the Smith family. The property changed hands several times in the next fifteen years, until in 1948, Mr. John K. Hall Parry, the present owner, purchased 18½ acres from Mr. & Mrs. Albert Borthwick. This section of Lot 7 that Mr. Parry purchased contained the Smith house, but other than the crumbling remains of the stone foundations of a large barn, there were no other buildings on the property.
Architecturally, the Parry house is a remarkable area landmark reflecting much of the rural character common to the northern region of East Flamborough. Its simple and sturdy cut stone, broken course construction and triple bay facade clearly show the influence of a practical, Southern Ontario pioneer spirit. The home is surprisingly large for its one-and-a-half storeys, and its setting, high on a hill looking down on Centre Road, adds to its impact. While clearly rural in character, there is nothing small about the Parry house — it was originally the home of a prosperous farming family.
The roof is a simple end to end gable and each end is highlighted by a fine cut stone chimney. The central doorway is plain with a transom. The glass is not original. The door itself was originally a double door as shown on an old photograph of 1948, but this was originally blown in during a storm and has since been replaced. The windows which flank the door are impressive 6 on 6 double hung sashes with stone radiating voussoirs and wooden lugsills. The cornice is boxed with a wide decorated frieze and elegant dentilated moulding.
Both sides of the house are similar with two first floor windows like those on the facade and two smaller windows under the gable in the half storey. All the side windows have radiating stone voussoirs, but the first storey windows have newer concrete lugsills.
On the rear of the house is an old one-and-a-half storey addition or “tail”, which probably served originally as the summer kitchen downstairs and perhaps for sleeping quarters upstairs for hired help. On the north side of this addition there is a blocked-in door, and a remarkable Gothic window with keystone and stone surrounds in the half storey’s centre gable. On the south side the are two windows set unevenly into the stone, neither has any original parts remaining, so their existence from the original construction date is uncertain.
At some point in time, as shown by an old photograph, various late Victorian features were added to the house, including a false Gothic style centre gable and front verandah. The Parrys removed these features when they took possession of the house in 1948.
This solid grey stone house is one of the finest examples of Ontario’s most common vernacular style of dwelling, and its situation, perched high above Centre Road, makes it a valuable landmark and worthy of designation by Flamborough Township Council as a building of significant value to the community.
Architectural report on the Parry House by Allister Campbell and Valerie Vance for Flamborough LACAC, Summer 1980.Assessment for East Flamborough Township 1841-1870Census Records 1851, 1861, 1871Mountsberg Heritage — Mountsberg Historical SocietyGravestone inscriptions in cemetery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Freelton.
Originally published in Heritage Happenings, September 1982.
© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1982, 2020