The beautiful house in this photograph still stands but is difficult to recognize today. That’s because the 1886 red brick residence at 310 Queen Street East is now encased in the additions and extensions that form Kingsway Lodge/Fairhill Residence.
The work that changed a large home into a comfortable seniors’ facility has been very well done. It is a handsome and beautifully landscaped site. But it clearly now serves a different function — both wings contain multiple rooms and apartments for various levels of supported living.
The house was built as a gracious home for the Fraleigh family. Sidney Fraleigh was a druggist and businessman. His wife, Bessie Weir Fraleigh, once lived in the Cadzow Park house, now the St. Marys Museum. One of their daughters, Emma, was a good friend of the young photographer Milton Reesor who took this picture ca. 1905. It is an evocative glimpse of a prosperous lifestyle at the beginning of the last century. This branch of the Fraleigh family, however, did not remain prosperous and left Fairhill about 1915.
In 1950 there was an interlude that might have led to a very different history. A group of local businessmen purchased the property to offer to the Town of St. Marys as a nucleus for the development of an arena and community centre, a project that was stirring great public interest at that time. Neighbourhood protests quashed that plan. Fairhill was then purchased by Earl Burtt, who ran it as a nursing home. He already owned and operated Queensway nursing home in Hensall and so he named his St. Marys facility Kingsway.
When the MacKay family acquired the facility, they expanded the retirement and nursing home area in 1983 and, in 2000, built the Fairhill addition offering self-sufficient apartment units. During these renovations, great care was taken to preserve many interior features in the original part of the building, such as a magnificent Tiffany window at the staircase landing, much of the parquet flooring, and the intricate carvings and tile work on the mahogany fireplaces. Visitors can still see a portion of the exterior 19th-century red brickwork in the alcove wall beside the main entrance.
And visitors will be especially welcome on Saturday, Sept. 28, when Kingsway/Fairhill will highlight these 1886 features as a participating site in Doors Open St. Marys. For more information, go to www.doorsopenontario.on.ca/ Events/St--Marys.aspx.