We are in the depths of a real Canadian winter – perhaps like the one in the early 1930s when this week’s photograph was taken. With snow on its hipped roof as well as on the door and windowsills, this limestone cottage at 43 Thomas Street seems to be waiting for some warm weather relief.
This is one of a number of cottages in St. Marys built ca. 1860 by various stonemasons who came to the settlement to ply their trade. Many of these masons had their own small quarries along the banks of the Thames River where limestone was close to the surface and relatively easy to extract. Historian Larry Pfaff has pointed out that a number of the cottages, still seen today on Thomas Street on the west side of the river and on Water Street South along the east side, were the homes of the masons themselves – visual evidence of their skill and attention to detail.
All have individual features but many share with the house in the photograph the symmetrical arrangement of large windows – two on each side – and at the front, the windows flanking the main entrance. The overall effect is simple and beautiful. The symmetry continued inside: a centre hall with two rooms on each side. The hall sometimes led to a kitchen wing at the back.
When the house at 43 Thomas was built in 1856, the property was owned by William Hunter, a member of a family of stonemasons. It was likely built with the intent to sell because the property very soon became part of the land holdings of Joseph Osmond Hutton and William Veal Hutton, the two brothers who built Westover Park. When another brother, George, died in 1862, the Thomas Street cottage became the home of his widow, Temperance Hutton, and her children. Her youngest daughter, Mina, lived there the longest.
In 1929, relatively late in life, Mina married Dr. William McKay. In 1931, about the time this photograph was taken, she sold the stone cottage to a young couple, Thomas Harding White and Helen Catherine Grose. They had three sons who, as they moved through childhood into adolescence, became locally well-known for their exploits along the river – a wonderful place for adventurous boys to grow up.
Today, 43 Thomas Street has been the home of Larry and Barb Ford for many years. They have made a number of additions and modifications but the original mid-19th century limestone house is still clearly there, still sitting comfortably in its riverside location.