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Alison Westlake’s love affair with her home began years ago — and seemed like an impossible dream.
“Believe it or not, it was my favourite house,” she says. “We would drive by it and I would cry out ‘Look at that house!’ ”
The residence that Westlake, 37, her husband Tyler Hogan, 32, daughter Hattie, 2½ and rabbit Harry share is more special than it seems at first glance. Not only is it some 200 years old, it was moved from its original location in Cobourg where the structure was destined for demolition.
The previous owners had it dismantled, piece by piece, and moved about 100 kilometres to its current location in Prince Edward County, the municipality that juts into the eastern waters of Lake Ontario.
Westlake and Hogan purchased the property for $ 660,000 and moved there from Toronto in March, 2016. Situated on 13 acres of land, it also features a chapel originally built in 1822 — likewise saved from the wrecking ball and moved to the County. The lush surrounding fields are a country lover’s dream, and were part of the appeal for Hogan, originally from nearby Picton, and likewise Westlake, who grew up in Frankford, Ont., just northwest of Prince Edward County.
“This was like coming home for us,” says Westlake who is expecting with her second child, due in July. “We were renters in Toronto, where I had my business. Tyler had a business opportunity open up here, so it was perfect.”
Their home — 3,000 square feet, six bedrooms, four bathrooms, and five original fireplaces — was at one time an inn. Today, it has been completely updated to current standards with the addition of a propane furnace, modern appliances and a new foundation.
Adding to the property’s charm for the couple was a white, wooden chapel: perfect for business as a wedding venue. Westlake is the proprietor of two flower shops, both named Coriander Girl, in Toronto and in Picton.
“I’m almost proud to say I am not a domestic goddess,” she says. “I’m very entrepreneurial and love to try things. I’d done tons of weddings, but only the flowers. We had our first wedding as a venue here in September, 2016 and all the lovely vendors did their parts beautifully — food and so on. There was actually a hurricane that day but we escaped until after dinner and the 175 guests retreated to the chapel for desert and dancing.”
MOVING A HOUSE: Most of us have enough trouble moving our belongings, never mind moving an entire house. Not for John and Diane Brisley, devoted lovers of heritage and special properties, the challenge of moving a house from one town and setting it up in another was a long-term project and labour of love.
“There was a whole odyssey to this project,” says John Brisley. “My wife Diane and I would drive along Hwy. 2, near Cobourg, and see the house for sale — and we thought it was a wonderful house. When we asked to see it, we were told to just pull the plywood off the outside and go in. The only value was the lot.
“We bought just the house and used detailed architectural drawings, taking it apart piece by piece. We salvaged everything, including lumber and decorative millwork and labelled every piece. There were about 5,000 pieces,” says Brisley of the work that began in early 1997.
“It cost a few thousand dollars to move it — a nominal sum. We didn’t keep track because we did it over a period of 10 years, including the reconstruction. Our son Kip, a restoration carpenter who likes to specialize in historic and challenging projects, put it all back together; that cost in the neighbourhood of $ 300,000. We had contractors pour a new foundation, but the pieces that were moved were brought here to Prince Edward County in a Datson truck.”
The chapel on the Westlake’s property was likewise taken apart and moved there. “It’s a neo-classical church, built in 1822,” Brisley notes. “It was in Adolphustown, an area in Grand Napanee, and had been boarded up and left. It was actually a liability on the property. If something happened and it was set on fire, for example, that would involve the fire department and cost money.”
In rebuilding the house and chapel, not only were the original components used, but where necessary new pieces were made to match missing or damaged originals.
That Westlake and Hogan purchased the home and chapel makes the Brisleys very happy. “We’re thankful that we had such a great, young couple come along,” Brisley says.
The appreciation is mutual. Westlake managed to parlay a small getaway property near Stirling, north of Belleville, into a building in Picton for her flower business and then again to buy the family home/wedding business.
“I still don’t understand how it all happened,” she laughs. “We sold our property in Stirling and bought the property in Picton, where the Coriander Girl, Picton is located. Along the way, people, including the Brisleys believed in us. The Brisleys cared a lot about who bought the property.
“I’m the kind of person who thinks ‘Ah well, things will work out,’ ” says Westlake, “and in this case, they did.”