Claverleigh, Creemore, Ontario

Backgrounder

Built in 1871 as a parish rectory, this charming house is a significant example of a Gothic Revival villa in Victorian Canada. There are few Canadian examples of this architectural style. The Gothic Revival villas of the mid-19th century were spacious, asymmetrical dwellings with steep roofs and prominent chimney stacks that created a striking silhouette. They were designed, in accordance to picturesque ideals, to be well-integrated within large, landscaped properties, fostering a sympathetic relationship with the natural setting. Deep eaves, balconies and verandahs functioned as transitional spaces that provided access to the outdoors, while also providing opportunities to play with sunlight and shadow. Exterior decoration was generally limited to the gables, mouldings and shaped chimney stacks. Despite their distinct design, Gothic Revival villas were designed, first and foremost, to be comfortable homes.

William Forster was the original owner of Claverleigh. He came to Canada West (today, Ontario) from England in 1850 and was subsequently ordained as an Anglican priest. In the 1870s, he asked his brother, architect Richard Forster, to design him a home and rectory befitting of a gentlemen priest. Construction began within a year at a site in rural Ontario, near Creemore.

With its board-and-batten siding and lively elevations featuring steep gabled roofs, pointed arches, decorative chimney stacks, and varied projections, Claverleigh blends harmoniously with its natural setting in accordance with 19th century ideals of the picturesque. The projecting porch, bay window, second-floor balcony, and verandah act as transitional spaces between the house and the surrounding park-like grounds, reflecting a life of rural calm and agrarian gentility.

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