Oakville looking to ‘designate’ century home oozing history

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Published November 6, 2023 at 4:37 pm

Wardell House, Oakville
Wardell House at 401 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville

The house may be ‘just’ a century old, but the Town of Oakville believes the Wardell House, a bungalow on Lakeshore Road East in the Brentwood neighbourhood is worth saving.

The one-and-a-half storey home, built in the style of the Arts and Crafts movement that was popular between 1890 and 1940, had been languishing on the Town’s Heritage Registry but the provincial housing ministry’s More Homes Built Faster Act included several amendments that called for homes on the heritage list to be designated within two years or lose their protection.

The home at 401 Lakeshore Road East meets the heritage requirements and has, in fact, a great deal of history attached to the property dating back 215 years.

Samuel Fraser, an American settler, was granted the land on which the home now sits in 1808 but Fraser joined the U.S. forces four years later during the War of 1812 and his lands were forfeited back to the Crown and Fraser branded a traitor.

Charles Anerson, a pal of Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, then bought the property in 1821 and his son – named Joseph Brant Anderson – farmed the land and built a log cabin on the site in 1826 and a bigger cabin ten years later. The property was left to Joseph’s son Cyrus in 1879, with the cabin – at the time one of the largest frame houses in Oakville – lost to fire in 1895.

The property fell out Anderson family hands in 1902 after a private bank owned by Cyrus suffered a shortage and failed due to a “misappropriation” of funds.

Wardell House in 1924. Source Oakville Images

The Bank of Hamilton, the Anderson Bank’s principal creditor, acquired title to the farm and formed a syndicate to subdivide and sell off the 200-acre site in an effort to recover some of their losses.

The new subdivision was known as Brantwood.

Ross Munro Gibson, a prominent businessman who owned the downtown Hotel Gibson and a local councillor who was in charge of installing Oakville’s first electric streetlights, acquired the property in 1918 but didn’t build on it.

That responsibility fell to the man he sold the land to, Manford Griffith Wardell, who bought the property in 1921 and built the house that still stands today – remarkedly unchanged – two years later.

Wardell, who owned a monuments business in Toronto, is forever attached to the house but only owned it for a year, selling the home in 1924 to Arthur Gordon with the sale advertisement describing it as a “beautiful bungalow home” with “eleven spacious rooms, two separate bathroomsand every modern convenience. Located on the Highway. Best part of Oakville.”

The home has changed hands six times since then but has remained with the current owners since 1988.

Subject property

A report from the Oakville Historical Society describes the house as being a representative example of the Craftsman Bungalow house design and construction, a style unique to Ontario during this time period. The house has a low sloped roof with front gable; tall brick chimney on the east elevation; wooden detailing on the front façade (such as the large wooden brackets, decorative projecting frieze board with faux beams) and the wooden balconet.

It also showcases Craftsman elements such as wooden soffits and fascia, with decorative ends on the fascia; asymmetrical façade; brick cladding on the first storey and stucco on the upper storey; brick-arched voussoir headers over windows and doors; stone windowsills; covered front porch and projecting eaves and exposed rafters.

Unique elements include the bell‐cast projection of the exposed rafters on the east and west elevations of the house (showcasing complex woodwork), and the brick front porch with the arched entryway and opening on the west elevation.

The subject property, the report continued, has cultural heritage value because it is “physically, functionally, visually, and historically linked to its surroundings.”

It is one of the older houses on the street and it is linked to the origins of the Brantwood subdivision as one of its earliest buildings and its “development and subsequent influence on Oakville as a whole.”

“Its presence is important in defining, supporting, and maintaining the character of this historical residential area.”

The designation, along with other properties including the ‘Miller House’ on MacDonald Rposd and the ‘Nightingale House’ on Watson Avenue is on the planning committee meeting next week and if approved will likely be on the agenda for the final Oakville Council meeting of the year on December 18.

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