Challenge: Unexpected (Part 1)

A fascination with architecture and history has always prompted me to photograph old buildings, especially if they feature rare or quaint details or have a story to tell. As far as I’m concerned, a centuries-old moss-covered cottage would do very nicely to live in, especially if there are casement windows and a dusty attic and curlicue ironwork on the old wooden door. And how marvelous it would be to go to work each day in a building with a hundred years of history or more! I’m still working on the cottage, but last year I was fortunate to land a job at a heritage-designated church dating from 1880. It’s a beautiful, imposing structure with its original features and all the creaks and quirks (and possibly a ghost) associated with them!

On my daily route to and from work, I’ve noticed a few picturesque houses in old downtown Brampton that I’ve been meaning to document. Apparently, though, I’ve been missing out on so many more! There are dozens of heritage buildings lining the city’s 19th century streets, and I’ve finally started taking the time to explore the neighbourhood properly, armed with a guidebook and an official designation list. I’ll be posting about some of these adventures soon.

But first, allow me to continue my Candid Camera Challenge, in which readers suggest a subject (a scene, building, people, objects, etc.) they’d like to see on this blog during the month of May. Today’s challenge, something Unexpected, was issued by Samantha of CrystalCats. I’d already had a couple of ideas for this theme, but my recent search for historic buildings gave rise to three perfectly serendipitous – and completely unexpected – discoveries! This is the first one.

One day after photographing an 1867 estate house, I headed down the street, following a route I’d never taken before. As I rounded a corner, I found myself exclaiming in delight – and slamming on the brakes – when I spotted an unusual sight in one front yard: a curious fairytale creation named “Haywoods Hollow”.

This large, hand-carved house is by no means your average store-bought fairy door nailed to the base of a tree! Haywoods Hollow, which sits on the property line facing the sidewalk so it’s accessible to all, was carved by the homeowner from a large silver maple stump. About 12 years before, the talented “architect” had carved a face into one side of the living tree; he modelled it after one of the city’s founding pioneers, a Mr. Dale. Years later when the partially rotted-out maple was damaged in an ice storm and had to be removed, he asked the arborists to leave the seven-foot-high stump, partly to save “Dale” and partly to do more carving. The completed fairy house so delighted neighbours and passers-by that a contest was held to give it a name – and so Haywoods Hollow was born!

I had to examine the house for a while to take in all the details; there are even more at the back, but I didn’t want to trespass onto private property. Its main features are a bright red door with a fancy knocker (the door is sealed shut to prevent children from crawling inside), a shingled roof with chimney, and two lit, lace-trimmed windows. A metal lantern, a welcoming beacon for all nearby gnomes, glows day and night. If you look very, very closely, you’ll discover other whimsies such as tiny carved faces amongst the gnarled driftwood door frame (one is made from a peach pit). And, in order for the wee folk to receive their “tree-mail”, there’s even a little mailbox with its own street number: 17 ½. I’ll have to check to see whether it opens!

Judging from the colourful bits and bobs adorning the house (gnome ornaments, plastic flowers, etc.), it seems to be “the thing” for visitors to leave an offering for the wee folk. Naturally, next time I stop by, I’ll be sure to bring a little gift, too!

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