I have to admit, this month’s prompt for Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up was a bit perplexing. What, after all, could I do with a cue like Case?

I’ve got vintage and antiques on the brain lately, so much so that this blog’s theme for September is “Vintage Memories”. At the beginning of the month, I spent a leisurely afternoon at a country antiques market housed in a century-old barn. “The girls” and I used to go there fairly regularly, but those shopping excursions eventually stopped, and I hadn’t visited the place for about twenty years. So the act of returning to that barn – familiar yet new again – brought back very fond memories. For a couple of hours that day, I had a good browsle (that’s a browse + ramble). Or did I enjoy a good brummage (browse + rummage)? I went there with a particular couple of items in mind, and I happily scored good deals on a few small pieces. They’ll soon, no doubt, make their way into an upcoming post or two.

With vintage on my mind, and pondering the case for Case, I eventually realized that I do have something for this photo challenge!

Over the years I’ve gathered a modest collection of needle cases.

Aha! You were wondering where I was going with all this, weren’t you?! Here are several types of needle case – also known as an étui – along with other sewing implements I’ve gathered over the years.

antique-sewing-implementsClockwise from bottom: This dainty sterling silver Art Nouveau needle case belonged to my grandmother and bears her monogram; it came with a few old needles and a pin with a tiny grey pearlized head (topmost in case) • Although not technically a case, this pewter magnetic needle holder is sculpted in the shape of a lady mouse with sewing needle and spool of thread; I’ve used it for nigh on 30 years • A velvet apple pincushion holds antique glass-topped stick pins • These silvery embroidery scissors are embellished with leaves and the Tudor rose • The thimble is also an antique and came to me along with the needle case.

needle-cases-pincushionClockwise from top left: This roomy needle tube, made in France of turned boxwood, was a gift from my husband after I’d complained I had no container large enough to hold my hefty darning and leatherwork needles • The classic tomato pincushion comes with an emery-filled strawberry to keep needles sharp. It holds a tiny stork scissors lapel pin • This small wooden needle case came unfinished; I gave it a few coats of beeswax polish and use it to hold cross-stitch needles • Another lapel pin, this time in the shape of a sewing bird • Ever-popular gold-plated stork scissors have been a delightful tool for many a sewing project.

medieval-sewing-toolsClockwise from top right: This handmade 4.5” needle case of spalted maple with stopper on a leather thong is a rustic repository for forged iron and bone needles, part of my collection of Dark Ages and medieval living history ‘artifacts’. (Check out the wonderful Jelling Dragon for period-accurate Celtic and Viking supplies.) • Waxed linen thread for leatherwork • Forged iron snips with leather case, also from Jelling Dragon.

I have more pincushions, too, which I’ll share some day in another post. Since many of the bloggers I know are needle and fabric artists, I would love to see your collection of sewing implements!


Cupolas, Towers and Turrets, Oh My!

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!

There’s something so romantic about a lonely bell tower or rose windows of leaded glass. Or a Victorian mansion with a witch’s hat turret. Dreams of copper-clad cupolas and gazebos graced with gingerbread really get me going!

I love visiting old buildings, researching their histories and documenting them in photographs. The ones I’m interested in must be “of a certain age” (around a century or more), possess some notable architectural features or style, and have a story to tell of the area’s history and culture. And if they come with a local legend or ghost story, so much the better! I guess you could call me a veritable Collector of Curious Constructions.

Over the years, I’ve encountered quite a few with fairytale towers and turrets. Here are just some of them, with a bit of history thrown in:

old-house-with-turretJames G. Ramsey House • 49 McKenzie Avenue, Toronto, ON
Built as a grand private residence in 1896, this house is situated in Toronto near the site of the former Castle Frank, summer home of Upper Canada’s first lieutenant-governor, John Graves Simcoe. I haven’t been able to find any information about Ramsey, unfortunately. However, with its odd circular balcony and witch-hat turret, his mansion certainly makes the perfect Hallowe’en house!

credit-valley-railway-station-streetsvilleCredit Valley Railway Station • 78 William Street, Streetsville, ON
Around the time that I was planning this post, I stumbled across this peculiar building purely by accident, when I was forced to take a detour to work! Built circa 1879, the station was painted white instead of the usual “railroad red” typical of early stations. The corner turret provided a clear view of the tracks and served as the telegraph operator’s office. The station was constructed near the end of the railroad heyday and soon became obsolete; it was moved by horse-drawn cart to its current location in 1914. It is now used by the Victorian Order of Nurses.

blue-house-with-turret-brampton234 Main Street North, Brampton, ON
This Queen Anne residence, circa 1882, features fish scale shingles (common in historic Brampton houses), the original front door, ornate iron weather vane, and a polygon corner turret.

house-with-corner-turret-packham-bramptonGeorge W. Packham House • 27 Wellington Street East, Brampton, ON
Packham was the owner of Brampton Brick, a company still in existence, and this Queen Anne house was built for him in 1892 using materials from the brickworks. Whoever stays in the fairytale corner turret bedroom is fortunate, indeed! It features fish scale shingles, a dormer window with pierced wood decoration, bracketed cornices and a flying goose weather vane.

old-post-office-cambridgeGalt Post Office • 33 Water Street North, Cambridge, ON
Overlooking the Grand River, the former Galt Post Office (built 1885) was designed by Thomas Fuller, architect of Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings and many other public buildings, including 80 post offices. Their construction was part of a national program to establish a firm federal presence with prominent edifices in smaller communities across the country. Now a National Historic Site, the old post office is in the High Gothic style with Romanesque and Second Empire features. Local legend (likely concocted by an Irish pub that once inhabited the building) has it that the postmaster conducted an illicit love affair with an employee but broke it off to save his marriage. The love story ended in tragedy when, a few days later, the young lady’s lifeless body was found hanging from the rafters of the clock tower. I visited the pub once and felt odd sensations when I stood at the base of the tower steps, and in the creepy basement.

toronto-necropolis-chapel-bell-towerToronto Necropolis Chapel • 200 Winchester Street, Toronto, ON
Opened in 1850 to replace a smaller Potter’s Field (a.k.a. ‘Strangers’ Burying Ground’), the Necropolis cemetery is the resting place of over 50,000 souls, including many prominent figures such as William Lyon McKenzie (Toronto’s first mayor and leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion), George Brown (a Father of Confederation and founder of what is now the Globe and Mail), Thornton Blackburn (former slave who made his way to Canada via the “Underground Railroad” and established Toronto’s first cab company), Roy Brown (WWI RAF officer credited with shooting down the “Red Baron”) and Ned Hanlan (world champion oarsman). The adjacent chapel, with its Gothic Revival arches, stained glass and spired bell tower, was built in 1872. Ontario’s first crematorium was added to the site in 1933.

carnegie-library-old-fire-hall-bramptonOld Fire Hall • 2 Chapel Street, Brampton, ON
This Romanesque structure is Brampton’s oldest municipal building. It started life in 1854 as the market and town hall and became the fire hall when the 40-foot bell tower was added two decades later. The tower had a secondary purpose: the fire hoses were hung from it to dry. To the left of the fire hall is the Carnegie Library, a rare Beaux Arts building erected in 1906. The library is one of 156 Canadian libraries funded by Scottish steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Only ninety of these structures still exist.

house-wtih-castle-tower-mcintosh-castle-kingstonMcIntosh Castle • 14 Sydenham Street, Kingston, ON
Kingston is chock-a-block full of fascinating architecture. Nestled in a quiet downtown neighbourhood is McIntosh Castle, a Gothic Revival villa built starting in 1849 for Donald McIntosh, a ship owner. A local story says that McIntosh promised his family a castle with a lake view to induce them to move to Canada from Scotland. Sadly, the family never got to live there; McIntosh ran out of money and sold the house in 1850. The villa was completed by successive owners. Another rather macabre legend says that, in later years, the crenellated tower containing a widow’s walk was added so that the lady of the house could sit in comfort with her tea and watch hangings at the gallows of the courthouse next door!

boldt-castle-thousand-islandsBoldt Castle • Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY
Located in the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River, Boldt Castle (above) was built in the Châteauesque style in 1900 by millionaire George C. Boldt (proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City) as a present for his wife, Louise. The 6-storey, 120-room castle was still under construction in 1904 when Louise died suddenly. Heartbroken and inconsolable, Boldt halted construction and never returned to the island, leaving the buildings to the elements for over 70 years. The castle and other structures, including the Power House (below, left) and Alster Tower (below, right) were acquired by the Bridge Authority in the 1970s, restored and opened to the public. We viewed these fanciful buildings from our tour boat on the river; the island is a point of entry from Canada to the United States, so a passport is required to visit!boldt-castle-power-house-alster-tower


The August prompt for Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up is Flake. At our old wooden cottage, more than a century old, there are examples of weathered, peeling paint galore. (Seems like we just finish painting the house, and it’s time to start again!) These photos are my flaky interpretations.

This north-facing door bears the brunt of winter storms off the lake – and never seems to hold its paint!

The weathered old shed holds the paraphernalia of summer: swim toys, gardening tools and these peeling paddles and oars.

In the dictionary next to “shabby chic” is a picture of this dresser. My mother is always after me to refinish its flaking pale cream paint, but I like it just the way it is.

Original hardware that’s stood the test of time.

A Muskoka chair past its glory days subsides slowly on the shore.


Carved stone rosette, one of many 19th and early 20th century architectural relics conserved at the Guild Park and Gardens in Scarborough, Ontario.

July’s prompt for Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up is Sculpture.

‘Musidora’, a nymph representing Summer from an 18th century poem. This statue was vandalized in 2014 (not her hand – she’d already lost that!) but remains on display.

These photos are from a park in Toronto called Guild Park and Gardens. This is a special place that has gone through many transformations since its inception over 100 years ago. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a couple of times (once for a wedding), and it’s one of my very favourite places in the city. These pictures are from a visit in September 2009, when I didn’t have a lot of time to get properly stuck in to document the many artworks in the gardens. Now that I’ve done my homework and know so much more about the place, I will certainly go back soon!

Nestled in the centre of the park is the Guild Inn, a Period Revival mansion with Arts and Crafts detailing. (During WWI, Period Revival was a popular interpretation of medieval architecture using Tudor-derived elements.) It was built in 1914 as Bickford House. The 33-room manor house, perched atop the Scarborough Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario, is surrounded by an area of gardens and woodlands originally known as Ranelagh Park. After the first owner moved away, the grounds were used variously as a Christian mission seminary and boarding school, and a private residence, then lay vacant for several years.

Wall from Toronto Fire Department Engine House No. 2, built 1871.

Marble Ionic column salvaged from the Bank of Nova Scotia, built in Toronto in 1903.

The property was purchased in 1932 by Rosa and Herbert Spencer Clark, newlyweds with a passion for the arts. It was this socially-conscious and idealistic couple who gave the property an exciting new life. Inspired by New York’s Roycroft, a utopian artists’ colony and centre of the Arts and Crafts movement after the teachings of William Morris, the Clarks wished to establish a similar cooperative in Canada. They opened their home, free of charge, as the Guild of All Arts, a sanctuary for around 100 painters, sculptors and artisans to create, display and sell their works. Some of these artists were contemporaries or students of the Group of Seven, who so skillfully captured iconic images of the Canadian landscape. Over the years, the Clarks acquired more land and added offices, a pottery kiln, a sculpting studio, a farm, and a hotel block for their residents and visitors.

Stone angel panel from the North American Life Assurance Company building, Toronto (1932).

The government requisitioned the Guild property during World War II. It was used as a training base as well as a veterans’ rehabilitation hospital; the patients’ treatment included art therapy in the workshop spaces.

The ‘Greek Theatre’, erected in 1982 to commemorate the Guild’s 50th anniversary. Corinthian columns and classical archways were rescued from the Bank of Toronto (built 1912, demolished 1966). The open-air stage has hosted festival theatres, movie, tv and music video sets, and weddings.

‘Bear’ by E.B. Cox and Michael Clay, commissioned by the Guild Inn in 1979. (That’s a friend up there, not me.)

The Clarks finally got their property back in 1947. Throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, when rising costs and taxes forced the couple to cater mainly to tourists (and change the artists’ cooperative to paid membership), they began amassing an extensive collection of art which they erected in the gardens. This included statues and sculptures, and dozens of architectural fragments rescued from 19th and early 20th century buildings that were being demolished in Toronto and other cities to make way for modern skyscrapers. In this way, Rosa and Spencer rescued many fine examples of Gothic Revival, Victorian, Romanesque Revival, Beaux Arts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Streamline Moderne architecture from obscurity. Some refer to this architectural museum as the ‘Graveyard of Lost Buildings’.

Aging and in ill health, the couple sold the property and its collection to the Toronto Conservation Authority in the late ’70s, three years before Rosa died. The Guild continued as a hotel – run by Spencer Clark until shortly before his death – and restaurant, changing hands several times until it was finally closed in 2003. For years the abandoned building lay crumbling in a dangerous state of decay as developers and the community argued bitterly over its fate and that of the sculpture gardens and the woodland upon which they sat.

Detail of the brick and terra cotta entranceway from the Produce Exchange Building in Toronto (built 1890). Together with ironwork salvaged from a demolished home, they form the southern gates to the park.

Stone bas-relief panels from the Toronto Star Building (built 1929, demolished 1972), an Art Deco edifice that was used by Superman co-creator Joe Shuster as the model for the Daily Planet.

Thankfully, sensible heads prevailed. The Guild Inn was recently purchased, restored, extended and redeveloped as a restaurant and event centre, and the estate is open once again. The original house, although expanded, remains intact, still retaining its historic and artistic spirit.

Fortunately for the public, the 88-acre parkland, with over 70 relics dotting the lawns, gardens and wooded trails, has always remained accessible. It’s a pleasure to wander amongst the marble columns, terra cotta turrets and sculpted stone, ranging from small remnants to massive structures of several tonnes. Ensconced in the grass, huddled amongst trees and open to the air, all are in remarkably good condition thanks to the Clarks’ loving conservation – and that of the Friends of Guild Park and Gardens, a volunteer group. And I’m sure the faeries creep out of the woods at night to render their magickal protection, too!

The Clarks collected ornamental elements and keystones, many of which were mounted for display on salvaged stone walls. Here, a winding wooded path leads to two such “keystone walls”.

Studies in Structure

My workplace, a heritage-designated Gothic structure built in 1880, is a photographic wellspring. Graceful shapes, time-worn texture, classical details and the charm of a bygone age are all there. Here are some vignettes which I captured recently.

Wrought iron scrollwork with leafy vine pattern and quatrefoils

Corbel with carved palmettes or anthemia, ancient Egyptian and Greek symbols representing welcome and hospitality, victory and peace

Even ordinary objects make an attractive display. It wasn’t until I was editing the photos that I noticed the backrests bear Green Man carvings!

Decorative façade of a Casavant Frères pipe organ; the working pipes are hidden

Scrolled metal bracket

Newel post with quatrefoil, symbol of good tidings

The building boasts many intricate examples of stained glass, but I prefer the muted colours of this simple one


June’s prompt for Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up is Sunlight. Let’s start with a sunrise:

A card-carrying night owl, I’m not usually up to catch the sunrise. I hit the jackpot, however, when I got up to see this beauty! Note the crepuscular rays. Lake Muskoka, Ontario • August 2016

Near the same spot on the same lake, this time on an afternoon in May:

Lake Muskoka, Ontario • May 2015

And now for something completely different (not really, I just love trees):

The 500-year-old Comfort Maple near Niagara Falls, believed to be Canada’s oldest sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Its trunk circumference is 6 m (20 ft) • Pelham, Ontario • June 2016

Smell this!

The Fragrant Water-lily (Nymphaea odorata) grows in abundance in the shallow bays of Muskoka. Its golden rays and intoxicating licorice aroma just radiate “summer sunshine” to me. Lake Muskoka, Ontario • July 2008

Challenge: Unexpected (Part 3)

Marking the end of my Candid Camera Challenge is the third and final segment of “Something Unexpected”, a theme suggested by Samantha – and it’s a doozy!

Driving around a quiet, tree-lined residential neighbourhood, peering nosily – as one does – into yards and gardens, one would not expect to see a large, hand-carved tree house for gnomes, complete with arched doorway, lace-lined windows, functioning lantern and mailbox! And one could not be faulted for registering surprise upon encountering a trail of foot-high fairy doors lining the boulevard in the same area. But when one discovers not a fairy house but a veritable castle in a garden a few streets away, one would most certainly agree that this is entirely unexpected!

The garden in question is located on a corner lot of a modest 1920 bungalow with both Edwardian and American Arts & Crafts (also known as Craftsman) features. I have to admit that I have no photographs of this heritage-designated house. The reason is simple: whilst the home has architectural and historical merit, it’s what graces its garden that holds the most fascination! May I present:

In 1961, then-owner Joseph Kodors was inspired to build this fairytale castle for the amusement of his children. How very lucky they were for such an imagination-stirring gift! The story goes that Mr. Kodors modelled the structure after castles he typically would have seen in his native Poland. The castle, which is highly visible from the street, has mortared fieldstone walls, wood shingles, dormers and glass windows, copper-capped turrets with finials, a bell tower and an inlaid date stone. The “miniature” castle is far from small; with the tower spires it probably stands nearly the height of an adult.

The castle became so popular with the community that the property became known as Kodors House. Look closely! Can you spot the clock, an owl, the evil queen and her gnomish minions who seem to be imprisoning an innocent fairy? I long to see what’s on the other side, but once again I’d be trespassing. I shall have to be content with the thought that all aspects of this fairytale are equally enchanting!

Thank you to those who sent me themes for my May photo challenge. Whilst interpreting your suggestions, I had fun, learned a lot and made some wonderful discoveries!