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 edific 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!

Challenge: Unexpected (Part 2)

As my Candid Camera Challenge continues, I’m once again responding to Samantha’s prompt to photograph “Something Unexpected”. This second part is subtitled Fairy Trails.

I mentioned in my previous post my ongoing mission to photograph heritage buildings. One such foray led to the happy discovery of Haywoods Hollow, a fanciful gnomely affair. Another outing a few days later – to photograph this 1856 house built in the Regency Ontario Cottage style – yielded yet another unlooked-for discovery!

Before I even had a chance to snap a few pictures of the cottage, what did I spy at the base of a tree on the lawn but a little fairy door! Although it’s roughly half the size of the one at Haywoods Hollow, the bright red paint, brass knob and gnarled branch frame pay homage to its much larger cousin, and I’m wondering if the homeowners Wee Folk had that in mind when they erected it!

Of course I had to determine whether the door opens. Alas, it is shut fast, but I’m not surprised. I have heard tell that the Fae enter this realm – and allow humans a rare glimpse of theirs – only at their own capricious whim, not ours.

My journey of discovery then took me farther down the street, to find yet more interesting buildings, such as this Craftsman-style home built in 1914. And wouldn’t you know it – I swear the Little People are playing games with me now – another fairy door – and then another, and another – appeared, all nestled quite cozily at the feet of the trees lining the boulevard. In addition to the first, I spotted seven of them in a row, but I’ve no doubt there are more!

Just as I’m trying to learn the many types of architecture employed in the neighbourhood, I believe I’ve successfully determined the distinct styles used for these enchanting fairy portals. They are:

Artsy-Craftsy: Similar to that seen in early twentieth-century Human homes, this style is dominated by smooth, natural surfaces punctuated with rough-hewn wooden beams.

Cathedral: Soaring lancet arches typify this medieval Gothic form.

Pagan Revival: Elements such as feminine curves and subtle lunar symbols identify this bewitching cottage style.

Hampton Court: Also known as Early Cromwellian, architecture of this style is typified by leaded glazing, buckle-silver embellishment and a penchant for puritanical black.

Ontario Outhouse: Small ventilation windows serve as the sole adornment for this utilitarian style, seen mostly in rural outbuildings.

Woodland: Characterized mainly by earthy elements such as gnarled tree branch or driftwood framing and colours taken from nature such as apple red or forest green.

Dungeon Vernacular: Low, rounded arches reinforced with stout beams and heavy ironwork are typical features of this style, also known as Neo-Grimm.

Stickly: Sprouting from the Artsy-Craftsy movement, this bare-branches style is easily recognizable by its use of slender, straight twigs.

The best is yet to come … stay tuned for Part 3 of Challenge: Unexpected!

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!